HERB ROBERT - ANCIENT MEDICINAL HERB: HISTORY AND HEALTH BENEFITS OF HERB ROBERT
This herb has been used in medicine for centuries, although in the 20th century, particularly in
it was hailed as a folk cancer remedy when the powdered leaves were taken with a raw, fresh egg yolk. Of course this has not been proven to work. Dioscorides described it and it was known to the old herbalists, who used it mainly for blood problems, as the stalks and leaves turn bright red in autumn, a sign to these old herbalists that it was good for the blood. Portugal
This plant is known by around a hundred names some of which refer to other plants more often, such as bloodwort (red dock), and red robin (not ragged robin) and cranesbill, which is native to the
and poisonous. However Stinking Bob is a name given to this herb which is unique to it, and refers to the smell given off by its bruised leaves. It is also called the Fox Geranium, some say because of its “foxy” smell after rain. It is native to hedgerows and woodland in Europe the British isles included, and to temperate Asia as it grows as far east as Japan and in the Himalayan regions. US
No one really knows how it became Herb Robert, although there are several contenders for being its namesake, including Robert Duke of Normandy, who died in 1134, St Robert of Molesme, a French monk who died in 1110, and Robin Goodfellow or Puck, the mischievous elf who has a role in Shakespeare’s play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The Latin name Robertianum might be a corruption of ruber meaning red, rather than referring to any specific Robert, Robin or Rupert, names that seemed to have been linked to this plant.
The leaves of Herb Robert are the main part of the plant used for medicinal purposes and an infusion of these has been drunk and used as a wash for the skin, and for inflammation of the eyes. A poultice of the leaves has been used to relieve hardened breasts, to increase lactation in nursing mothers, to relieve irritated skin and the pain of rheumatism and reduce bruising, as well as being applied to herpes sores and ulcers. The infusion can also be used for the same external purposes.
Internally the tisane or infusion was thought to stop bleeding, and to be a good gargle for sore throats and oral problems such as toothache and mouth ulcers. In
it is called the quinsy herb because of these uses. Quebec
Nicholas Culpeper, the English herbalist who wrote in the 17th century has this to say about Herb Robert:
“It is under the dominion of Venus. Herb Robert is commended not only against the stone, but to stay blood, where or howsoever flowing; it speedily heals all green wounds, and is effectual in old ulcers in the privy parts, or elsewhere. You may persuade yourself this is true, and also conceive a good reason for it, do but consider it is an herb of Venus, for all it hath a man's name.”
The freshly crushed leaves may be useful to repel mosquitoes- if you don’t mind their “foxy” smell. It is said that deer and rabbits, give this plant a wide berth too.
Some clinical trials have shown that the plant can lower blood sugar levels thus supporting its traditional use for diabetes sufferers.
The whole plant including the roots can be used to produce a brown dye, and is also used in the infusion, although it would seem that an infusion of the leaves works very well alone. The tisane is mildly diuretic and has astringent qualities. The plant has been used in
Asia for the treatment of malaria, jaundice and kidney infections.
The Physicians of Myddfai recommended herb Robert to be used for pneumonia along with other herbs as in this ancient remedy:-
“Let (the patient) take, for three successive days, of the following herbs; hemlock, agrimony, herb Robert, and asarabacca, then let him undergo a three day's course of aperients.”
Clearly this is not to be recommended for use!
I grew up with this little plant all around but no one ever used it for medicinal purposes to my knowledge.