Latin name: Galium aparine
Chinese Name: Zhu Yang Yang
Common name(s): Cleavers, Lady’s Bedstraw, Goosegrass
Plant family: Rubiaceae
Plant Type: Tap Rooted annual, flowering
Planetary Association: Ruled by Venus, Associated with Taurus
Habitat: Beaches, damp environments, clearings, ditches, open forest, seashores, common at low to middle elevations, likes partial sun & the shade of other taller plants. Begins to grow in early spring, flowering from April - September.
Parts used: Aerial parts, fresh or dried. Harvest before the flowers appear.
Try cleavers in our Nourishing Greens tincture!
Clinging to the light
With springtime delight
Offering green juice
From my spine to yours
As the perfect potion
To clear stuck emotions
Native to North America and Europe; this plant has long standing traditional use. Cleavers get its signature from the velcro-like nature the leaves have, often sticking to you as you walk by. Cleavers show up in the spring to help us move from the slow winter into the fiery spring season. Cleavers help us have boundaries, be resilient and shed what does not serve us.
Constituents: Iridoid Glycoside (asperuloside), Gallotannic acid, Citric acid, phenols, tannins, alkaloids, anthraquinones, coumarins, alkanes, flavonoids, and saponins
Taste: Sweet, Salty, Cooling, Astringent
Actions: Lymphatic, Nerve tonic, Anti-inflammatory, Nutritive tonic, Alterative, Diuretic, Aperient (mild laxative)
TCM Actions: Clears damp heat (Venus in excess), Qi stagnation (Taurus is excess),
This plant has an affinity to the waters of the body, the lymphatic system, kidneys, urinary tract & the emotional body.
Lymphatic System & Immunity
Cleavers is a lymphagogue; meaning it drains, cleanses and provides stimulating movement to lymphatic vessels. This plant is one of the more gentle lymphatics in the western herbal repertoire, embodying strength through softness. The lymphatic system is intricately woven into the immune system and the two cannot be separated when using herbal treatment. Most of our immune cells are made of lymphatic fluid called lymphocytes. There are concentrations of these cells in your lymph nodes; and these nodes are a filtration station for the blood stream. The lymph nodes swell when we are sick, due to an increase in immune cell production and metabolic waste. Adding Cleavers to a cold and flu regimen will aid your body’s natural immunity, and help you flush out pathogens.
Cleavers are specifically indicated for lymphatic swelling and fluid accumulation in the body. This is a very useful action for those suffering from edema and high blood pressure due to kidney related water retention. Cleavers are also used to break up calcareous deposits, like kidney stones, calcifications and fibrous tissues.
Many people don’t know that our fats are transported through the Lymphatic system. This is one of the main reasons we use Cleavers as a spring tonic. Over the colder winter months, our bodies naturally accumulate more fat and we are more sedentary. This is an evolutionary survival technique. In the springtime, the body begins to shed what was accumulated over the winter and prepare for the action of spring. Cleavers help us move accumulated fat and bring vitality to tissues of the body that have been more dormant over the winter months. Having fresh juice from Cleavers is fabulous as a spring tonic.
Another use for Cleavers is for cystic breast disorders. Here it can be used long term as a tonic. David Hoffman says Cleavers is one of the best herbal lymphatics due to its gentle yet effective nature.
Cleavers help clear the skin by action of lymphatic drainage. The skin is our biggest organ, and a secondary organ of elimination. People struggling with acne, cystic acne, eczema, psoriasis and other inflammatory skin conditions can benefit from adding Cleavers to their regimen. In these conditions we recommend using a tea, to increase your hydration and help flush the lymph closest to the skin.
With an affinity to the waters of the body, we see Cleavers having an effect on the kidneys and bladder. Reach for Cleavers at the first sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI); the diuretic and lymphatic actions reduce inflammation and flush out infection. Herbalists regularly use Cleavers to aid in the treatment of cystitis, BPH, prostatitis, urethritis, interstitial cystitis.
In the kidneys, this plant can prevent the buildup of calculi a.k.a kidney stones. Use Cleavers as a preventative measure and tonic before stones are fully formed.
Concentrations of lymph nodes are common in areas of the body that come into contact with the outside world, this includes your tonsils, reproductive system and intestines. Our digestive system from mouth to stomach, to intestines to the colon is hollow; meaning that anything we swallow remains on the “outside” of our body until it is broken down and assimilated. There is a complex array of tissues, enzymes and bacteria that take apart what we eat and allow small essential nutrients to cross the mucous membrane and enter into our body. This is important to understand because 2/3 of our lymph nodes and lymphocytes are in our gut; this is called GALT (gut associated lymphatic tissue).
Often when we become bloated this is in part from an influx of lymphocytes in the intestines making sure that undigested food particles do not cross the mucous membranes. This is extremely common in leaky gut syndrome and those who eat foods they have a sensitivity to. If you experience bloating or food intolerance, Cleavers is a great ally for you.
Nervous System / Emotional
If you have ever met this plant in the wild you know it is very sticky and clingy. The tops of the leaves are smooth; and the bottom has tiny tooth shaped protrusions that stick to you and your clothes. We find it useful for those who seem to have it all together on the outside; but their inner world is a swirling pool of emotional stress. This is a great physical example of how it can help with our mental and emotional body. We have all been in a place where our emotions feel all encompassing; the overwhelm makes it difficult to process and move on. Cleavers help to move stuck emotions; allows us to shed what is no longer serving us. This plant is specifically indicated for vata constitutions, those who are anxious, easily stressed and have a hard time relaxing. Stress and anxiety is seen as heat in the nervous system, Cleavers are cooling and moistening; soothing frayed nerves and helping one ground into the present moment.
We love Cleavers as a plant of energetic protection especially for those who are highly sensitive or empaths. You can find Cleavers in our Protection Mist. We make a hydrosol in spring with the fresh shoots. The Hydrosol forms the base of our Protection Mist; enveloping you in a cloud of protective energy. The Cleavers act as a slippery energetic shield, allowing things to slough right off you and not cling on. The perfect blend for those working in spiritual careers, the public sphere, SW, and therapists.
Energetic Signature: Cool, Moist, sympathetic & antipathetic to Venus. Will clear excess earth and water elements, while simultaneously cooling the person as a whole. Great for situations where damp stagnation has caused the heat of inflammation.
Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Cowichan Peoples removed pitch from their hands by rubbing Cleavers on sticky areas. In Scandinavia masses of Cleavers were used to filter milk.
Fun Facts: Cleavers are part of the coffee plant family; the seeds contain caffeine, and you can make a coffee like beverage. The seeds are incredibly small and you would need thousands of them to make a single cup. Perhaps when we are elderly herbalists we will have time for that! You can make a red dye from the roots of Cleavers.
Preparations & Dosage: Best used fresh; making a juice, freezing the excess in ice cube trays for later. Tincture of the fresh herb is preferred. Infuse the wilted herb in oil. Dried tea is still very effective.
Tea: 2-4 g of herb up to 3x daily
Tincture: 3 drops - 4ml up to 3x daily
Oil: Cover herbs in oil of choice (olive is fine), infuse for 2-4 weeks. Use oil as is or make into a salve. Apply daily for breast cysts, or as needed.
*Cautions: Use sparingly alongside prescription diuretics and those with diabetes*
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