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Cranesbill: Geranium Malculatum, Alumroot, Dove's Foot


As a member of the geranium family, Geranium maculatum shows strong geranium-like characteristics such as deeply cut and fern like leaves as well as rose-violet, pale violet or violet-purple flowers. Members of the geranium family should not be confused with the highly cultivated commercially available “Geraniums” that are actually Pelargoniums. Particularly, Cranesbill has hairy spreading leaves and stands an erect 30-60cm tall. The common name “Cranesbill” is derived from the similarities in  appearance of the closed seed capsule to that of a crane’s bill.  For optimal growing conditions, Cranesbill requires well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. The soil, as well as being well drained, should be moist humus soils. Cranesbill does tolerate poor soil conditions, but for optimal growth soil makeup and drainage should be assessed. Seeds should be planted within a cold frame early spring to protect from frost and freezing conditions. Once seedlings are large enough to be transplanted, they should be planted in individual pots in order to be planted later in the summer. In spring or autumn large masses of Cranesbill can be divided and replanted. A whole plant infusion can be created. Normally, the roots are harvested while the plant is in flower for medicinal purposes. The root can be harvested in autumn and then dried and stored.


Cranesbill also contains gallic acid that acts as an astringent and a treatment of hemorrhoids as well as being an antioxidant. Previously the active ingredient of Cranesbill was known as geranin and was thought to be made up of tannic acid which when dried converted to gallic acid giving preparations the medicinal qualities described above. This is possible as tannic acid is a polymer comprised of gallic acid and glucose. Along with use as a treatment of diarrhea, an astringent, and the tonic properties of Cranesbill, tannic acid has been shown to have anti-bacterial and anti-mutagenic properties and behaviors.

Fun Fact: 

Tannins such as tannic acid have been used throughout history as a method of tanning leather. Extractions of the Cranesbill flower can also be used as brown dye.


Historically, as a medicinal herb, Cranesbill was documented as being used by the Blackfoot Indians of North America in order to stop bleeding as well as being widely prescribed in the nineteenth century. The roots were employed for their powerful astringent principles as well as a treatment for diarrhea.


Today, Cranesbill is used in liquid extracts and infusions in order to relieve piles, internal bleeding and diarrhea.  Along with use as a treatment of diarrhea, an astringent, and the tonic properties of Cranesbill, tannic acid has been shown to have anti-bacterial and anti-mutagenic properties and behaviors.


A tea can be prepared by boiling 5-10 grams of the herb in 2 cups of water. A tincture can be created of 1-2ml liquid extract three times a day.  As well as causing an upset stomach, the tannin known as tannic acid causes blood to clot and has often been used as an herbal remedy to stop bleeding after wisdom teeth removal. This active agent causes the blood clotting effect of Cranesbill.

Contraindications/Interactions/Adverse Reactions:


References Cited: 

1.    Huxley A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press.

2.      Tilford GL. Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West. Missoula, MT. 1992. Mountain Press Publishing Company.

3.      Strange RL. History of Herbal Plants. 1977. Arco Publishing Company.

4.      Duke JA. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs, Second Edition. 2002. CRC.

5.      Waugh WF, Abbott WC and Epstein EM. A Text-book of Alkaloid Therapeutics. 1904. Clinic Publishing Company.

6.      Grae I. Nature's Colors - Dyes from Plants. 1974. MacMillan Publishing Company.

Researched By: Adam Rauckhorst