Cleavers just beginning to show in spring

Cleavers – Galium aparine – are a woodland herb found in moist areas, especially along creek beds.  Other common names include Goose Grass and Bedstraw (not to be confused with Lady’s Bedstraw.)  They will stick to anything passing by, especially their seeds in the fall.  When harvesting them, it’s important to make sure you don’t get any “contaminants” clinging to the stems.

Cleavers arrive early and are considered a spring tonic or blood purifier, once used to prevent scurvy due to having a high Vitamin C content.  They are currently used as a diuretic to treat kidney and bladder disorders as well as a lymph system cleanser.  They are used to clear the lymph system of toxins effectively treating skin problem like eczema, psoriasis, acne and boils.  In fact, Michael Tierra states in his book “The Way of Herbs” that Cleavers are considered “one of the most effective diuretic blood purifiers known.”

Scientific research done on the benefits of Cleavers include these two findings:

The plant contains the valuable constituent asperuloside, a substance that is converted into prostaglandins by the body. Prostaglandins are hormone-like compounds that stimulate the uterus and affect blood vessels. Much more scientific research is being done on the plant it is of great interest to the pharmaceutical industry – from allnature.com

In 1947, French researchers discovered an[d] extract of Cleavers to be effective in lowering blood pressure, by thinning the blood – from herbalremedies.com

When used medicinally, Cleavers are juiced, infused or tinctured.  The juice is made from fresh plants, usually harvested in spring.   An infusion (tea) or tincture can be made from fresh or dried plants.

Goose Grass is a favorite food of, you guessed it, geese.  However, there are other farm animals that are fond of it as fodder too.  Humans use Cleavers as a food by gently steaming like spinach.  A soup made from mutton, Cleavers and oatmeal has traditionally been used specifically for dieting:

Women do usually make pottage of clevers…to cause lanknesse and keepe them from fatnes ~ John Gerard 1597

Externally, Cleavers have been used to treat wounds, burns and skin problems as well as a rinse to make hair grow long.   Another cosmetic use is as a face rinse to tighten skin and reduce wrinkles.

The Latin name “Galium” comes from Greek meaning “milk.”  There are many reference in history to Cleavers being used to curdle milk and also to strain milk.  There are notes that indicate they give a medicinal quality to milk when used to strain it.

Borrowed from Luminesence

Borrowed from Luminesence

Those little seeds that stick to everything are actually a good substitute for coffee, at least in taste.  They are dried and lightly roasted first.  The seeds are also said to be the inspiration for Velcro, but that’s also a claim for Burdock.

Two lesser known uses include a decoction of the roots to make a red dye.  Native American used them to color bones.  Be sure to exclude the root when harvesting for tea or you may have slightly red/pink teeth!  The second use is purely whimsical – by intertwining long, flowering stems in a circle, they make the most beautiful princess crowns 🙂

Cleavers are a weed well-worth knowing.  There are many more uses, but this should be enough to get you interested in learning more about them.  If you want to try fresh Cleavers, call us and make a date to come harvest some!  We also have dried Cleavers available.

http://www.redroadherbs.com – (402) 640-0744 – redroadrachel@gmail.com

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