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Alnus cones vs. tormentil root.

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Tormentil is strange, but so is alder.

You can tell the background of Northern herbal authors by the way they handle alder (Alnus spp.).

Those who have Russian influence use the cones.
Those who have western influence use the bark.

Photo: Alnus glutinosa 4.Pic: Alder cones.
Alder cones are strongly astringent. They can be used like any other astringent, but they shine in setting back surgery dates for people with chronic gut upset.

One of my Russian herbals says not to use alder cones off the ground. I don't know why not, but they're perfectly good off the tree, so I've been picking those.

Alder cone time is in March. I could pick them while the trees have leaves, but the cones are difficult to spot, in summer. In winter they're clearly visible in the trees. Also, the snowcover is at its highest in March, which means that I can reach higher into the tree. Provided of course that I can walk on top of the snow; if that's not doable in winter boots it's always doable using skis.

Now, there's another strongly astringent herb out there, and that's tormentil root (Potentilla erecta). That one has a reputation, because when you dig the root up (it's the size of the last bit of your pinky, more or less), wash it, and slice it up, it's grayish white at first, turning into a grayish pink after about half an hour or so.

That's why everybody and their aunt has been using tormentil root for ages - it's got weirdness, it must be strong medicine.

Now, the Finnish name for alder, "leppä", is an old word that means blood. That's because, when you cut an alder, the wood will turn red after a while.

Funny how that works, innit?

Related entries: Tannins - Astringents vs. anti-inflammatories


I see tormentil in formulas for hemorrhoids....Russian Authors. Not much bout you?

It's a commonly used strong astringent for all sorts of things which call for strong astringents. Like diarrhoea.