Uses Of Cranesbill

Cranesbill, or alum root, geranium maculatum, is actually the lovely, wild geranium. It grows in open woods, meadows and clearings, the root of the wild geranium has been used for various ailments for many generations.

Cranesbill, or alum root, geranium maculatum, is actually the lovely, wild geranium. Abundant in Ozark open woods, meadows and clearings, the root of the wild geranium has been used for various ailments for many generations.

A native to North America, cranesbill grows in the wild from Maine to Manitoba, south to Georgia and Tennessee, and west to Missouri and Kansas.

An erect perennial plant that grows from 1 to 2 feet tall, cranesbill has a hairy , unbrached stem, and its leaves arranged in opposite pairs, are divided into five toothed lobes. The pink to rosy purple flowers bloom from April through June, in clusters at the end of the stem. The fruit is a beaked capsule, hence the name, cranesbill. The plant grows best in full sun to light shade.



The rootstock of cranesbill can be up to 4 inches long, and it is thick and has a brown covering. However, the inside of the rootstock is white and fleshy, with no smell to it, but has a strong astringent taste, due to its high tannin content. The rootstock is best collected just before the flowering stage, for drying, for this is the time the tannin content is the highest.

In the nineteenth century, cranesbill was a very popular home remedy for diarrhea, dysentery, and hemorrhaging. Native Americans passed on cranesbill's medicinal values to the settlers, who soon began using it themselves. Cranesbill not only proved effective for various problems, but it also proved to be harmless. The Chippewas used the dried, powdered rhizome, or rootstock, on sores inside the mouth, to stop bleeding, and as a mouthwash for canker sores and toothaches. Western Indians used it to treat venereal diseases. And the powdered rhizome boiled with milk was given as an intestinal remedy to children. Other Native American's used it as an eyewash, after steeping the plant in water.

Some used the powdered rhizome on open sores and wounds, and as a poultice on swelled feet. Many Indians ate the young green leaves of cranesbill as food.

Properties of cranesbill include tannic and gallic acid, starch, sugar, gum, and pectin. Today, cranesbill is widely available in herbal shops, and used pretty much the same way as in the past. Useful for treating diarrhea, gastrointestinal bleeding, hemorrhoids. Considered useful for diabetes and Bright's disease. Externally, it benefits indolent ulcers, and is considered beneficial as a douche for womb problems.

Cranesbill is a beautiful plant and can be grown in borders, either from seed sown in the fall or spring, or from dividing the roots in the fall. Once planted, it will self-sow.

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