Cranesbill, also known as Alum root, is the American relative of our Storksbill or Herb Robert, a common little herb of the Geranium family. Both the names, Storksbill and Cranesbill refer to the strange elongated seed capsules that protrude from the corolla once the plant finished flowering. Storks are considered lucky in Europe and so it was thought carrying a bit of storksbill root as an amulet would bring health happiness and prosperity. Both herbs have been used for similar purposes. Cranesbill is common throughout the Eastern United States up to about the Midwest, while Storksbill is native to Britain and Europe. Cranesbill was highly revered by Native Americans, who employed it for a wide variety of conditions. The settlers, already familiar with our Herb Robert, quickly learnt its uses from the natives.
Cranesbill is classified as an astringent, with a wide spectrum of uses. The powdered root can be applied externally to staunch bleeding. It has also been used to heal all sort of skin eruptions and sores, including cancerous sores. Internally it is recommended for diarrhoea, especially if there is any blood in the stool (seek medical attention!), irritable bowel syndrome and the like. It is also said to work wonders on stomach ulcers. It can be helpful in cases of excessive menstrual flow or as a douche, to counteract leucorrhoea. In days gone by it was a useful aid in fighting venereal diseases. Native Americans also used Cranesbill in the treatment of urinary conditions and to lower blood pressure. As a gargle it also helped in the treatment of sore gums, thrush or sore throat. According to the ancient lore, the European variety, storksbill, is said to have anti-cancer properties, but this herb has not been studied extensively and so for the moment no actual studies exist to back up the claim.
Not much is known about the magical use of American Cranesbill, except that it was used in counter-magic. It was slipped into the tea of someone who had been afflicted by a love charm in order to counteract its effect. Due to the close similarities between Cranesbill and Storksbill it would be feasible to substitute one for the other for magical purposes, depending on local availability. Storksbill was used as a good luck charm and believed to bring happiness, good fortune and good health. Being associated with storks it was also believed to work as a sympathetic magic charm in fertility magic.