Herb of the Day: Galium Aparine (Rubiaceae)

Common names: Cleavers, Goosegrass, Sticky Willie, Sticky Weed.

Parts used: Whole fresh, aerial plant.

Actions: Anti-inflammatory, diuretic, alternative, lymphatic, tonic.

Indications: Chronic skin conditions, acne, eczema, psoriasis, urticaria, infection, swollen lymph nodes, tonsillitis, cellulite, cystitis.

Description: The cleavers plant sends up its bright green shoots in the early spring and is one of the first plants to sprout up in the herbal year. Its square shaped, creeping stems can sprawl out up to 3m in all directions and are covered in whorls of 6-10 leaves, with tiny green/white star shaped flowers. The whole plant is covered in Velcro-like sticky hairs, including the seeds, which stick to pets and ankles hoping to be spread far and wide, hence the name ‘sticky weed’.

Uses: Cleavers is a powerful yet gentle lymphatic, used in virtually any condition characterised by inflammation. Traditionally it was used as a ‘blood-cleansing’ herb, aiding in the removal of metabolic wastes and helping to clear infections of any kind, bringing down swollen glands, adenoids, and tonsils. It is invaluable in the treatment of skin conditions including eczema, acne, psoriasis, and slow to heal infections. It can help to brighten up the complexion, washing out bogged down tissues. An old saying goes “whoever should only drink cleavers water for 9 weeks shall be so beautiful, everyone will fall in love with them.” It contains high amounts of silica, an essential nutrient for maintaining hair, skin and nail growth and repair. It’s affiliation with the lymphatic system makes it a great spring cleansing herb that can help to kick start a sluggish system after a long winter of rich foods and hibernation. It also had a great reputation for reducing cellulite. Cleavers acts as a diuretic, increasing urine flow, so helping to ease painful urinary tract infections and water retention. The whole plant is highly nutritious and many foraging books and blogs recommend eating cleavers like spinach. While it has a beautifully fresh, crisp taste (a bit like cucumber mixed with new potatoes!), the texture is harsh, even when finely chopped and boiled (the tiny hairs can make it hard to swallow), so use it only when very young or sparingly in food. Cleavers is best used fresh and should be harvested before it goes to seed in the summer. Use cleavers in a cold infusion or make fresh herb tinctures or juice and freeze for later use.

Cleansing Cleavers Cold Infusion:

Cleavers cold infusion is a refreshing lymph-cleansing drink. Use it for clearing the skin and aiding the elimination of wastes.

  • 2 big handfuls of fresh cleavers.

  • 1/4 cucumber

  • 2-3 lemon slices

  • 500ml filtered water

    Wash and finely chop or crush the cleavers. Finely slice the cucumber into ribbons (a potato peeler works well.)

    Place the Cleavers, cucumber and lemon slices into a glass or ceramic pot with a lid. Cover with the water, put the lid on and then leave in the fridge overnight.

    Drink on an empty stomach first thing in the morning.

    ”The Handmade Apothecary - Healing Herbal Remedies By Vicky Chown & Kim Walker.”

Bongos Empire