Other usage of tormentil as a medicine is for the urinary tract, for heavy periods and for arthritic pain. Turner advises tormentil with juice of plantain for urinary incontinence both as a decoction and as an extract in vinegar ‘held on the kidneys’. This usage is also given by Dalechamps, Gerard, Parkinson and Culpeper.
Tormentil is used today for heavy periods and it is interesting to trace this usage. Turner states that it stops women’s flows if the woman sits in a broth up to the navel or the broken roots are laid on the belly with honey and spikenard. Parkinson recommends roots of either tormentil or cinquefoil for ‘all fluxes in man or woman, whether the whites or the reds’. Parkinson states that many women use the distilled water of leaves and roots of tormentil ‘as a secret, to help themselves and others, when they are troubled with an abundance of the whites or the reds, as they call them’, both as a drink or injected with a syringe. This sentence is copied in some editions of Culpeper but not others. Bauhin also recommends the distilled water and juice for excessive menstruation.
Whilst herbal practitioners seek to prescribe for the individual, there can be situations where a prescription is effective for a particular symptom. Heavy periods are a debilitating problem and occur in the perimenopause as a result of anovulatory cycles. Orthodox treatment has limitations, while hysterectomy is now seen as a last resort (NICE 2007). The long-term prescription will address the constitution of the individual but it is useful to have a remedy to hand when the flow is unmanageable. I used a prescription successfully for perimenopausal heavy periods associated with uterine fibroids and have since used it again in other women. It is fluid extract of Capsella bursapastoris 30 mL and tinctures of Potentilla erecta 30 mL, Achillea millefolium 30 mL, Aesculus hippocastanum 10 mL, Zingiber officinalis 10 mL. The dose is 10 mL four times a day which is a large dose of alcohol so the patient must be warned of this. My extract is prepared from a strong decoction of tormentil which is allowed to cool and then ethanol and more water is added to achieve a 1:3 concentration before macerating the cold mixture in the normal manner. It is therefore stronger than some tinctures available from herbal suppliers.
Parkinson, followed by Culpeper, advises the powder or decoction as a drink or as a bath as an assured remedy against abortion in women if caused by the ‘over flexibility or weakness of the inward retentive faculty’. I used tormentil thus in a woman of 40 with no children who had already had miscarriages but eventually gave birth to a health baby. She had bleeding at 10 weeks, at 12 weeks and again at 14 weeks and rested in bed when this occurred. A scan at 16 weeks showed a 6 cm fibroid. My concern was that she was struggling to support a healthy pregnancy and the prescription included a decoction of tormentil with lady’s mantle Alchemilla vulgaris and tinctures of Viburnum prunifolium as an antispasmodic and Alpinia galanga as a circulatory stimulant.