Thursday, August 1, 2013


Cleavers-Gallium Aparine

Also known as:  bedstraw, gravel grass, maid's hair, cheese rennet, gosling weed, hedge-burrs, clivers, goose grass, coach weed, grip grass, goose's hair, scratch weed, milk sweet, poor robin, clabber grass, savoryan, cheese rent herb, cleaver wort, etc.

Parts used:  Aerial parts

Meridians/Organs affected:  bladder, gallbladder, kidneys, lymphatic

Properties:  refrigerant, diuretic, aperient, alterative, tonic, mild astringent, antiscorbutic, lithotriptic

This herb is a member of the Madder family.  It is also known as bedstraw and there are at least 13 different species of it in the Pacific Northwest alone.  There are both perennial and annual versions of this plant.  The annuals tend to be the ones with weaker taproots and have more delicate stems than those of their perennial counterparts.  Cleavers has 4 sided stems and slender leaves that grow in whorled clusters of 2-8 (depending on the variety) looking much like the spokes on a wheel.  The flowers are very tiny and white.  Cleavers is called such as it has thousands of tiny little hooks on the angles of its stems.  This allows the plant to propagate easily as it is transferred around by whomever or whatever passes by.  The perennial varieties do not share this trait.  It blooms from May to July but is best collected before it flowers in the spring.  It can be found growing in moist areas, along streams, shady ravines, dry, sunny areas and road margins.  Northern bedstraw is common across the usa and most of the northern hemisphere up to 6,000 feet.  It can get up to 3 feet tall. 

Bedstraw (one of its common names) is named due to the fact that in earlier times it was used to stuff pillows and mattresses.  Christian legend has it that it was used to provide a bed for Christ in the manger. 

Cleavers has been used for hundreds of years for any number of things.  It was used commonly as a hair dye but it take ALOT of cleavers to achieve this.  The leaves and stems provide a nice yellow shade while the roots provide a red color.  With this plant it appears you get a two for one deal.  Gerard said that people used it in his time to '...turne their milke and cheese, which they make of sheepes and goates milke...'  Hence another name for cleavers, cheese rennet.

The Elizabethan herbalists used cleavers for nosebleeds, internal bleeding and would often use the juice or tea on the feet of weary travelers to ease their discomfort.  John Parkinson wrote of cleavers, " serveth the country people instead of a strainer, to cleare their milke from strawes, haires or any other thing that falleth into it."  Indeed it has been used as such in the past, and when it is weaved together it does work fairly well in that capacity.

Cleavers is highly regarded as a lymphatic cleanser and a lymph tonic.  The fresh plant tea or juice is used to stimulate drainage of the lymph system.  In essence think of it as a pipe cleaner for the lymph system.  It is also used in that capacity for swollen glands, tonsillitis, earaches and other adenoid issues.  It also helps to shrink tumors and to remove growths on the skin.  The Austrian herbalist Maria Treben has used cleavers tea as a gargle to treat tongue and throat cancers.  It has been used by many natural healers for thyroid related issues, including goiter.  It is also one of the most effective diuretic blood purifiers we have.  It works for all urinary issues including cystitis, urethritis, prostatitis, kidney inflammation and bladder irritations.  It helps to push out deposits in those areas as well.  It has also been used to ease reproductive organ inflammation as well as for things like venereal disease and hepatitis.  It is great for skin issues as it nourished the skin through its cleansing process.  It makes a great poultice for burns and scalds.  It is a cooling herb and as such it is appropriate for such things as fevers, measles, scarlet fever, etc.  Herbalists also have used this for chronic fatigue and mononucleosis.

Cleavers is highly astringent and high in tannins (remember when taking herbs that are high in tannins that milk should be used with it to bind to the tannins making them inert for the most part).  As it is high in tannins one should only take this herb in 2 week increments (2 weeks on and 2 weeks off).  It also loses some of its effectiveness when dried so it is more potent when used as a fresh herb.

Cleavers is also a nutritive herb and is a rich source of vitamin C and chlorophyll.  They should be cooked before ingesting to soften the barbs on the plant (annual varieties).  It has been used as a hot compress to stop bleeding and to soothe sore muscles.  It has also been dried, ground and sprinkled onto wounds and cuts to stop bleeding and assist in the healing processes.  Cleavers extracts or tinctures have been shown to be useful in lowering blood pressure and to combat certain kinds of yeast.

For whatever the reason...this is an herb that deserves more attention.  It has the capacity to do amazing things in regards to healing the sick and keeping the healthy in an optimum condition.  Consider keeping some around as you never know when you might need it.

As with all of my posts I have included some links below that pertain to cleavers.  Please use them as you deem fit.  Be happy and stay healthy!

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