Meet Cleavers! The correct botanical name is Galium aparine. We need that botanical name because plants have “nicknames” that vary with culture and geographical area. Some of the common nicknames for Galium aparine are Catchweed, Bedstraw, Cleavers, Stickyweed, Sticky willy, Goosegrass and Velcro plant.
Plant Family is Rubiaceae.
Constituents: Acids (caffeic, gallic, salicylic, citric), iridoid glycosides (asperuloside), tannins (gallotannic acid), coumarins, flavonoids, polyphenolic acid, alkanes, anthraquinones (root only)
Cleavers emerges in early spring. You’ll find it in woodlands, meadows, prairies, and more. This spring I found it in my greenhouse! I often see it at our local zoo but never where the geese hang out. Geese gobble this herb up!
It can grow 6 feet “tall” but because it has a weak stem it doesn’t actually grow upright it crawls along the ground and over any obstacles.
It’s leave are arranged in whorls of 8 and it feels lightly “sticky”. This is because it has backward hooked bristles on its leaves and stems. It clings to clothing, socks, animal fur and more. Its buds are also sticky and hitchhike on animals or people to spread its seed.
Cleavers is considered an edible “weed”. So many of my favorite herbs are often considered weeds! This is a very safe herb – it’s not toxic in any way, there are no known contraindications and it has no reported interactions.
What can it be used for? Cleavers is considered a lymphatic tonic. It has been used to increase lymphatic drainage and break up lymphatic congestion (enlarged lymph nodes) especially in the pelvis. It has also been used historically as a demulcent for the urinary tract in the cases of cystitis, urethritis, prostatitis and pyelonephritis. It has often been used topically for inflammation of the skin, minor injuries and a variety of skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
I tincture this herb every spring and use it as a part of my formula for UTIs.
Take a walk outside and let me know if you find Galium aparine!