cleavers large Cleavers

Cleavers | Galium aparine

general characteristics

general characteristics

Common names include cleavers, goosegrass, clivers, sticky willy, stickyweed, kisses, goose weed.

Cleavers is an annual plant of Europe and North America abundantly found growing through hedges, around field margins and in our gardens. It is a straggly plant, sending up long and thin strands of individual plants (up to a metre or so long sometimes) with leaves arranged around the stem in whorls at fairly regular intervals. The stems climb up through the hedges or sprawl in mat like clumps across the ground. It first appears in early spring then matures in early summer with the appearance of tiny white flowers, later forming the clinging seeds. It is a member of the Rubiaceae family (as are coffee and the madders, woodruffs and bedstraws).

The roots give a red dye.

Cleavers is a good fodder for animals that graze.

Its 'sticky' nature comes from the covering of tiny hairs over the entire plant and makes it useful as a natural make shift sieve, often used traditionally for straining milk etc. The seeds can be dried, roasted and ground to make a very decent coffee flavoured substitute (they contain a small amount of caffeine!). The plant and other close family members have been used to stuff mattresses also (hence the common name of 'bedstraw').


Cleavers tincture and dried herb are available to buy in our herbal shop.






harvesting and preparation

harvesting and preparation

Cleavers is very easy to harvest and the whole of the above ground portion is used. Gather the plant in spring/early summer just before or as the flowers appear and definitely before the seeds are evident (unless collecting for seed) as the plant gets too fibrous. Choose a clean looking clump away from roads and possible spraying, grab a handful and gently pull. I guarantee you will gather more than you intended to!
Lay the plant material on a tray and place in a warm spot. Turn gently daily and check for spoilage, discarding anything that looks bad. Once thoroughly dry, place in an airtight jar and store in a dark, cool place.



Cleavers tincture and dried herb are available to buy in our herbal shop.


therapeutic actions and uses

therapeutic actions and uses

Herbalist prize the humble cleavers as a prime lymphatic tonic and for its overall cleansing herb with mild diuretic, laxative, nerve soothing, anti-inflammatory and astringent properties.
Cleavers is perhaps best known as cleansing to both the lymph and blood. It stimulates the lymph nodes and vessels and helps to disperse accumulations and swelling in that system. Cleavers is therefore a great cleanser of the body, applicable for many chronic and stubborn disease states as it deep cleans the bodies overburdened waste disposal vessels (lymph vessels). This makes it particularly useful for swollen glands and lymph nodes, swollen adenoids, chronic tonsillitis, glandular fever, cellulite, cysts, abscesses, fibroids, polycystic ovaries, mumps, rubella and measles, chicken pox, orchitis and swollen testicles, nodules and for dispersing hard swellings, tumours, fibrous deposits etc.

The plant is known to be rich in anti-oxidants as detailed in this link and is therefore a good herb for improving overall health and provides many nutrients including vitamin C.

Due to its powerful and persistent lymphatic cleansing properties it can help to enhance immunity by clearing lymph nodes and vessels of toxins and mucous build up.

It is an old tried and tested ingredient of many 'spring drinks' aimed at cleansing sluggish, wintry body systems. Usually used for this purpose along with spring greens from dandelion, birch leaves and nettle for example to cleanse the blood, lymph and to perk up the liver and digestive system.
Cleavers can also be used for liver and gallbladder cleansing and for jaundice and gallstones.
Cleavers also makes a useful tea for kidney/bladder cleansing and is also diuretic (increases urine output). It will help with the passage of stones and gravel in the kidneys and/or bladder. Effective dose for this is between 3-5 cups daily of the tea. It can also help to settle an irritable bladder, alleviate suppressed urine, soothe burning on urination, to strengthen a weak bladder, help with urinary infections such as cystitis and urethritis, oedema, for enlarged prostate gland (prostatitis) and to help relieve swollen or enlarged testicles (and orchitis), especially with sexual infections such as gonnorhoea.
Cleavers has long been used as a remedy against obesity, mainly as it dredges the lymphatic system and helps to balance fluid levels in the body. It certainly does seem to 'promote leaness' as some old books put it. It is also relatively high in fibre and low in calories.
Cleavers has anti-inflammatory properties and is very soothing to the mucous membranes (lining the mouth, nose, anus, vagina etc) so can be useful in healing irritations in these areas.
Cleavers tea has an impact on the health of the nerves too making this a remedy that can alleviate insomnia, promote a decent nights sleep, is anti-inflammatory to nerve endings, helps ganglions, neuromas, neurofibrositis, Depuytrens contracture, calms oversensitivity of the nerves and is nerve soothing.
It can also be of help in arthritis due to its ability to disperse deposits and clear away wastes to the kidneys.
It has been used externally as a poultice for tumours near the surface, breast lumps (including lumps in boys and girls going through puberty), mastitis, skin cancers and for tumorous growths and other cancers. Cleavers is a great plant for women who wear tight bras (which often restrict lymph flow around the breasts) as it can help to keep the lymph fluids clean and moving. Overall a good herb for maintaining healthy breasts.
Cleavers tea (both internally and /or when used as a poultice) can help with dry skin conditions such as psoriasis, dermatitis and eczema and also skin conditions like ringworm, spots, acne, boils and dandruff.
Cleavers contain substances which inhibit enzymes that attack elastin (which keeps our skin elastic) in the skin and can help with the reduction of ageing of the skin and generally help keep the skin healthy.
When used as a poultice it can benefit wound healing, ulcers and varicose ulcers, sores, scars, sore nipples and rashes and other skin lesions as well as insect bites and stings.
Cleavers tea is said to fade freckles, skin blemishes and sunburn when used frequently as a wash over the skin. Use it as a poultice or wash for scalding, burns and blistering
Some native American women use cleavers as a hair wash to promote healthy, shiny, long hair.
It can also be used as part of a formula for high blood pressure and can help prevent embolism when used with other herbs.
Cleavers tea is cooling to an overheated body and also makes a cooling and soothing skin wash for sunburned skin.



dosage and cautions

dosage and cautions

*Cleavers is considered a generally safe herb but longer term use (a year for instance) is more appropriate to external use of the herb as poultices, baths, washes etc.


Tincture: 4-10 ml, up to 3 times daily.

Dried herb in tea form: 1 teaspoon per cup, half to one cup of tea up to 3 cups daily. Some urge the use of warm water only as boiling water may destroy much of the medicinal constituents.

Fresh herb juiced: 1-3 teaspoons up to 3 times daily, up to a wine-glassful daily if well tolerated. The fresh juice can be obtained via an electric juicer or by crushing manually (with a pestle and mortar for example) and squeezing the herb to extract the juices. The juice is considered more potent medicinally than the dried herb.

The fresh herb can be eaten raw though is a little hairy, a quick blanch or steam will soften it, or add a little of the fresh chopped herb to soups etc. near the end of cooking.

Apply the fresh crushed plant direct as a poultice.





Add 12 to the child’s age. Divide the child’s age by the total.
E.g. dosage for a 4 year old...... 4 {age} divided by 16 {age + 12} = . 25  or 1/4 of the adult dosage.







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