Introducing Herb Robert Part One

Recently I’ve been doing a lot more work on learning the plants I have growing in my garden, predominantly wild, in the hopes of building a much better dispensary from wild native plants.  The first one on my ‘list’ is one that basically  jumped up and down and yelled ‘pick me!!’ about six weeks ago, growing busily all over the garden.  I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for this little beauty anyway, so I was delighted to discover so many uses for it!  There are now ten bunches of it drying in the kitchen, with more to follow in the near future.

This is part one of my introduction to Herb Robert – the next part will include tastings, recipes, intuitive stuff and lots more information.

So, without further ado – allow me to introduce…

Herb Robert!
Herb Robert!

Latin – Geranium robertianum

Family – Geraniaceae

AKA – Saint Robert’s Herb, Cranesbill, Bloodwort, Felonwort, Red Robin, Stinking Robert, Death-Come-Quickly, Cuckoo’s Eye, Fox Geranium, Dragon’s Blood, Storkbill, Herb Robertianum, St Robert, Stinky Bob

Description – Classic geranium family deeply cut leaves grow on stems that form a basal rosette.   The plant itself becomes more leggy as it grows, and features lovely mauve flowers from April throughout the summer.   More description and observation to follow in Part Two!

Folklore – There are three different bits of lore surround the name. Possibly named after a monk called Robert who used it to heal a lot of different disorders and complaints. Another legend reckons it is named after Puck, or Robin Goodfellow – derived from Old English Pucelas, or ‘Wild Men of the Woods’. Plants named Robin have a traditional association with devils, death and the fae folk, and since I have a soft spot for all this sort of folklore, I much prefer this association myself!

Constituents – Germanium, apparently responsible for anti cancer effects. Flavonoids inc rutin, minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium plus germanium, already mentioned. Tannins. Vitamins including A, B & C, volatile oils.

Properties: antiviral, antibiotic, antioxidant, blood purifier, tonic, oxygenator, adaptogen, immune system booster, adrenal tonic, anti microbial, anti rheumatic, antiseptic, astringent, digestive tonic, diuretic, sedative, styptic, tonic and vulnerary.

Herb Robert growing in the shade, leaning companionably against a linden tree trunk.
Herb Robert growing in the shade, leaning companionably against a linden tree trunk.

Medicinal Uses:  Has been used internally for improving the immune system and also to treat cancer – apparently it promotes oxygen availability to cells (germanium is the main constituent that does this), which reduces the amount of suitable environments for cancer to flourish in. Especially associated with cancer that causes tumours and nodules – possible internal and external uses here?

Energy giver – has a reputation as an adaptogen as well, boosts immune, therapeutic tonic and all round preventative.

Bladder, kidney tonic – astringent and anti inflammatory.

Reduces swelling and improves function of the liver and gallbladder and works to prevent stones in gallbladder, kidneys and bladder.

Relieve simple diarrhoea esp. due to functional lack of tone.

Can be used to relieve arthritis and rheumatism and improve circulation.

Blood sugar regulator – use in the treatment of diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Fairly classic signature on those leaves for blood related issues!   It doesn't always have this colouring - the stuff in my garden has it pretty easy so has no red leaf colouring at all.
Fairly classic signature on those leaves for blood related issues! It doesn’t always have this colouring – the stuff in my garden has it pretty easy so has no red leaf colouring at all.

Long used traditionally for blood problems – colour of stem could indicate old, stagnant blood / varicose veins / vein congestion

Has been used to increase lactation.

Internally to encourage boils, lumps and abscesses to come to a head, drain and then heal cleanly.

Externally – for wounds, herpes and skin eruptions. Use as a mouthwash or gargle for sore throat and bleeding gums. Poultice for abscesses, also treat shingles, sun spots etc.

Rub on the skin to repel biting insects – though given its name of ‘Stinky Bob’, this might repel people as well…

As a poultice for swollen, hardened breasts.

As a balm for bruises.

As a foot bath to help remove toxins, radiation and heavy metals from the system. Can be used for the hands as well. Can draw toxins from swollen lymph glands. 2 handfuls of leaves added to a basin, cover with boiling water and steep til water is lukewarm.

As a poultice it can encourage boils and abscesses to come to a head, then promote healing.

Apparently it grows particularly abundantly in areas with high concentrations of radiation. The herb absorbs the radiation from the soil, breaks it down and disperses it. The whole plant repels deer and rabbits, perhaps why I have seen so few of either of these critters in my garden – just the odd hare, who is always welcome.

Dosage – 4.5mls of the tincture per day but no strength of the tincture is mentioned.

As a tea, apparently best as a cold infusion.


  1. Love your posts and the knowledge you pass on. Just want to say thank you. With love kaz (met at Sarah’s herb festival)

    1. Thank you very much! I won’t be at Sarah’s festival this year, but I hope you enjoy yourself and that this blog continues to be interesting for you! 😀

  2. Very interesting. So have you had a chance to use it yourself or for anyone you know? I always wonder how people’s real life experience compares with the textbook notes, you know? I also love hearing about how a plant growing in one’s backyard or garden can often “speak” about uses that aren’t always listed.

    1. I’ve not had the chance to use it yet, unfortunately – I started tincturing some mostly dried plant in brandy yesterday, and as soon as it stops raining I shall bring in some more to dry for infused oil making. part two of this article will cover tastings of the herb – cold and warm infusions, foot bath and anything else I can think of to use it for – and any impressions I get from the tastings. Part three, in a couple of weeks time, will include more information on what I get from a tincture of it! 🙂 I tend to find textbook notes can only take a person so far – experience is really important, and you can learn far more from even just tasting the herb than you can from simply reading about it. Watch this space for lots more experimentation! 😉

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