Commonly seen by the side of roads, hedgerows and fields, it grows rapidly and climbs up to the top of hedges. The lance-shaped leaves spread from the stalk in a rosette. All the aerial parts are used medicinally and should be harvested in May or June and dried in an airy room away from sunlight.
People traditionally used cleavers to feed to hens, ducks and geese – hence the other name of goosegrass. Horses and cows also love it. In Sweden they use the roasted seeds as substitute for coffee and the stalks as a sieve. A matted handful of stems can be used as simple sieve to strain hairs and dirt from milk or water.
Cleavers has been used in medicine for centuries. Disocorides, the Greek herbalist, recommended it for swellings and ear ache. The Celtic druids used it for skin eruptions, boils, swellings, gout and inflammation. They advised using the juice and washing the skin to rid the skin of spots. They also used it to speed up the elimination process. Dr Locke, an eclectic herbalist, recommended it as a diuretic.
The Doctrine of Signatures, invented by the Greek herbalists, says that plants could be used cure the parts of the body they represent. It was thought that the long slender stems of cleavers look like long tubes – and so it was used to clear the lymph tubes of the body, which is how it is used by herbalists today.
Herbalists use cleavers as a lympho-alterative – that is it stimulates the lymphatic system, altering it to restore normal function. The lymphatic system is a network of tubes that collects all the fluid (lymph) that drains from the blood vessels and carries away waste products and toxins from the cells. If not working properly, the toxins build up in the cells, causing a range of problems. Cleavers has been shown to reduce fever, heat and swelling from the lymph system. It also acts on problems from ‘clogged’ kidneys such as gout and kidney stones.
Because it cleans the lymph system and stimulates the kidneys to remove waste products, it is used for chronic skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and acute infections such as tonsillitis and swollen glands caused by viruses, etc.
Cleavers and Clover Cleansing Cordial
A variation of a traditional cordial recipe that combines the blood purifying properties of clover and the lymphatic action of cleavers with the cleansing and ‘fat-burning’ properties of cider vinegar.Ingredients
10g of red clover
15g of fresh cleavers
450 ml water
40ml cider vinegar ' Wash the cleavers thoroughly. And place in a pan with the water and clover. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 mins with the lid on. When cool, strain the mixture, squeezing the herbs to extract all the goodness.Return the liquid to the pan and simmer very slowly until the mixture has reduced by half.Stir in the honey and the vinegar and continue to simmer for 20 mins until thickened. Pour into sterilized bottles. The mixture will keep for 6 months in the fridge.Dosage. Take 2-3 teaspoons three times a day as part of a detox regime. Alternatively add 2-3 teapoons to hot or cold water to make a digestif cordial.