Lady’s bedstraw was once used as a form of bedding, hence its country name. Before rennet was discovered it was widely used to curdle milk and in the making of cheese and was known as ‘cheese renning’.
Lady’s bedstraw, galium verum, is a pretty little wayside herb growing about 2 in (30 cm) high which is commonly found along country lanes and hedgerows, in meadows and near woodland. The small narrow leaves grow in whorls round the straight square stem, and the tiny golden yellow flowers grow in a cluster of panicles up the stem. The flowers bloom in July and August and the whole plant has a soft sweet scent, more pronounced when the sun is shining.
The leaves and flowering tips are the parts of the herb used in the home and these can be dried for winter use. Gather lady’s bedstraw on a dry day and when the flowers are at their best, then dry and store them in the usual way.
Lady’s bedstraw has a bitter, rather acid taste and nowadays is rarely taken internally. It is said to be a useful remedy for boils and acne, spots and skin irritations. It can be used externally in the form of an ointment or an infusion. For an instant treatment the juice from the fresh plant can be dabbed on to spots and pimples.
* To make an ointment: 1’4elt 2 heaped tablespoons of white petroleum jelly in an enamel pan. Add a handful of fresh flowering tips, pushing well down with a wooden spoon. Bring to the boil and simmer for /5 minutes. Strain into small pots and cover when cold.
* To make an infusion: Pour 2 cups of boiling water on to 2 handfuls of fresh herb, / handful of dried. Leave the infusion until cold before straining into stoppered bottles. Use cotton wool pads or balls dipped in the lotion to bathe the affected areas. For boils, use the infusion hot to draw out the infection.
When the feet perspire in hot weather a lady’s bed- straw footbath will refresh and invigorate. It can also be used for swollen and walk-weary feet.
* To make a footbath: [‘lake sufficient infusion to fill a large bowl. Pour in the hot infusion and as soon as possible plunge the feet in for 15 minutes. Remove the feet and plunge them into cold water to close the pores. Dry the feet carefully, smoothing lady’s bedstraw ointment over sensitive areas.