Herb: Lady's Bedstraw

Latin name: Galium verum

Family: Rubiaceae (Madder Family)

Medicinal use of Lady's Bedstraw:

Lady's bedstraw has a long history of use as a herbal medicine, though it is little used in modern medicine. Its main application is as a diuretic and as a treatment for skin complaints. The leaves, stems and flowering shoots are antispasmodic, astringent, diuretic, foot care, lithontripic and vulnerary. The plant is used as a remedy in gravel, stone or urinary disorders and is believed to be a remedy for epilepsy. A powder made from the fresh plant is used to soothe reddened skin and reduce inflammation whilst the plant is also used as a poultice on cuts, skin infections, slow-healing wounds etc. The plant is harvested as it comes into flower and is dried for later use. A number of species in this genus contain asperuloside, a substance that produces coumarin and gives the scent of new-mown hay as the plant dries. Asperuloside can be converted into prostaglandins (hormone-like compounds that stimulate the uterus and affect blood vessels), making the genus of great interest to the pharmaceutical industry.

Description of the plant:


60 cm
(2 feet)

July to

Habitat of the herb:

Waste ground, roadsides etc, mainly near the sea, on all but the most acid soils.

Edible parts of Lady's Bedstraw:

Leaves - raw or cooked. A yellow dye from the flowering stems is used as a food colouring. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute. The seed is also said to be edible. The chopped up plant can be used as a rennet to coagulate plant milks. The flowering tops are distilled in water to make a refreshing acid beverage.

Other uses of the herb:

A red dye is obtained from the root. It is rather fiddly to utilize. A yellow dye is obtained from the flowering tops. The dye is obtained from the foliage when it is boiled with alum. The dried plant has the scent of newly mown hay, it was formerly used as a strewing herb and for stuffing mattresses etc. It is said to keep fleas away. A sprig in a shoe is said to prevent blisters.

Propagation of Lady's Bedstraw:

Seed - best sown in situ as soon as it is ripe in late summer. The seed can also be sown in situ in the spring though it may be very slow to germinate. Division in spring. The plant can be successfully divided throughout the growing season if the divisions are kept moist until they are established. Very easy, larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring.

Cultivation of the herb:

Waste ground, roadsides etc, mainly near the sea, on all but the most acid soils.

Known hazards of Galium verum:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.