The medicinal power of yellow bedstraw

Yellow bedstraw is a ground cover plant that can grow from 20 centimeters to a meter in height. It is native to the entire Eurasian continent. The stems have four ridges, making the stem look square. It is sold as an ornamental plant. In the Netherlands it grows in meadows, hedges, dunes, roadsides, banks and on sandy soils. In phytotherapy, yellow bedstraw is used as a plant that is good for the liver and kidneys. It also counteracts cramps and has a blood purifying effect. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.

Botanical drawing yellow bedstraw / Source: Carl Axel Magnus Lindman, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)


  • Naming yellow bedstraw
  • Name confusion and mattress filling
  • History of use of yellow bedstraw
  • Classic cancer drug?
  • Yellow bedstraw as a blood purifying herb
  • Dose and safety

Naming yellow bedstraw

In Latin this plant is called Galium verum . In addition to the name yellow bedstraw, Dutch also has real bedstraw. Wal used to mean ‘cradle’ in Dutch. Straw from this plant was previously used to fill the mattress of a baby’s crib. Verum, the second part of the Latin name means ‘real’. The name ‘yellow’ is given because the flowers are yellow. The name galium comes from the Latin word ‘gale’. The plant can be used to curdle milk for cheese making. In addition, this plant gives the cheese an extra aroma and the cheese becomes slightly yellower when the yellow flowers are also used for curdling. Normally, today’s cheese makers extract the rennet from cow stomachs, but Cheshire or Chester cheese from England is still made with Galium verum, and the yellow of the flowers is also used for this cheese.

Name confusion and mattress filling

Yellow bedstraw is related to the woodruff. The family name is: star-leaved family. In Germany, yellow bedstraw is called Liebfrauwenbettstro and in England, yellow bedstraw is called Lady’s bedstraw. It seems that the Dutch name is the result of a misunderstanding and that yellow bedstraw should actually be called sweet woodruff. Be that as it may, both plants were used to fill mattresses. In the past, mattresses were partially filled with yellow bedstraw because this plant kills lice. Furthermore, yellow bedstraw is a calming plant and it used to be given to women who were about to give birth to children.

History of use of yellow bedstraw

Yellow bedstraw is a galactogogue; it improves breast milk production. For this reason, the plant was previously given to milk-producing animals such as cows, sheep and goats. Cheese made from this milk would be especially tasty. There are many more medicinal uses from the past. The tea made from the flowers was popular because the flowers give off a honey-like scent. This tea is said to work well for gout, which is true because it stimulates the kidneys to remove uric acid, the cause of gout, from the body. Yellow bedstraw was also used to combat spinster disease, or hysteria. In principle, yellow bedstraw is still used for its soothing properties. In addition, the plant was used for blood that came into the urine, called blood waters. Yellow bedstraw seemed to be an excellent remedy against blood water for both cows and people.

Classic cancer drug?

Another application of the ancients was that yellow bedstraw was used for cancer. The Ancients usually refer to the Classics who lived in ancient Greece and ancient Rome until 500 years after the common era.

Yellow bedstraw / Source: H. Zell, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

Yellow bedstraw as a blood purifying herb

Yellow bedstraw is a strong blood-purifying plant because it drives away moisture and sweat. Because of these medicinal properties, yellow bedstraw is prescribed in phytotherapy for the following indications:

  • Weak kidney function,
  • Oliguria or weak urine output,
  • Weak liver function.

Dose and safety

  • An infusion of a tablespoon of dried herb three times a day.
  • Take a warm infusion of 30 to 50 grams of herb per liter of water three to four times a day, between meals.

There are no known cases of poisoning or side effects when the prescribed medicinal dose is used.