Geranium maculatum

Herbs gallery - Cranesbill

Common names

  • Alumroot
  • American Cranesbill
  • Cranesbill
  • Dovefoot
  • Old-maid's-nightcap
  • Shameface
  • Wild Geranium

Cranesbill, belonging to genus Geranium, is a perennially growing herb which grows up to a height of two feet. The leaves of this herb appear in opposite pair and are generally split into five jagged lobes. Cranesbill blooms between April and June and each flower of this herb has five petals whose color varies from light pink to pinkish purple. The flowers appear in bunches at the tip of the stems that are hairy. The fruits of this herb are bizarrely identical to the crane's bill which gives the plant its name. According to a manual published for physicians in the 19th century regarding cranesbill, also known as wild germanium, cites the extensive use of this plant, which possesses astringent attributes, for treating health conditions like hemorrhage, diarrhea and dysentery. The handbook states that the herb used to be a well accepted home remedy in several regions of North America.

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Early European settlers in North America adopted this herbal medication from the indigenous Indians, as it was established that the remedy was not only effectual, but also safe. Members of the Chippewas tribe in North America dried and pounded the rhizome or the subversive stem of cranesbill to powder and applied it to lesions in the mouth, particularly in the case of kids. Other native Indian tribes suffused cranesbill in water and used the solution as eyewash. Powdered rhizome of the herb blended with different other herbs plus water was applied topically to lesions and open wounds. This blend was also used in the form of a poultice to heal swollen feet. In addition, many native Indians in North America also consumed the tender leaves of cranesbill as food.

Parts used

Root, rhizome, aerial parts.


Cranesbill is an astringent as well as a blood coagulation agent and till date the herb is being used for these properties as it was used in ancient times. Generally, herbalists prescribe cranesbill to cure irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as well as hemorrhoids. In addition, the herb is used to heal wounds. This herb may also be employed to cure profuse menstrual bleeding as well as extreme vaginal discharges.

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Since cranesbill encloses tannin, the rhizome or subversive stem of the herb works like an astringent externally - a substance that results in the constriction of the skin and mucous membranes. Additionally, cranesbill also works as an agent to stop hemorrhages (bleeding). Owing to these attributes of the herb, it is perhaps also effectual when used internally to treat diarrhea. Cranesbill is known to possess astringent, styptic (a substance or medication that helps to stop bleeding) and stimulant properties. The herb is also used to stop internal hemorrhages.

In North America, the native Blackfoot Indians employed cranesbill rhizome or root as well other plants closely related to the herb to stop hemorrhages. In addition, several other native tribes of North America also used cranesbill to treat diarrhea.

Owing to its rich tannin content, cranesbill is known to be a potent astringent that was originally introduced to medicine by the indigenous Indians of North America. Till this day, many experienced physicians in America use this herb to lessen inflammation of mucous membranes and reinstate the health of the veins. In face, this herb is a particularly potent astringent for treating passive bleeding, for instance what happens in the case of hemotysis (expelling blood or bloody mucus), hematuria (presence of blood in urine) and menorrhagia (profuse menstrual discharge). In addition, the herb also has very powerful healing consequences on the total gastrointestinal tract.

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In addition, it has been found that cranesbill is very active against the bacteria that cause tuberculosis and the early American Indians depended on this herb to cure several medical conditions, including dysentery, diarrhea and leucorrhea (yellowish vaginal discharges that is an indication of an infection).

Apart from its therapeutic uses, cranesbill is a wonderful plant that serves as shady borders, open woodlands gardens and also shady local plant gardens. A number of birds consume the ripened seeds of cranesbill in the typical, beak-shaped seed capsules that has given the herb's common name as crane's bill.

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Habitat and cultivation

Cranesbill or wild germanium is indigenous to the woods or forests in central and eastern regions of North America. The rhizome or underground stem of this herb is dug up during the early part of spring, while the aerial parts are harvested in summer.

It is very easy to cultivate cranesbill plants, which have a preference for damp soil that has excellent humus content. The herb thrives on average soil, which has good drainage. Cranesbill has the aptitude to adopt itself to the most favourable growing conditions. However, if the soil becomes parches, foliage may become yellow or go summer dormant.


Cranesbill contains up to 30% tannins.

Usual dosage

The dried leaves and rhizome of germanium or cranesbill is sold in the market. In addition, a number of preparations with this herb, such as decoction or poultice, tincture, gargle as well as tea prepared with its leaf or root are also available commercially.

Tincture: The standard dosage of germanium tincture is 2 ml to 4 ml taken thrice every day.
Decoction: To prepare a decoction with cranesbill add one to two teaspoonfuls of the plant's dried rhizome in a cup of cold water and boil the mixture. Allow the mixture to simmer or drench for about 10 to 15 minutes. When it is cold, filter the mixture and take it thrice every day.

Side effects and cautions

Although cranesbill is an effective herbal remedy, its use might result in some side effects. For instance, some people may suffer from indigestion after using cranesbill internally. Hence, it is advisable that you should not take this herbal medication for over three weeks at a stretch, unless a qualified practitioner of herbal medicine has recommended otherwise. In addition, cranesbill should not be used during pregnancy or by nursing mothers.

How it works in the body

The high content of tannin in cranesbill may be accountable for the herb's anti-diarrheal actions. However, very little scientific studies have been undertaken so far to ascertain the elements enclosed by cranesbill and their actions within the body.

Collection and harvesting

The rhizome or underground stem of cranesbill is dug out during the period September - October, washed, sliced into smaller pieces and dried for future use.


Cranesbill may be used in conjugation with other herbs like comfrey, agrimony, meadowsweet and marshmallow to treat peptic ulcers. And to treat leucorrhoea, cranesbill should be combined with beth root for effective results.


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