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Cleavers Monograph



Scientific Name

Galium Aparine


Common Name

Cleavers, Cleaverwort, Stickyweed, Grip Grass, Catchweed, Velcro Plant,

Goosegrass


Family

Rubiaceae


Parts Used

Aerial parts


Native To

Europe & Asia


Geographic Distribution

Widespread. Naturalized in N. America, Australia, and New Zealand.


Botanical Description

Cleavers are an annual plant that typically grows to 2-3 feet in height with

linear or lance-shaped leaves that grow in whorls around a squarish stalk.

Perhaps the most well-known feature of cleavers are the tiny, sticky,

hooked hairs that cover the plant.


Cleavers flower in May-September, producing tiny, white, four-petaled

flowers that mature into green or purple-black fruit that is also covered in

sticky hairs.


Cleavers likes to grow in disturbed soils, ditches, fields, and cultivated

garden spaces.


Key Constituents

Vitamins & Minerals (nourishing)

Tannins (astringent/tightening, wound healing)

Phenolic Acids (anti-inflammatory and antioxidant)

Volatile Oils (soothing, antimicronial)

Anthraquinones (antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antioxidant, emetic)

Coumarins (antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic)


Harvesting Guidelines

Collect aerial parts of the plant and use fresh or dry on screens.

Has been prepared as a juice, poultice, tea, tincture, oil, and salve.


Actions

Alterative

Inflammation-modulating

Styptic

Vulnerary

Nervine

Antibacterial

Antiviral

Astringent

Lymphagogue

Demulcent


Taste & Energetics

Fresh and Tart (like an apple)

Predominantly cooling and drying but balanced with some soothing/

moistening demulcent qualities when used fresh.


Uses

One of the first documented ancient uses for cleavers is one that we really

don’t see modern herbalists using this plant for anymore, which was

venomous bites. There are several texts going back as far as the 1st

century that describe the use of cleavers for snakebites or spiderbites.

This use persists into the 17th century. Cleavers is considered in modern

times to be an alterative herb. An alterative is a substance that gradually

brings the body into balance and optimal wellness through gentle

detoxifying actions. Ancient healers may have understood the detoxifying

actions and considered it a "blood purifier,” although I wouldn’t think that

it’d be powerful enough or fast acting enough to be used for a venomous

bite, so even though this is an interesting history, please always get

emergency medical attention if you believe you may have been bitten by a

venemous snake or spider! Cleavers could, however, be considered for

minor bites or stings and poulticed fresh for use much like Plantain

(Plantago Major or Plantago Lanceolata).


One of cleavers herbal actions is as a lymphagogue. Meaning that it

moves and helps to circulate lymphatic fluids. This is one of the primary

ways that it has an alterative effect, by moving those white blood cells and

antibodies, and helping the body to detoxify and come into balance.

Cleavers is also a diuretic that flushes excess fluids and toxins from the

body, and it contains antioxidant (protects your cells from damage!) and

inflammation-modulating compounds. It is also a diuretic, flushing excess fluids and toxins from the body through urinary tract. It is also soothing to the urinary tract and bladder. These alternative actions are the primary way that many modern herbalist think about cleavers.


Herbalist Matthew Wood uses cleavers to treat an over-excited nervous system, he notes that cleavers falls into the category of deer medicine in Native American herbalism which has to do with treating the nerves. Deer often bed down in patches of cleavers. Many people do find cleavers to have a soothing affect on the nervous system.


Finally there are some properties that make cleavers potentially useful as

a vulnerary, or wound healer. Cleavers is astringent (tightens, tones),

demulcent (moistens, soothes), and has some antimicrobial action. Some

ancient as well as modern herbalists have used cleavers as a styptic (stops

bleeding) and to soothe irritated skin conditions.


Fun Facts!

The ancient Greek name for Cleavers meant “loving-mankind,” a name

which the Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder described as being a witty

name that referred to the plants love of clinging to peoples’ clothing.

Cleavers scientific name, Galium, may derive from the Greek word for milk

as the plant was often used to curdle milk for cheesemaking. Or it may be

from the Greek word for rooster since chickens love to eat cleavers, as do

other livestock.


Safety

Cleavers are generally considered mild and non-toxic. Do be careful with

the hooked hairs which can possibly cause some irritation to the skin and

mucous membranes. People with cold, dry constitutions and/or diabetics

may want to be careful because of the diuretic and cooling nature of

cleavers.


**The content of this monograph is for educational purposes only. The author disclaims any liability in connection with the use of this information. Ingesting wild plants is inherently risky. Plants can easily be mistaken and every individual will vary in their physiological response to a plant that is touched or consumed. Please do not attempt self-treatment of a medical problem without consulting a qualified health practitioner.

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