Other Names: Goosegrass, Barweed, Catchweed, Cleavers, Stickywilly, Zhu Yang Yang.
Warning: Cleavers Herb has fine hairs that can cause contact dermatitis for some people. Wear gloves and long sleeves when harvesting Cleavers. Strain infusions and tinctures of uncooked Cleavers carefully to avoid throat irritation.
Cleavers has a long history of use as an alternative medicine and is still used widely by modern herbalists. It is used both internally and externally in the treatment of a wide range of ailments.. A valuable diuretic, it is often taken to treat skin problems such as seborrhea, eczema and psoriasis, and as a general detoxifying agent in serious illnesses such as cancer. It has a mild laxative effect and stimulates the lymphatic system and has shown benefit in skin related problems. The fresh plant or juice of Cleavers herb is used as a medicinal poultice for wounds, ulcers and many other skin problems. An infusion has shown of benefit in the treatment of glandular fever, tonsillitis, hepatitis and cystitis. The infusion is also used to treat liver, bladder and urinary problems.
The dried or fresh herb is alterative, anti-inflammatory, antiphlogistic, aperient, astringent, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic, febrifuge, tonic and vulnerary. The plant contains the valuable constituent asperuloside, a substance that is converted into prostaglandins by the body. Prostaglandins are hormone-like compounds that stimulate the uterus and affect blood vessels. Much more scientific research is being done on the plant it is of great interest to the pharmaceutical industry.
The Cleavers plant contains organic acids, flavonoids, tannins, fatty acids, glycoside asperuloside, gallotannic acid and citric acid.
It is edible raw though said to be unpalatable, mainly used as a pot-herb or as an addition to soups. Using the plant as a vegetable has a slimming effect on the body. Cleavers seed is one of the best coffee substitutes, it merely needs to be dried and lightly roasted and has much the same flavor as coffee.
Cleavers is a world-wide native annual; the original origin is debatable. It is common in Australia, Britain, China, Europe, France, Iraq, Mexico, Spain, Turkey, and the United States. Cleavers herb can be found growing in hedgerows, woods, fields, among cultivated crops and in waste places.
The stems and leaves of Cleavers are covered with little hooked bristles, which attach to passing objects, in this way it fastens itself to adjacent shrubs, to climb its way upwards through dense undergrowth into daylight, often forming matted masses. Leaves are narrow, lance-shaped and are rough along the margins and surface, the prickles pointing backwards, they occur in whorls of 6 to 8 leaves, around and along the square, delicate, branching stem which may grow to 6 or more feet in length. The flowers are white, tiny, 1/16 to 1/8 inch in diameter and star-like, growing in a stemmed bud rising from the leaf axils and arranged in clusters or whorls, six or eight together, blooming separately, 2 or 3 at a time, so flowers and seeds are present in each cluster. The seeds are little round vessels, covered with hooked bristles and readily clinging, to whatever they touch, ensuring dispersal of the seeds. Note: Some species of Cleavers produce only 2 or 3 flowers and seeds to a cluster. Flowers bloom April through Sept.
Cleavers is very easy to cultivate it prefers a loose moist leafy soil in partial shade, this plant does not really need any help to reproduce itself and can be invasive. It provides food for the larvae of many butterfly species.
Gather the above ground plant, being careful not to gather whatever it touches. Dry for later herb use, should be picked through before drying to ensure herb is contaminant free.
Cleavers was used as a love medicine by one tribe, the infusion of plant was used as a bath by women to be successful in love. Also used as a hair tonic, Cleavers is said to be good for the hair, making it grow long. Several Native American Tribes used an infusion of the plant for gonorrhea. A red dye is obtained from a decoction of the root, it is said to dye bones red. Cleavers was also believed to remove freckles. Gerard writes of Cleavers as a marvelous remedy for the bites of snakes, spiders and all venomous creatures. A thick mat of the stems, when used as a sieve for filtering milk, was said to give healing properties to the milk and is still used in Sweden for that purpose.
Medicinal Tea: To 1 pint of boiling water add 3 heaping tbs. of dried or fresh herb, steep 10 min. Strain to remove bristles. Take in mouthful doses throughout the day.
Article by Deb Jackson & Karen Bergeron
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