Our Lady's Mantle
Regarded as an herb that offers a wealth of magical and medicinal qualities, Our Lady's mantle spreads her wild-heart-woven healing cloak like a mantle of strength and wisdom. And as her name implies, she has a special affinity for women.
Our Lady's mantle's genus name, Alchemilla, is derived from the Arabic word alkemelych (alchemy), earned by virtue of its wondrous workings. I believe the old wives who say drops of dew held in the cup formed by the leaves of lady's mantle is a magical elixir, enhancing the potency of any medicine it is added to. Science tells us that these magical waters are actually intracellular fluids that rise to the surface of the leaf. I like to drink these waters, and often offer them so others can experience their subtle healing energies.
The herb has long been associated with the healing energies of Our Lady, the Blessed Mother, in Christian tradition. In earlier times it was associated with other Divine Feminine figures, depending on geographic location. Its original name, Our Lady’s mantle, clearly designated these connections. During the Protestant Reformation, all ties between plant names and Divine Feminine images were discouraged. These plants that carried the association were stripped of their divine influence. Our Lady’s mantle became generically known, called simply lady’s mantle.
In Italia Our Lady’s mantle is known as alchemilla. In Germany, it is frauenmantle, as its scalloped leaves resemble a lady's cloak worn about the shoulders. In France it is pied-de-lion, lion's foot, for its growing habit: big, wild lumps of lacy accordion-like leaves with delicate sprays of tiny yellow flowers. Looking at each leaf closely, one notices the leaves are actually beautiful connecting hearts.
Our Lady's mantle has a strengthening and astringent effect on the female generative system and is an excellent uterine tonic. To help regulate menstruation or control menstrual flooding, wise women take 10 drops of Our Lady's mantle fresh plant tincture three times daily for a week or two before the expected onset of menstruation. Constituents such as astringent tannins and glycosides, salicylic acid and other sedatives make Our Lady's mantle an effective ally for those dealing with menstrual cramping or uterine discomfort. Our European grandmothers used it to help shrink fibroids.
Our Lady's mantle has a special affinity for the breasts and is a valuable ally for women dealing with breasts that are lumpy, swollen or achy before menstruation. Regular use of Our Lady's mantle will even restore tone to sagging breasts. My friend Jan applied this herb as a poultice to her breasts several times a week and also massaged daily with an infused oil of Our Lady's mantle leaves and flowers. She said it toned and firmed her breast tissue and also helped ease tension. Many cultures have used Our Lady's mantle to ensure fertility and it is still used throughout the Middle East for that purpose.
The tannins in Our Lady's mantle help dry up excessive discharges, treat vaginitis, vulvitis, genital sores and herpes, and heal perineal tears after childbirth. To treat these problems, I make a well-strained infusion for use as a sitz bath. For centuries, healers have used Our Lady's mantle infusion as a wash or fomentation on wounds, especially those that are old or hard to heal. It’s a blood coagulant and will stop bleeding. It will also help alleviate diarrhea. I've used it in infusions as a mouthwash after a tooth was pulled to stop the bleeding.
Flower Essence Our Lady’s mantle flower essence is a supreme healer for women who have experienced pain, loss or difficulty in the generative organs. Use it also to connect strongly with Earth energies.
Magical Lore Ancient legend tells us Our Lady's mantle is sacred to the earth goddess. Adding a dew-laden leaf to any magic pouch will seal your intention and magnify the power within.
Culture Our Lady's mantle tolerates a sunny spot, but is much happier with shade, at least for part of the day. The plant is very hardy here in Maine. We start seeds in early spring and set the plants out eight to ten weeks later. They grow slowly and are difficult to transplant when small, so sometimes we put our seedlings in a bed to grow for a season before going to their final homes. Our Lady's mantle plants remain only a few inches in diameter the first year, but thereafter they come on strong.
Mature plants grow with a cluster of large, green, circular, fan-shaped leaves extending on foot-high slender stems from a base several feet wide. Tiny, yellowish-green flowers appear in midsummer, coming out in loose clusters above the leaves. We gather the leaves and flowers of Our Lady's mantle during the summer months at the peak of bloom and tincture them while fresh, in alcohol or vinegar, infuse them in oil or honey and dry them on screens.