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Cinquefoil: the name Potentilla, meaning "mighty force" was awarded to this group of plants because of their renowned powers as medicine ...

Common Names: Cinquefoil, Five Fingers, Crampweed, Silverweed, Shepherd's Knot

Botanical Name: Potentilla spp.

Family: Rosaceae

Plant Type: Shrubby perennial

Parts Used: Leaves, roots

Flowering: May to Fall

The cinquefoil herb was brought over from Europe and introduced to North America. The cinquefoil is now naturalized to North America and the herb grows wild in parts of eastern North America with a range that extends from Nova Scotia all the way North to the province of Ontario in Canada and a range south to Virginia in the Eastern US.

Description: The plant called the cinquefoil has a creeping habit. The stem runners of this perennial herb can often reach up to five feet in length. The cinquefoil bears leaves that have serrated or toothed margins on the lamina. The leaves are marked off by hairy veins. Leaves are borne on long stalks and each individual is divided into five or seven smaller leaflets. The cinquefoil bears bright yellow colored flowers from May to August in the fall. Each leaf is borne singly on individual leafless stalks on the plant.

The cinquefoil is quite easy to recognize in the wild. The herb is a rather pretty and dainty species of plant. The name of the cinquefoil is after an Old French word that means "five-leaf." Cinquefoil has a stem that creeps on the ground similar to the way in which the stem of the strawberry plant creep's using runners. The creeping stem produces roots, and then sends up stalks which either bears a solitary yellow flower or a leaf that is divided into five or seven distinct serrated leaflets. The medical “potency” and herbal uses of the cinquefoil is recognizable from the Medieval Latin name given to the plant - Potentilla.

History: The five leaflets of the cinquefoil was a symbol for the five senses of the human body, and was a common heraldic device in medieval times. The cinquefoil in heraldry served as a motif for a man who had achieved mastery over the self, which is the reason many medieval knights vied to emblazon the cinquefoil's five-fingered leaf symbol on their shield - the right to use this heraldic device could only be granted to knights who gained mastery over the self. The cinquefoil was also linked to many other powers in superstitious medieval times, for example, the herb was supposed to scare off witches. Medieval lovers often used the cinquefoil in preparing love potions and as an instrument in romantic divinations. Medieval fishermen often fixed the herb to their nets to increase their catch of fish.

The ancients were also familiar with the potency of the cinquefoil herb and Theophrastus, the ancient Greek philosopher and naturalist recognized the medicinal value of the herb. Theophrastus, who was a student and successor of the great philosopher Aristotle, was the first person to describe the remedial and beneficial effects of the cinquefoil. Herbalists through the ages have been familiar with the cinquefoil as a remedy, it has been traditionally recommended in the form of an herbal root decoction to treat disorders like a fever. It is also used as an herbal analgesic for alleviating the pain of a toothache; it is used as an herbal gargle for treating oral sores, and also used as a general disinfectant and astringent herb. Cinquefoil root bark is made into a topical poultice to help stop nosebleeds, and an herbal leaf or root tea was traditionally used to treat diarrhea and related digestive problems.

The use of remedies made from the cinquefoil has a long history. Traditionally, cinquefoil was being employed as an herbal astringent and an anti-hemorrhagic agent. It was also a very common folk remedy for treating fevers and related problems in the body. The main anti-bleeding agent in the cinquefoil is the tannic acid present in the extracts of the herb, though the early traditional users of the herb were not aware of this fact. The presence of tannic acid is the reason for the extreme effectiveness of the cinquefoil remedy as an herbal astringent in stopping bleeding in any part of the body. The cinquefoil has also been traditionally linked with a potent ability to cure all kinds of fevers; this has been questioned in recent years, as repeated pharmacological investigations have not shown the herb to posses this ability.

Cultivation: Cinquefoil is a widely used landscaping plant that also comes in a bushy form. It's a perennial, hardy zones 3 - 8, preferring full sun and well-drained soil. Its foliage will show better colors if the soil is kept slightly acid.

Harvesting: The best time to harvest and collect cinquefoil is in the month of June at the peak of summer. During collection, all the discolored or insect eaten leaves are rejected and only whole and undamaged parts are collected - it's normal to uproot the entire plant. The proper way to dry cinquefoil is in shady sites.

Culinary Uses: Cinquefoil is also consumed as a vegetable in Europe and other places. Tender leaves of the cinquefoil can be eaten raw, or finely chopped and added in a salad or cooked in a variety of dishes such as hotpot or vegetable soups.

Cinquefoil Magick

Protection. Divination. Wisdom. Prophetic Dreams. Clairvoyance.

Gender: Masculine

Planet: Jupiter

Element: Fire

Hang cinquefoil over your door for protection.

Suspend a bag of cinquefoil is from the bed to ensure a restful sleep.

Use it in a dream pillow to add wisdom and clairvoyance to your dreams.

Cinquefoil is an ingredient in some of the ointments used for astral projection.

Use an infusion of leaves to bathe your forehead and hands, nine times, to wash away hexes and curses.

If you find a cinquefoil spring with seven leaflets, place it under your pillow. You will dream of your future lover or mate.

The five points of the leaves represent love, money, health, power and wisdom, and so if carried, cinquefoil grants these.

Herbal Healing with Cinquefoil

Medicinal Uses: Cinquefoil is an astringent and febrifuge. It is particularly effective against "fever and ague," malaria, and other fevers associated with warm swampy areas.


To make external compresses, use dried whole plants that have been dried in the shade. Compresses can also be prepared from fresh decoction - made by steeping one dried whole plant in a cup or 250 ml of water. This herbal compress is excellent for the treatment of external disorders such as suppurations and hemorrhage or bruising.

Herbal cinquefoil meant for consumption can be prepared by steeping the dried whole root in a cup - 250 ml - of boiling water. This remedy can be drunk to gain relief from problems like diarrhea, gastritis or uterine hemorrhaging particularly if these problems are chronic in nature.

Herbal remedies made from the cinquefoil are also effective in the treatment of fractures or cases of chronic osteoporosis in patients. Since there are no side effects associated with the use of the cinquefoil, the remedies may be used in complete safety and without fear for prolonged treatments that extend for one or two consecutive months. Such treatments are particularly beneficial when the herb is used in combination with other beneficial plants that are rich in chlorophyll content, including plants like the plantain.

Cinquefoil remedies can also be combined with herbs which are rich in vitamin C, such as watercress and common sorrel for maximum effectiveness. The combination of the herbal remedies in this way permits an increase in the total volume of minerals and tannins that can be absorbed by the body at any one time during the treatment.

Cinquefoil is an extremely effective herb for the detoxification of the body. Addicts to any addictive chemicals benefit from the cinquefoil as the herb helps such people to walk away from addictive alkaloids like nicotine found in tobacco and cocaine extracted from coca leaves.


Cinquefoil infusion: the herbal infusion can be taken three times a day to treat all kinds of problems. The infusion can be prepared by steeping two teaspoonfuls of the dried and powdered herb in a cup of boiling water for fifteen minutes. The infusion can be prepared fresh on a daily basis.

Herbal compress: chopped cinquefoil can be prepared into an herbal compress to relieve topical disorders. Use one to two tablespoonfuls of chopped fresh cinquefoil and boil it in half a liter - a pint - of water. Allow the herb to steep in the boiling water twenty minutes before straining and cooling. The lukewarm herbal infusion can be made into a moist compress and applied on affected areas of the body. As soon as the herbal compress dries out, it must be moistened in the infusion again - this can be repeated throughout the day for maximum relief.

Cinquefoil tincture: the cinquefoil tincture can be taken in doses of two ml three times daily to treat a variety of problems.

Source Here

Native American Herb Wisdom

  • To ease stomach cramps, the scrubbed roots of the European P. palustria, or the entire plant of the P. noruegica was steeped and served as an infusion.
  • An infusion of the bitterish, astringent root of the P. canadensis was employed as a mouthwash and gargle.
  • The entire top of the plant was used to make a general lotion, to control fever, as a wash for the mouth, sore throat, and piles.
  • In times of famine, cinquefoil roots kept whole groups of Native Americans and pioneers from starving for extended periods of time.
Source: Field Guide to Medicinal Wild Plants by Bradford Angier is free to access and use.
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