In the Middle Ages the herb came to be known as lady’s mantle because of the scalloped shape of its leaves, which were thought to resemble the mantle of the Virgin Mary.
Lady’s mantle, aichemilla vulgaris, is a graceful garden plant and few realize that the popular alchemilla, so favoured by flower arrangers, is in fact a useful medicinal and cosmetic herb in the home. A perennial plant, lady’s mantle appears quite early in the year, flowering up to l2in (30cm) high. The basal leaves grow quite large and are softly fan-shaped while the beautiful little yellowy-green flowers grow in loose clusters at the top of the short erect stems; the flowers bloom from June to August and the whole plant is covered in soft hairs. Lady’s mantle can often be found growing wild in hilly districts by streams and in damp meadows.
Lady’s mantle is a hardy plant. Propagation is by seed or by dividing the roots in the autumn or spring. Sow the seeds in May or June out of doors directly into their flowering position in sun or partial shade in ordinary garden soil. When the seedlings are large enough thin to a handspan apart. Keep plants well watered and free of weeds. They will flower the following year.
Both flowers and leaves are used but only in the dried state. Gather the plant for drying when the flowers are at their best, usually late June or early July. They are then dried and stored in the usual way.
Lady’s mantle is a tonic herb with a slightly bitter taste which is not unpleasant. Internally taken in the form of a herb tea, lady’s mantle helps to stimulate the appetite, can be used in the treatment of rheumatism and, best known of all, is a useful remedy for women’s ailments. It helps to regularize the menstrual cycle and to protect all female organs and is recommended for those of middle age.
* To make lady’s mantle tea: Pour a cupful of boiling water on to 2 teaspoons of dried herb. Leave to infuse for 10 minutes. A teacupful can be taken once or twice a day, sweetened with honey if preferred. Make fresh tea each time.
The infusion can be used as a mouthwash after tooth extraction. Leave the tea until it is almost cold and thoroughly rinse out the mouth. The lady’s mantle will help to stop bleeding.
Externally, a stronger infusion of lady’s mantle can be used to help in the healing of cuts and abrasions.
* To make a healing lotion: Hake the infusion as directed above, using twice as much of the dried herb. Leave the infusion until it is cold then strain. Dip cotton wool pads or balls into the lotion and bathe the cuts until the bleeding stops. A gauze swab soaked in the lotion and then laid over the cut can be held in place with a light bandage and can be equally effective.
A strong infusion of lady’s mantle added to the bath water will be soothing and also help to heal minor cuts and abrasions.
Lady’s mantle is an astringent, healing herb and will help to restore tone and elasticity to the skin and to reduce inflammation and infection.
* A lotion using the strong infusion of lady’s mantle (see Medicinal Use) can be used night and morning after cleansing the face. Dip cotton wool pads or balls in the lotion and wipe the face. Leave the skin to dry. Make up a fresh infusion each day and between morning and evening keep it in the refrigerator. This lotion is an excellent remedy for acne and will help to clear and refine the skin.
Another effective treatment for acne is to use the juice from the fresh plant.
* To make a remedy for acne: Gather young leaves and flowering stems and put them in a juice extractor or electric blender. When using the blender, add sufficient water to make the herb into a pulp, then squeeze out the juice through fine muslin or cheesecloth. Dip cotton wool pads or balls into the juice and swab the infected area. Leave to dry on the skin. The juice will also help to close large pores.
To fade unsightly freckles, use the freshly extracted juice and dab it on the skin. This treatment has to continue over a long period to be effective, but eventually will bear good results.
A pleasant fragrant way to treat acne is to have a facial steam using lady’s mantle with chamomile and perhaps yarrow.
* To make a facial steam: Using equal quantities of the herbs, put them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Clean the face and then cover the head and bowl with a towel for up to 10 minutes. Wash the face with a clean cloth wrung out in cold water to remove impurities and close the pores.
The strong infusion of lady’s mantle will also help to close large pores if used on a regular basis. To help the treatment a twice-weekly face pack can be used in conjunction with this.
* To make a face pack: Hake up a very strong infusion and while still warm mix in sufficient Fuller’s earth or fine oatmeal to make a thick paste. Cleanse the skin then brush the mixture thinly over the face, avoiding the eye area and lips. Use herb or cold water compresses to cover the eyes. Lie down and relax for 10-15 minutes. Remove the face pack and wash the face with tepid water. Finish off with a splash of cold water to close the pores.
* A cold compress using a strong infusion of lady’s mantle is a real tonic for tired and unhealthy-looking skin. It is suitable for most types of skin, but if very dry smooth a little oil over the face. Wring out a large piece of lint in the cold infusion and place it over the face pressing it lightly on to the skin. Lie down and relax for 10 minutes. The face will feel invigorated, fresh and firm as a result.
Lady’s mantle can be added to other herbs such as chamomile, coltsfoot, fennel and lemon verbena in a mixture to be used in the form of a compress for tired eyes and swollen eyelids.
* To make an eye compress: Use a small amount of lady’s mantle with marigold, fennel and chamomile and pour a cupful of boiling water over 2 teaspoons of the mixture. Leave to infuse for 5 minutes, then strain carefully through fine muslin or cheesecloth. Leave until the infusion is tepid. Cut pieces of lint, dip them into the lotion and place over closed eyes. Relax for 10 minutes. Remove the compresses and splash the lids with cold water.