Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Aches and Bleed - Herb Robert You'll Need

Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum)

A guest post by Ken.

"My tooth doth ache and my nose doth bleed",
"Well Herb Robert dear fellow is what you need,
For if your nose doth bleed and your tooth doth ache,
Then Herb Robert's the plant thou'll have to take."


In the house of John Hall, physician and son-in-law of William Shakespeare, I discovered a facsimile of the 1633 copy of John Gerard's book The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes. John Gerard was famous for his herb garden and often noted for being 'Herbalist to the King's Majesty'. Below the book was the usual note 'Please Do Not Touch'. I quickly turned to the index and looked for Herb Robert.

And there it was... P.939 Chap. 27. Herbe Roberte (Geranium Robertianum).

The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes by John Gerard

It has slender weak and brittle stalks, hairy and red in colour. Leaves can also be red and are jagged and deeply cut. The flowers are of a most bright purple colour and the root is small and thread-like. It grows upon old walls made of brick, stone or even earth. It can also be found among rubbish, in the bodies of trees cut down and in moist and shadowy ditch banks. It flowers from April to Summer be almost spent: the herbe is green in winter too and is harldy affected by the cold. The vertues: Herbe Roberte is good for wounds and ulcers of the dugs & secret parts and thought to staunch bloood. Reference is made to Dioscorides (who wrote a 5 volume book in the first century, De Materia Medica, relating to herbal medicine also), whom Gerard believes is describing Herb Robert when he mentions his third Sideritis, "the vertue of this, faith he, is applied to heale vp bloudy wounds." (Of the Historie of Plants, 1633 revised edtn. [Thomas Johnson], John Gerard, Chap. 27, p 939).

I had found the plant a few weeks back in my local woods and took a snap of it. Coincidentally, 2 days ago my father gave me a colouring book of Wild Flowers and between the covers of this was Herb Robert. Described as a strong smelling annual, a dainty plant, and widespread in shady places. Now does that sound familiar. Published in 2001, more than four centuries have passed and not much has changed. (Wild Flowers Colouring & Guide Book, Sherkin Island Marine Station, 2001, p.15).

So there you go.

Next time you have a bloody wound let Herb Robert be your cure.



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