Galium Aparine

This is a weak-stemmed annual with a fine taproot. Every gardener knows it as the plant that attaches itself to anything. The stems are square with tiny hooked bristles on the angles giving a sticky feel, growing 20-100cm in sprawling length. It climbs and scrambles over any nearby vegetation. The leaves occur in whorls of 6-8, are linear to oblong shaped and also are bristled along the margins. The petals of the tiny white to greenish flowers are fused at the base in a short tube which divides into 4 lobes and are clustered at the axils of the leaf whorls. The fruits are small two-lobed burrs, covered with hooked bristles. Seeds are dispersed by virtue of these bristles attaching themselves to passerby’s. This plant has a bitterish and slightly astringent taste.

A weedy native species found on beaches, moist fields, clearings, ditches, open forest, common at low to middle elevations The plant is gathered in May and June when in flower.


Iridoids; Polyphenolic acids; Anthraquinone derivatives; n-Alkanes; Flavonoids; Miscellaneous- tannins, coumarins, chlorophyll, starch


diuretic, aperient, lymphatic tonic, mild astringent, alterative, detoxifier, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, anti-obesity, anti-neoplastic, antipruritic, depurative


Primarily used as a lymphatic cleanser and tonic. Used fresh, this plant will benefit many conditions related to this system or where there is infection anywhere in the body. Cleavers can be of benefit in: enlarged lymph glands, cystic and nodular changes in glands, dry skin disorders, suppressed painful urination, cystitis, irritable bladder, kidney stones, skin problems (acne, eruptions, cysts, psoriasis), tonsillitis, benign breast lumps, cysts, glandular fevers, all urinary and reproductive organ inflammation, hepatitis, venereal diseases, chronic sinusitis, middle ear infection, and rhinitis.

Externally Cleavers is used to treat burns, sunburns, ulcerations, growths, sores, bites, blisters, to lighten freckles, and for any conditions where there is dryness or itching.

Cautions and Considerations


How to Use Cleavers

  • 1tsp of fresh herb is steeped in 1c of boiling water for 15 minutes and drunk at a rate of ½ -1c three times per day.

  • Juice is taken in 1-3tsp doses three times per day. Terminal cases may take as much as can be tolerated.

  • Tincture is prepared fresh in a 1:2 concentration in 50% alcohol and taken in doses of 5ml three times per day to a maximum of 100ml per day

  • Cleavers may be applied externally as a poultice, wash, cream, lotion, or oil as

appropriate. External application is best used cold.

Good Combinations

Combine with Uva-Ursi and Buchu for kidney and bladder complaints, with Marshmallow and Iceland Moss for cystitis, With Echinacea, and Calendula for lymphatic congestion, and with Yellow dock, Burdock, Dandelion, and Red Clover for skin disorders.

Interesting Tidbits

* The seeds are a good coffee substitute when roasted.

* Reported in folk use as a sieve.

* The roots make a red dye.

* The green plant may be eaten as a salad vegetable. I have not done this but would suggest chopping it very finely.

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