Among several herbs carrying the popular name bedstraw, Galium verum—or lady’s bedstraw—wields a coumarin scent that possesses the power to repel fleas. All of these plants were used to stuff mattresses, but the wealthy—the lords and ladies of Merry Olde England—apparently had the privilege of using the true natural insect repellant. Thus, the name “lady’s bedstraw.” There is another legend associated with this plant’s moniker. In medieval times this botanical was referred to as Our Lady’s bedstraw as it was thought to have been part of the sweeter-smelling manger grasses upon which Mother Mary laid the infant Jesus. This common and attractive plant was also known as Frigg’s grass in Scandinavia, named after the goddess who watched over pregnant women who employed this versatile herb to ease childbirth.
What does it do?
Lady’s bedstraw has been used for a long list of ailments, but its main claim to fame has been its role as an effective green medicine in cases of skin conditions, such as psoriasis, and as a successful diuretic. A tea prepared from this herb helps detoxify the liver, kidneys, spleen and pancreas. Once used to stop bleeding, this plant medicine contains an ingredient used in dicouramil, a drug employed to stop blood clotting. Old time healers employed lady’s bedstraw in cases of epilepsy. Part of nature’s intricate scheme of things, lady’s bedstraw is a nourishing food for the larvae of numerous species of butterfly.
About the herb
Native to Europe and Asia, this herbaceous perennial grows between 2 to 4 feet high. Bright yellow flowers bearing a mild scent of honey appear in dense clusters between July and September. The root is used to make a stunning dye the color of red coral, while the flowers and flowering stems yield an attractive yellow food dye. Its extensive root system easily seeks out water, making lady’s bedstraw fairly drought resistant. In days long past, this herb was known as maid’s hair, as women placed it under their caps to turn their hair blonde.
Portions of this herb are edible, with the leaves making a suitable addition to your garden salad. Relax with an herbal foot soak by placing this herb in hot water, then easing your feet into the bath when the temperature is comfortable. Trouble sleeping? Since lady bedstraw’s soothing scent increases as it dries, stuffing it into pillows to facilitate a good night’s rest was once a common practice that might be destined to enjoy a resurgence during these stressful times!