Cleavers is an annual with a slender taproot that produces a weak, square, prickly stem that grows from 1 to 2 feet long. The rough, lance-shaped leaves occur in whorls of 6 or 8 around the stem. The stems and leaves are covered with little hooked bristles, which attach to passing objects. Inconspicuous whitish flowers appear on the stalks from the leaf axils from April through
September. The fruit consists of two joined, bristly, globular, one-seeded carpels.
Family: Rubiaceae (Madder family)
Flowers: April – September
Parts Used: Aerial parts
Habitat: Moist or grassy places and along riverbanks and fences in Canada, the eastern half of the U.S., and the Pacific coast.
Other Names: Clivers, goosegrass, gripgrass, sticky-willie, catchweed,
Constituents: Iridoid glycosides (monotropein, asperuloside, aucubin), phenolic acids (caffeic, gallic), anthraquinone derivatives, flavonoids, coumarins, tannins, citric acid, red dye (including galiosin).
Properites: Alterative, aperient, astringent, diuretic, emetic, febrifuge, hemostat, laxative, refrigerant, tonic.
Used to treat: Cancer, carcinoma, fever, jaundice, kidney ailments, lymphadenoma, obesity, parasites, scurvy, skin ailments, tumor (breast), urinary ailments, venereal ailments.
Cleavers is a reliable diuretic used to help clean gravel and urinary stones and to treat urinary infections. It also stimulates the lymphatic system and relieves swollen lymph glands. The body relies on the lymphatic system to drain away toxins and wastes. That is why Cleavers has been described as an alterative and blood purifier. It is also useful in treating diseases, such as eczema, psoriasis and arthritis in which the body requires cleansing. It is also traditionally used for cancer, particularly that of the lymphatic system. It is reputed to help lower blood pressure and cool the body during fevers and is used as an external wash for sores and wounds. An infusion may be used for complexion and a hair rinse for dandruff. It also makes a good natural deodorant. Using the plant as a vegetable has a slimming effect on the body. The plant is often used as part of a spring tonic drink with other herbs.
Harvest: The plant is harvested from spring to early summer, before it becomes too fibrous.
Preparations and Dosages: Cold or Standard Infusion, as needed.
Tincture: Fresh plant [1:2] in 25% alcohol, 1 to 2 teaspoons, up to 4 times a day.
Juice: Fresh plant, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon, up tp 4 times a day.
Cleavers is also a wild food.