Although this delightful medicinal herb was one of the first herbs I learned about when I studied to become a medical herbalist, it seems to have unfortunately lost its popularity among today's herbalists.
I say unfortunately because it has some excellent healing properties that still have a use today. Those of you who have this herb growing in your garden are truly blessed. I had it growing on the property we had on the Atherton Tableland but it didn't seem to like it there so didn't do very well; perhaps the climate wasn't warm enough for it.
Herb Robert, a member of the geranium family, is also known as cranesbill, bloodwort, red robin, and felonwort. The main action of the herb is astringent, which gives it the ability to treat external conditions such as bruises and skin irritations.
From medieval times the herb has been applied as a compress to stop bleeding and heal wounds. Because of its astringency it is also used to treat diarrhoea.
Originating in Europe, Herb Robert can be found growing wild along banks, in ditches, and in clearings. It's an annual that grows up to 60 cm (2 feet), with a reddish branched stem that is sticky and hairy, and palmate leaves with light green purple edged leaflets. Flowers have five pink petals and five purple sepals and appear from summer to autumn. Seed pods are shaped like cranesbills, which has given rise to one of its common names. When handled the herb gives off a strong and disagreeable scent but this is tolerated because of its healing abilities.
I have used the leaves to successfully draw poisons from the body. Crush two handfuls of leaves and add them to a basin. Pour boiling water over them and let steep until the liquid is lukewarm. Then have the patient place the hands or feet in to the basin, depending where the poison is. It works well for drawing toxins from swollen lymph nodes or septic conditions such as boils.