Young plants of Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) are flourishing all over our garden and bush edge as I write in May. A few mature plants are still flowering. This is an old medicinal plant common in Europe. The name Geranium is Greek for ‘cranesbill’ which is another name for this pretty annual or biennial garden escape found mainly in the North Island and occasionally in the South Island. Robertianum after Fr. Robert a French Abbot of Molerne, who had legendary medical skills, probably thanks to this plant.
Flowering from Sept-May it has joyful rose pink flowers in pairs with five oval petals that have white stripes. See if you can see the colour of the anthers at the end of the pink filaments as in Herb Robert the pollen is orange and in Lesser Herb Robert (Geranium purpureum) which has smaller flowers it is yellow. Both plants have bright green fern-like foliage which turns reddish growing in full sun or on older plants. The stems are green, through to shades of maroony red, brittle and hairy. Both species prefer to grow on the edge of bush, in hedgerows, ￼roadsides and waste places in moist shade but they can also grow in full sun. Plants can reach 50cm high and the seed head has a long 2cm beak that resembles a birds beak which splits open ejecting the five seeds in five directions. With such a good distribution method this plant spreads easily.
Herb Robert has quite a strong distinctive smell, unpleasant to some but it acts as an insect deterrent making it a good companion plant in the garden for vegetables and flowers. Plants seem to grow well next to it. Try rubbing the fresh leaves on your skin to deter mosquitoes or put them in your pet’s bed to deter fleas. I refer to Herb Robert and Lesser Herb Robert interchangeably as they are very similar in appearance and it is very hard to tell them apart. Being so similar they have almost identical nutritional and medicinal properties.
- carotenoids (which convert to Vitamin A)
- Vitamins B and C
- It is a natural source of germanium which as well as being an oxygen carrier and catalyst, also stimulates electrical impulses at a cellular level, which benefit the entire body according to Isabell Shipard a well known Australian herbalist. She further says that this humble herb has resulted in numerous amazing healings from such illnesses as cancer, colitis, chronic fatigue, cataracts, diabetes, mouth ulcers, bleeding gums and pain relief for those with rheumatism and arthritis. Even animals have been cured of cancer when fed with herb Robert in their food. Dr Otto Warburg, twice Noble Prize winner said in 1966, “The prime cause of cancer is lack of oxygenation of the cells.” He discovered that cancer cells could not exist in the presence of abundant oxygen, but only in an anaerobic state. Because oxygen plays such an important role in cell health and immune function, using Herb Robert regularly, is something very practical we can do, for our general wellbeing.
- In addition, it is an energy giver immune builder which acts as a free radical scavenger, with antibiotic, antiviral and antioxidant properties. Consult your Doctor before using it, if you are on blood thinning medication as it may act on the viscosity of the blood.Herb Robert is easy to grow and a supremely therapeutic plant with all those health giving properties so how do we use it?
Five or more leaves and stems in smoothies, soups, or a tea made by pouring boiling water over a teaspoon of fresh leaves or a pinch of dried leaves would be therapeutic and preventative. Sweeten with honey if you desire.
A foot infusion is said to remove toxins, heavy metals and prevent radiation damage, so would be of benefit to those using mobile phones, computers, microwaves or having x-rays, which pretty much means all of us! To make a foot infusion put a handful of chopped herb Robert in a bowl and pour a litre of boiling water over it stirring well. Add enough cold water to make it comfortable and soak your feet for 15 blissful minutes. ￼
The therapeutic dose of herb Robert is made by using one teaspoon of dried and powdered or fresh and finely chopped leaves and stems. Mix it well with a fresh, raw preferably organic, free range egg yolk and take first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Don’t be put off by the raw egg yolk it is actually very palatable once you get used to it. I used six leaves in the mix and six beside to show you the quantity, which I also ate. With chewing the leaves turn quickly to liquid in your mouth and the taste is not like the smell, I actually like eating it because I know the good it is doing me.
In order to have enough plants to be able to eat the leaves everyday, I
recommend that you collect the seeds by hand after flowering. The seed is mature when the bird-beak shaped capsule is 2cm long, and has a round and hard oval at the end and is brown as in the photo. Test it with your fingers, nip it off and dry for 3-4 days. You can open the capsule yourself once dried and sow the seeds in large pots or direct sow in the ground, both in shady places. Cover the seeds with a light covering of soil and water regularly so the soil doesn’t dry out.Germination can take from 2-6 weeks depending on the conditions. To keep up your supply you will need to regularly sow seeds. They will establish in your garden once you have just one plant and then they will self sow and spread even to weird places like an abandoned push-chair.
The photo left shows a young plant with a stalk but then it forms a rosette in the air with leaves. I find many Herb Robert plants grow like that, it’s a curious habit, but it obviously likes to be up in the air.