Cleavers grows abundantly in our hedgerows and springs up in waste places and fields.
It is a traditional spring tonic and in 1652 Nicholas Culpepper wrote, “it is a good remedy in the Spring, eaten (being first chopped small, and boiled well) in water-gruel, to cleanse the blood, and strengthen the liver, thereby to keep the body in health, and fitting it for that change of season that is coming.
Cleavers is a plant referred to by herbalists as an ‘alterative’. These herbs help the body become more vital by improving the body’s ability to eliminate waste through the kidneys, liver, lungs, or skin.
Botanically known as Galium aparine, we always called it Sticky willy (we didn’t make that up by the way). It’s also known as Goose grass, referring to the fact that geese love this plant, or Everlasting Friendship. I wonder is this because it clings to you and never lets go! When you look closely you can see that the stalks and leaves are covered in little hooked bristles.
Many of the plant’s popular names are associated with the clinging nature of the plant. Some of its local names have a very old origin harking back to the Anglo Saxon word ‘hedge-rife’ meaning robber or tax-gatherer, due to their habit of stealing sheep as they passed by a hedge.
The plant is inodorous but has a bitter astringent taste.
The roots will dye red and if they are eaten by birds it will tinge their bones.
In old herbals Cleavers was extolled as a purifier of the blood and modern day herbalists still value this herb in the treatment of skin diseases including acne, psoriosis and boils.
Cleavers is primarily used for lymphatic congestion and is very useful where the glands are inflammed. We find it very healing for tonsillitis and glandular fever.
It also has strong affinities to the kidneys and is used for the suppression of urine, non specific cystitis, urethritis and cloudy urine.
Although most herbalists use it for the lymphatic system it has been shown to be remarkable for neurological conditions where the nerves are over-sensitive or inflammed.
It is also specific in the treatment of Morton’s neuroma and Dupuytren’s contracture where the tendons tighten up under the toes or middle fingers.
In females it is indicated in fibrocystic breast disease, where there are many cysts and the tissue is fibrous.
Preparation and Uses
Cleavers Cleansing Juice
Two big handfuls of cleavers, roughly chopped
2 organic apples
2 sticks organic celery
Thumb sized piece of peeled ginger
Put everything through a juicer and drink on rising
Cleavers Spring Smoothie
One cup of cleavers roughly chopped
One cup of chopped pineapple
One cup of chopped cucumber
One cup of mango
Apple juice to loosen or cold green tea
Blend everything until smooth
Cleavers Cold Infusion
Cleavers was traditionally decocted in cold water to preserve its virtues.
Add 5g of freshly chopped cleavers herb to a clean jar. Cover in fresh filtered water and leave for 8 – 12 hours. Strain and sweeten with honey to taste.
Buy Cleavers capsules here.