Short, sprawling perennial growing to 32 in (80 cm). Has whorls of narrow dark green leaves and tufts of very small bright yellow flowers.
Habitat & Cultivation
Found throughout Europe and western Asia, and naturalized in North America, lady’s bedstraw thrives in dry meadows, along roadsides, and in wayside places. It is gathered when in flower in summer.
Lady’s bedstraw contains iridoids (including asperuloside), flavonoids, anthraquinones, alkanes, and rennin.
History & Folklore
The name of this pleasant-scented herb derives from its traditional use as a stuffing for mattresses. In medieval times, it was used as a “strewing” herb on floors. Lady’s bedstraw curdles milk and gives a yellow color to cheese produced from the curd. In his Irish Herbal (1735), K’Eogh states, “when applied to burns, the crushed flowers alleviate inflammation, and when applied to wounds, they can heal them.”
Medicinal Actions & Uses
A slightly bitter tasting remedy, lady’s bedstraw is used mainly as a diuretic and for skin problems. Like its close relative, cleavers (G. aparine), the herb is given for kidney stones, bladder stones, and other urinary conditions, including cystitis. It is occasionally used as a means to relieve chronic skin problems such as psoriasis, but, in general, cleavers is preferred as a treatment for this condition. Lady’s bedstraw has had a longstanding reputation, especially in France, of being a valuable remedy for epilepsy, though it is rarely used for this purpose today.
G. elatum has also been considered a remedy for epilepsy in France. (See also G. aparine)