American Cranesbill

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Geranium maculatum L.

Synonyms: alumroot, storksbill, wild geranium, geranium, wild cranesbill, spotted cranesbill, wild cranesbill, alum bloom, chocolate flower, crowfoot, dove's foot, old maid's nightcap, shameface, tormentil

Order: Geraniaceae

Description: This is a perennial herb, growing up to 60cm tall, and indigenous to woodlands in Canada and the Eastern and Central United States. The stem is erect and unbranched, the leaves deeply divided and toothed. Pink to purple flowers grow in pairs on axillary peduncles from April to June, giving way to an elongated 'beaked' capsule divided into five cells with a seed in each.

Parts used: aerial parts and rhizome

Collection: the aerial parts during the flowering; the rhizome in late summer and autumn.

Constituents: 12-25% tannins including gallic acid, with the level being highest just before flowering.

Actions: astringent, antihaemorrhagic, vulnerary, styptic, anti-inflammatory, tonic

Indications: diarrhoea, particularly in the young and old, dysentery, haemorrhoids. 

Therapeutics and Pharmacology: Geranium reduces inflammation in, for example, peptic ulcer, duodenal ulcer, enteritis and bowel disease,  and is gentle enough to be administered to children, the elderly and the infirm. It is also used to treat  melaena, menorrhagia and metrorrhagia. Topically, it can be applied to indolent ulcers and haemorrhoids, and as a douche for leucorrhoea. It may be used as a mouthwash and gargle for disorders of the mouth, gums and throat. The root is more astringent than the herb. The powdered root is an effective blood coagulant and can be used to stem external bleeding.

Combinations: with Geum, Agrimonia or Symphytum root in duodenal ulcer. A decoction with Trillium as 5% of the total is a suitable douche for leucorrhoea. In diarrhoea, soothing herbs such as Althaea, Filipendula or Plantago should be added to ease gut inflammation.

Preparation and Dosage: (thrice daily)


1-2g or by infusion (herb) or decoction (rhizome)

Liquid extract: 1:1 in 45% alcohol, 1-2ml

Tincture: 1:5 in 45% alcohol, 2-4ml

Additional Comments: Native Americans used a decoction of Wild grape and Cranesbill as a mouthwash for children with thrush. English Cranesbill, G.dissectum L. is reputed to have similar properties.



BHMA 1983 British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, BHMA, Bournemouth.

Grieve, M. 1931 A Modern Herbal, (ed. C.F. Leyel 1985), London.

Hoffmann, D. 1990 The New Holistic Herbal, Second Edition, Element, Shaftesbury.

Lust, J. 1990 The Herb Book, Bantam, London.

Mabey, R. (ed.) 1991 The Complete New Herbal, Penguin, London.

Mills, S.Y. 1993 The A-Z of Modern Herbalism, Diamond Books, London.

Ody, P. 1993 The Herb Society's Complete Medicinal Herbal, Dorling Kindersley, London.

Wren, R.C. 1988 Potter's New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations, C.W.Daniel, Saffron Walden.


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Christine Haughton, MA MNIMH MCPP FRSPH

Wold Farm, West Heslerton, Malton, North Yorkshire YO17 8RY, UK

Last updated 27th November 2014     ęPurple Sage Botanicals