- Cheese Rennet
- Lady’s Bedstraw
- Yellow Bedstraw
Yellow bedstraw (botanical name, Galium verum) is a perennially growing herb belong to the family Rubiaceae and is indigenous to Asia and Europe. This herb usually grows up to a height of three feet and produces abundance of minuscule vivid yellow flowers. The flowers of yellow bedstraw appear in intense lengthened clusters between June and August. The flowers are approximately 2mm to 3 mm in diameter and intimately grouped in dense pinnacles at the apex of thin, rectangular, erect stems, which grow up to one and three feet in height. The plant bears slender leaves, almost resembling threads, which are 1 cm to 3 cm in length and 2 mm wide and are borne in eight to 12 vortexes. The leaves have a shiny and dark green color having bristles on the underside. The yellow bedstraw plant gives off a potent aroma resembling honey. It is best to harvest the plants in July.
According to legend, the Virgin Mary had used yellow bedstraw in order to prepare a manger for Baby Jesus in Bethlehem, and this may hold water as yellow bedstraw was used back then to make mattress stuffing because of the herb’s honey and hay scented foliage. Dating back to the early days of Greece, the plant was primarily used to make cheese. A potent decoction or extracts of the yellow bedstraw leaves and stem work as a curdling agent. Although a number of herbalists still recommend making cheese through this process, bedstraw is no more used in cheese produced commercially. In addition, the yellow bedstraw plant yielded two dyes – a red dye obtained from the roots and a yellow dye extracted from the flowers. It is said that during the rule of Henry VII (1485-1509), ladies of the court in England made use of the yellow dye to colour their hair blond. Therefore, yellow bedstraw is also commonly known as the maid’s hair. Then again, people in dairy farms in Cheshire, England, made use of the yellow dye to tint cheese.
Years ago, herbalists recommended that a red color root extract of the yellow bedstraw plant may possibly be helpful in stopping bleeding. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth, herbal healers in England prescribed a decoction prepared with yellow bedstraw as a comforting foot bath.
Yellow bedstraw has a somewhat bitter taste and is a useful remedy – especially as a diuretic and for treating skin disorders. Similar to its close relative, cleavers, this herb is also prescribed for stones in the kidneys and bladder as well as different other urinary problems, counting cystitis. At times, yellow bedstraw is also used as a medication to ease skin disorder, including psoriasis. However, generally herbalists prefer cleavers to yellow bedstraw for treating such conditions. In France, yellow bedstraw has an age-old repute or status of being a helpful medication for epilepsy. However, in present times, the herb is rarely used for treating such conditions.
Yellow bedstraw plant possesses a number of remedial properties. For instance, a tea prepared with the herb is effective in cleansing the kidneys, liver, pancreas as well as the spleen of toxic materials. It is advisable that people suffering from a lymphatic system disorder should drink this herbal tea every day. In addition, this tea is also useful for treating dropsy, anemia and suture in the side.
Besides its internal use, yellow bedstraw tea is also used topically to heal skin complaints, boils, wounds as well as blackheads. In addition, this tea is also a wonderful face wash and helps to firm up the facial skin. For utmost benefit, obtain freshly pressed yellow bedstraw juice and brush it on the affected skin parts and allow it to dry.
In conventional herbal medicine, yellow bedstraw is prescribed for treating conditions, such as hysteria, epilepsy, nervous disorders, St. Vitus dance or chorea, suppressed urine, stones and gravels in the bladder. People suffering from goiter may find this herb beneficial if they gurgle the tea throughout the day. In earlier days, yellow bedstraw was highly valued as a medication for women’s problems, especially in treating uterus disorders. The herb was also laid in the beds of women during childbirth as it was known to alleviate the difficulties endured during delivery.
In addition, an excellent non-alcoholic summer drink is prepared by distilling the flowering tips of yellow bedstraw that produces a sort of acid liquor.
Similar to its close relative – the Madder of the Continent (botanical name, Rubia tinctorum), the yellow bedstraw too yields a red dye. Although this plant is cultivated with a view to obtain the dye from its roots, the venture is not very profitable, as the roots of this clambering plant are very small. However, the dye obtained from the yellow bedstraw roots was used in the Hebrides or the Western Islands to tint woollen materials red. It was found that the roots of the plant did not yield an equal percentage of dye as the Madder and, hence, people never cultivated yellow bedstraw very extensively. In fact, under common conditions, the crops were found to be very small to yield profits.
The conditions necessary for cultivating yellow bedstraw are similar to those needed to grow Madder. In order to thrive well, this plant requires a deep, light and rich loamy soil. In addition, it is necessary to trench the land properly and manure it before planting the herb. Yellow bedstraw propagates by means of its running roots. Alternately, the plant can also be propagated by its seeds, a method sometimes used to cultivate Madder.
Unlike the roots, the leaves as well as the stem of this species of Galium produces an excellent yellow dye in abundance. This yellow dye has been extensively used by people in Ireland. Apart from the yellow bedstraw, many other species of the genus Galium also have roots that have the aptitude to yield red or yellow dye, but none of these species have been practically tried so far. This is primarily owing to the fact that their yield is very small for successful commercial cultivation as dye yielding plants.
In addition to remedial uses, the yellow bedstraw or Lady’s bedstraw also has several other uses. In fact, sliced flowering tops of the plant are mixed with milk as used similarly as rennet (an animal-based substance) to curdle milk in the initial stage of making cheese. This attribute of yellow bedstraw has earned the plant the name of cheese rennet. The seeds of yellow bedstraw can also be used as a substitute for coffee after they are roasted well.
Habitat and cultivation
Yellow bedstraw is native to Europe and Asia and is found all over North America. Generally, yellow bedstraw is harvested when the plant is in bloom during the summer, especially in July.
This perennial herb is found on an assortment of environments – comparatively uncultivable, neutral as well as calcareous soils. Yellow bedstraw is found growing in the wild in the meadows, grazing lands, dunes and even waste lands. The exceptionally deep roots of the yellow bedstraw make the plant common on sandy soils.
The yellow bedstraw is very appropriate for growing in the gardens. The Ladies’ bedstraw, also called cheese rennet, yellow bedstraw or Our Lady’s bedstraw, can also produce a variety of colors for instance yellow, pale orange-red, pale red, bluish green and purplish-red. Yellow bedstraw is able to thrive in extremely cold winters even when the annual temperature averages very low, -30°F. In order to grow most robustly, the plant often requires a cold spell with temperatures lower than 15°F. In summer, this plant requires extreme heat during the day time. Yellow bedstraw grows best in a range of conditions from complete sunlight to complete shade. The plant also requires soil conditions that vary from dry to damp.
Chemical analysis of several species shows that this genus encloses asperuloside, an element that yields courmarin as well as emits the aroma of just mown hay when the plant dehydrates. It may be noted that asperuloside may be changed to prostaglandins – compounds akin to hormones which invigorate the uterus as well as have an effect on the blood vessels. This particular attribute of the genus makes the plants important for the pharmaceutical industry. In addition, the yellow bedstraw plants also enclose flavonoids, alkanes and anthraquinones.