Lady's Bedstraw

Our Lady's Bedstraw, Yellow Bedstraw, Maid's Hair, Petty Mugget, Cheese Renning, Cheese Rennet

Gallium Verum

 

Edible Uses

Lady's Bedstraw is sometimes referred to as Cheese Rennet or Cheese Renning. This name corresponds to the common use of the plant as a milk curdler. The plant contains an enzyme suitable for this purpose. The latin name Gallium derives from the Greek "gala" that means milk. What makes this plant especially useful in cheese production is that as well as curdling milk, it also colours the cheese a bright yellow. Its leaves can be juiced and used to curdle cheese. Flowers used to be used in coagulating milk instead of rennet. It has been used to colour butter and cheese yellow. 'The people in Cheshire especially about Nantwich, where the best cheese is made, do use it in their rennet, esteeming greatly of that cheese above other made without it.' The rich colour of this cheese was probably originally derived from this plant, though it is now obtained from annatto. Scottish Highlanders made use of this property as well, and it has been used in Gloucestershire for the same purpose, either alone or with the juice of the stinging-nettle. Cheese made with lady's bedstraw was considered to be the sweeter and more pleasant to taste.

Medicinal Uses

This species has also been known to have many medicinal uses. A decoction of the plant has been used as a remedy for urinary diseases and for its diuretic and blood-purifying properties. This decoction is also good as an addition to hot water to soothe and refresh weary feet. Treatment for skin complaints is another common use of this plant. The plant has also been highly esteemed as a remedy to stop internal bleeding and nosebleeds. It is also considered to have a positive effect for those suffering from epilepsy and hysteria. It can also be used as a wash for slow-healing wounds.

Like its close relative, Cleavers, (Gallium 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.

Used to treat urinary and kidney problems, skin disease and bleeding. Is useful for scurvy, cystitis, jaundice, sores, tonsillitis and lymphodenopathy. The plant contains a chemical used in dicouramil, which stops blood clotting.

Used externally as a relaxing soak or for enhanced aromatherapy.

You can make pillows of bedstraw to combat sleeplessness. The honey scent and soporific nature of the herb lend themselves to rest and relaxation, and the heat of the head when resting on the pillow, provides enough heat to release the active essential oils. Lady's Bedstraw can also work on tired feet and legs. Steep the herb in hot water, allow to cool slightly and soak aching or swollen feet or ankles for relief.


Other Uses

Its coumarin scent is said to repel insects and fleas. Among the other common names used for the plant is Maid's Hair. The yellow dye that can be obtained from the stems, leaves and flowering tips has been used as a hair dye. Yellow blooms were made into or stuffed into caps for young ladies to wear in order to dye their hair a golden blonde.

Used for stuffing mattresses, hence it's name.

Lady's bedstraw (Galium verum) is a herb, related to the dye plant madder (Rubia tinctorium), which has red dye compounds in the roots. Lady's Bedstraw roots for reds, rust and corals, depending on Mordant and concentration, and a yellow is obtainable from stem, flowers and leaves. Orange and gold is also available depending on the mordant used. Mixed with strawberry and cranberry juices, the American Indians boiled the roots with larch flowers to dye porcupine quills scarlet. Alizarin is the pigment which produces the red tones. Painters are familiar with the color alizarin red which, in the Middle Ages, was the same pigment bound in an oil base for paint. The pigment is actually located in the root bark of the plant, but whole or powered roots can be used with no difficulty in dyeing.

The roots are best dug in the fall when the plant concentrates substances in the roots. Several methods of extraction will work just fine.

Sun Method:

Take the fresh or dried roots and place in a two-to-one ratio with water in a large pot or jar. Sit in the sun and make sun tea soaking the dyeplant for several days. Strain and dye.

Simmer Method:

Take a two part plant, to one part water ratio, and simmer below boiling for an hour or so. Let sit over night to cool and then strain and dye. It is very important never to boil madder or bed straw as it will turn the color brown.

To dye wool, silk or other protein fibers mordant the fiber or yarn first in alum solution. Then place in the dye bath and sun-soak for several days, or simmer under boiling temperature for an hour and let cool overnight.

Use water with a bit of lime in it to get good color. You can use water in which you've boiled eggs shells, or a pinch of quicklime into the dyebath works.

Afterbaths tend to produce orange shades, as does dyes produced at temperatures too close to boiling. So remember not to ever boil madder root, lady's bedstraw, or cleavers root when trying to get red.

 

Propagation

By seed: The seeds can be sown in situ in spring or early autumn into well-prepared soil. Although some people find they get the best germination rates from sowing fresh seed in late summer in a seed tray filled with a 50:50 compost/sand mix. Scatter the seed and firm well. Keep the soil moist and when large enough to handle, move individual plants into cells or small pots. The plants should be large enough to plant out by the following summer. Once established, the plant will spread quickly.

By division: You can also propagate the plant by division throughout the growing season, if the divisions are kept moist until they are established. It is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are well-rooted, though larger clumps can also be replanted directly into its permanent position.