Health Benefits and Uses of Cleavers

Health & Wellness

Cleavers (Galium aparine) | Health Benefits of Cleavers / 

Cleavers are tenacious annuals, growing in dense mats in loamy, nitrogen-rich meadows, forests, thickets and along seashores in the temperate climates of Europe, Northern Africa, Asia and North America. With its square-shaped stem and sticky hairs, they manage to stick to whatever passes them by, earning them memorable nicknames like Goosegrass, Annual Bedstraw, Barweed, Hedgeheriff, Hayriffe, Eriffe, Grip Grass, Hayruff, Catchweed, Scratweed, Mutton Chops, Robin-run-in-the-Grass, Loveman, Goosebill, Everlasting Friendship, Catchweed bedstraw, Cleaverwort, Scarthgrass, Small Goose-Grass, Sticky-Willy, White Hedge, Common bedstraw, Spring cleavers, Sticky bobs, Sticky willy, Sweetheart, Clivers, Scarthgrass, Scratch Bedstraw, Harrif and Robin Run Over the Hedge, In fact, Cleavers earned their name from the Old English word, “to cleave”, which means “to latch ont”.

Cleavers can be found all over the world in shady moist locations. If conditions are right, it will often grow in matted clusters. It is an annual with square shaped stems. The leaves grow in a whorled pattern around each node, often six to eight in number. The leaves grow directly from the main stem. The entire plant is covered in small hooks that allow the plant to cling to a variety of things, whether it’s growing over neighboring plants or adorning your clothing. The tiny, white-to-green flowers have four petals and grow from the leaf axil. It produces small sticky seeds that grow in clusters, often paired, which is a characteristic of the Rubiaceae family. The seeds easily catch on animal fur or clothing, helping with dispersal.

The springtime allure of cleavers has survived since the time of the ancients, when healers praised cleavers for their ability to relieve temporary water retention. Prominent Romans such as physician Galen and philosopher Pliny the Elder celebrated them for their ability to relieve temporary water weight gain, while Greek physician Dioscorides used them to help curdle and filter milk, a tradition that’s apparently still alive and well in Sweden today. Many Native American tribes used them to promote kidney health. For therapeutic reasons, contemporary herbalists use cleavers much the same way. Energetically speaking, folk herbalists also like to use cleavers as a cooling herb to help clear heat and stagnation and to increase flow. When making the seasonal transition from winter to spring, cleavers’ energy can be a useful force in stimulating the lymphatic system. Sometimes called “the back alley” of the circulatory system, the lymph system helps remove waste products from the blood stream and maintain the immune system. By taking herbs like cleavers, we can help support the lymph system’s natural detoxification of the body to get you back in the flow.

Cleavers is another powerful herb used in Ayurved. It is regarded as a valuable lymphatic tonic and diuretic by many herbalists. Cleavers is a reliable herb and is used to clean gravel and urinary stones and to treat urinary infections. According to many studies, cleavers lower the blood pressure without affecting the heart rate. The herb does not have any side effects that may threaten your health.

Cleavers was used traditionally to treat obesity. Culpeper says "It is familiarly taken in broth to keep them lean and lank, that we apt to grow" and "It is a good remedy in Spring, eaten (being first chopped small, and boiled well) in water-gruel, to cleanse the blood, and strengthen the liver, thereby to keep the body in good health, and fitting it for that change of season that is coming".

Cleavers is a mild diuretic and blood and lymphatic cleanser that is specified for psoriasis and other skin conditions. It has a particular attraction for the lymphatic system and may be used for swollen glands, tonsillitis, and as a lymph tonic. In Chinese medicine cleavers are used to disperse stagnancy and inflammation and for urinary problems. Listed below are few of the health benefits of cleavers. Cleavers is believed to support the immune system and have diuretic, antispasmodic, and anti-inflammatory effects. In addition to research on cancer, cleavers has been used on skin conditions, like psoriasis and eczema.

Chemical analysis of cleavers has revealed that the herb encloses chemicals, which include tannins, flavonoids, polyphenolic acids, iridoids, asperuloside and alkanes. The roots of this herb contain anthraquinones. It may be noted here that asperuloside contained by cleavers possesses a gentle purgative action.

It is used both internally and externally in the treatment of a wide range of ailments, including as a poultice for wounds, ulcers and many other skin problem and as a decoction for insomnia. The plant is often used as part of a spring tonic drink with other herbs.

Cleavers is a valuable plant and a good cleansing remedy, it supports the lymphatic system to detoxify the body and can be used as a diuretic. The remedy is used to treat swollen lymph glands, tonsillitis, glandular fever and recurrent throat infections. In addition it can be used to treat eczema, psoriasis, arthritis and seborrhoea.

The leaves and stems of the plant can be cooked as a leaf vegetable. The numerous small hooks, which cover the plant and due to the clinging nature can, make it less palatable if eaten raw. Cleavers are in the same family as coffee. The fruits of the cleavers are often dried and roasted, and can be used as a coffee substitute which contains less caffeine. They can be used as an addition in vegetable soups. It is said that using this plant as a vegetable has a slimming effect on the body.

Lymphatic System:

The lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. Its primary function is to transport lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body. Cleavers gently moves lymph. Think of it for swollen lymph glands, including tonsils, or swollen glands in the armpits, breasts, and groin. Cleavers herb also helps to reduce swelling and inflammation by clearing excess waste and water from the body, assisting to reduce instances of edema. Cleavers herb can be used on its own or in conjunction with Echinacea and marigold to help stimulate the lymphatic system. Cleavers can be used for both acute situations as well as long-term stagnations. It is especially called for when the lymphatic stagnation is accompanied by signs of heat, for example, the affected area feels warm to the touch, with redness and/or swelling. Since Cleavers comes out in the spring, it is also perfect for the sort of stagnation that builds up from the heavy foods and sedentary times of winter.

There are many historical references to using Cleavers for cancer. There are a small handful of in-vitro studies on a couple of Galium species that show promising results for head and neck cancers and breast cancers. To date there have been no human clinical trials involving cleavers in people with cancer.

Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference Class Notes by Christa Sinadinos, 2012 is a supportive lymphatic therapy that can be useful for treating long-term debilitating diseases when there is lymphatic congestion and lymphatic tenderness.

Reduces Swelling:

Cleavers is widely used to treat edema and other forms of swellings. Cleavers are known to have a beneficial effect on swollen glands and cysts. You should undertake Cleavers tincture as a treatment if you’re suffering from problems like sore breasts and water retention during the post-menstrual syndrome.

Edema:

Edema is caused mostly due to the stimulating effect of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system of your body clears all the waste from your body. As per many expert herbalists, Cleaver has an effect on swollen glands and cyst. Therefore, it can work to reduce the swelling in your body.

Kidney Health:

The diuretic action of Cleavers helps to flush out waste, toxins and excess fluid from the kidneys. When blood flow to the kidneys declines due to illness, they respond by retaining water, which is why diuretic herbs can be useful. Diuretic herbs help the kidneys release excess sodium into the urine and can prevent the build up of other minerals that can cause kidney stones if left unchecked, improving the health of your kidneys, bladder, and liver. Cleavers herb may also help to dissolve kidney stones and prevent the development of fibrocystic tissue. If you have a pre-existing kidney condition it is vital that you speak to your healthcare provider before using diuretic herbs.

Diuretic:

Cleavers also gets things moving in the urinary system. This diuretic remedy is gentle and safe, even for children. Consider it especially when there are signs of heat, such as scant and scalding urine or bladder inflammation. For urinary tract infections (UTIs), consider pairing cleavers with uva ursi. It was historically used to treat gonorrhea.

Soothes the Gastrointestinal and Urinary Tracts:

Cleavers shows anti-spasmodic properties on the urinary and digestive tracts. It offers an effective treatment for irritable bowel syndrome and interstitial cystitis. Cleavers help get rid of and dissolve kidney stones. It also reduces the presence of fibrocystic tissue in the kidneys.

Urinary Tract Infections (UTI):

With a long history of traditional use for UTI’s, Cleavers diuretic properties coupled with its soothing, demulcent action make this herb ideal for calming and inflamed urethra. Regular drinking of Cleavers tea can act as a preventative measure for the incidence of recurring UTI’s. In alternative medicine, bladder infections are connected to inflammation and heat. The cooling and diuretic effect of cleavers is believed to alleviate urinary troubles.

The Indian Journal of Research in Pharmacy and Biotechnology published an article about the diagnosis, causes, symptoms and treatments of UTI’s. It recommends Cleavers for acute or chronic cystitis with swollen lymph nodes and uterine inflammation.

Cleavers can also be useful in protecting the lining of the bladder against irritation which can lead to an overactive bladder. You may choose to consult an experienced herbalist or alternative medicine practitioner if you have a mild case of one of the above conditions or a recurring problem that you'd like to get a step ahead of through preventive measures.

Liver Health:

Improves Liver function and digestion: Cleavers is known to stimulate the liver function and improve human digestion and absorption. The Cleaver herb does so as it blood clotting properties and also by simulating the various metabolic processes of the body. The herb start improving your liver functioning after a week of regular intake.

Various studies have confirmed the hepatoprotective effect of Cleavers. It not only protects the liver from damage, it helps it to heal with its cleansing properties. Cleavers also stimulates bile production and prevents bile ducts from becoming clogged.

Detox the Body:

Cleavers is also used as a purifying tonic. It is used to cleanse and get rid of the body of toxins in many ways.The cleansing action of the herb makes cleavers useful to get rid of conditions like psoriasis and arthritis.

Cancer - Treatment and Prevention:

Immunomodulators are bioactive substances that support the body's natural defenses in fighting against pre-cancerous cells. According to the American Cancer Society, "Immunomodulators are a group of drugs that mainly target the pathways that treat multiple myeloma and a few other cancers. They have many ways to work, including working on the immune system directly by turning down some proteins and turning up others".

Although more human studies are needed, cleavers has been shown to act as an immunomodulator by promoting the proliferation of lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell). This effect suggests the potential for immune system benefits and cancer cell reduction.

In addition, studies on two human tumor cells, MCF-7 and Caco-2, demonstrate the ability of cleavers extract to inhibit cancer cell growth through apoptosis (programmed cell death).

Of course, looking at isolated effects in the lab can't always predict what will happen in the human body, however, these results are promising for the future of breast and colon cancer research.

Supports Weight Loss:

To keep away body fat, you should intake porridge made of Cleavers. Cleavers have properties to reduce the absorption and digestion of fat in your body. When the fat is not absorbed by the body, you won’t gain fat on your stomach, sides or guts. Moreover, it is high in fiber so it can increase your metabolic rate and therefore maintain your weight.

Relieves Pain and Cramps:

Earache:

Cleavers is also recommended for an earache. Modern herbalists and homeopaths recognize the value of this herb.

Women's Health:

Postmenstrual Symptoms:

The post-menstrual symptoms such as sore breasts and water retention, mood swings, etc. can be cured by using cleaver. Daily consumption of cleaver tea can help you to get rid of these symptoms easily.

Respiratory Health:

Tonsilitis:

An infusion of the herb has been used to treat ailments like glandular fever, tonsillitis, hepatitis, and cystitis. The cooling properties, anti-bacterial properties, and the anti-inflammatory properties that can do so.

Cooling Properties:

The cooling property of Cleavers makes it useful in reducing fevers and preventing heat strokes. it is best to use in the summer season to prevent the harmful effects of the scorching sun.

Breast Congestion:

This herb is beneficial for providing relief from congestion in the breasts. If you have sore breasts, mild breast pain, or any form of lump in your breast, cleaver can help you relief such issues easily. It does so as it acts on the lymphatic system and eliminate any swelling in your entire body.

Kills Bacterial Infections:

Ulcers:

Having a bath in the juice of the plant helps to soothe and heal various ulcers. Ulcers are majorly caused by bacterias. Cleaver has anti-bacterial properties that can easily kill the bacteria’s and provide you an absolute cure to ulcers.

Gonorrhea:

Gonorrhea is an infection caused by a sexually transmitted bacterium that infects both males and females. Gonorrhea most often affects the urethra, rectum or throat. In females, gonorrhea can also infect the cervix. Gonorrhea is most commonly spread during vaginal, oral or anal sex. Believe it or not, Cleavers was once believed to cure gonorrhea. However, today's antibiotics are a far more effective and reliable way to treat this dangerous sexually-transmitted disease.

Supports Cardiovascular Health - Heart Health:

Blood Pressure:

Cleavers is very effective in lowering blood pressure as its extract help in thinning of the blood. Thinning of the blood lets a greater blood circulation which in turn normalizes the blood pressure. If you are on blood thinning medications, you should not use cleaver as it will further thin up your blood and cause greater health risks.

Skin Care:

Cleavers herb helps to improve stubborn inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis by reducing inflammation. Cleavers herb may also improve the skin by treating eczema, acne, sunburns, and wounds, can be relieved with the topical application of Cleavers, either as a juice or a poultice.. To soothe skin irritation with cleavers herb, you can make a healing poultice to apply directly on the affected area. Some herbalists recommend that fresh Cleavers leaves help stop bleeding and accelerate the healing of wounds, burns, and cuts. Cleavers’ cooling and moving properties make it a good match for moist skin conditions that weep, especially with signs of heat. It is recommend for psoriasis in combination with Burdock root and Yellow dock root. It can also be used for acne and boils.

In researching this monograph I came across a case study published in The British Medical Journal written in 1883. It chronicled a patient with severe non-healing leg ulcers that didn’t respond to more common treatments. The doctor and author of the case study decided to try Cleavers.

He made a poultice out of the fresh aerial growths and applied it to the leg ulcers. The poultices were changed three times a day. He writes, “Cleavers effect in this most unhopeful case was decisive and plain to all. Healthy action ensued, and has since steadily continued; and, after a month of treatment, both ulcers have been reduced to considerably less than half their original size".

Skin Diseases:

It is also used in resolving infections associated with skin eruptions such as measles, chickenpox among others. It does so as it has properties to reduce inflammation, redness, irritation, and itchiness.

Skin Aging (Wrinkles):

Cleavers is used to make an excellent facial wash. The facial wash helps in tightening the loose and saggy skin and also prevents future wrinkling. It is highly effective to slow down the progression of skin-aging by clearing it up form isnide and providing the essential nutrients required by your skin.

Skin Ulcers and Acne:

Cleavers is believed to have a cooling effect on the skin. Anecdotal stories from the late 1800s describe Cleavers' ability to reduce the size of leg ulcers.

Eczema:

This plant is also known to help a lot in treating conditions like eczema, seborrhea, boils and abscesses. The plant has skin-fortifying properties. It acts to relieve the symptoms of issues as it has anti-inflammatory, anti-healing, and redness reducing properties.

Psoriasis:

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that increases the rate of skin cell growth, leading to thick red or silver patches of skin. Like other autoimmune diseases, psoriasis is exacerbated by inflammation. Because of the purported anti-inflammatory effects of Cleavers, it makes sense that this herb could help reduce psoriasis flare-ups.

Unfortunately, no major studies to date are available to back-up this claim. Nonetheless, there's no harm in asking your rheumatologist whether they condone the use of Cleavers as part of your overall psoriasis management plan, especially since there's no indication that cleavers would interfere with other therapies.

Cuts and Wounds:

You can apply the fresh leaves of the herb to cure or provide relief to cuts and wounds. It also helps stop the bleeding and has healing powers. It works by reducing the swelling, redness, and irritation in the affected area.

Snake and Spider Bites:

Cleavers is used as a marvelous remedy for to treatment of snake bites, spider bites and all bites of all other venomous creatures. it is used because it has properties that can reduce or nullify the effect of venom on your body. However, for treating any kind of bite using Cleaver, it is always recommended to go to a herbalist for the same.

Traditional Uses of Cleavers:

  • Cleavers successfully curbs the appetite.
  • Chippewa used Cleavers as a laxative and to treat dermatitis.
  • Native people of the Micmac tribe used Cleavers to treat gonorrhea and kidney problems.
  • Europeans used Cleavers plant juice to treat inflamed tonsils, poisonous insect and snake bites, earaches, liver ailments, goiters, scurvy, tumors, and cancers.
  • As a lymphatic tonic, it is used in a wide range of problems involving the lymph system, such as swollen glands.
  • Poultices and washes made from cleavers were traditionally used to treat a variety of skin ailments, light wounds and burns.
  • Cleaver extract lowers the blood pressure of dogs, without slowing their heart rate, or any other dangerous side effects.
  • 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.
  • Whole plant, excluding the root, is alterative, antiphlogistic, aperient, astringent, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic, febrifuge, tonic and vulnerary.
  • It is used both internally and externally in the treatment of a wide range of ailments, including as a poultice for wounds, ulcers and many other skin problems and as a decoction for insomnia and cases where a strong diuretic is beneficial.
  • It has been shown of benefit in the treatment of glandular fever, ME, tonsillitis, hepatitis, cystitis etc.
  • Tea made from the plant has traditionally been used internally and externally in the treatment of cancer.
  • Cleavers also cures external ulcers and abnormal growths like tumors on the skin.
  • It cleanses the skin and helps in treatment of dermatitis, acne, boils and injuries.
  • Cleavers reduces the signs of aging and tightens the skin.
  • It eliminates toxins through the skin and makes skin lustrous.
  • It is also a good herbal treatment for sunburn and freckles.
  • Cleavers is used to treat edema.
  • It is useful in treating post-menstrual syndrome such as sore breasts and water retention
  • Use Cleavers for Tonsillitis, Glandular Fever and recurrent Throat Infections.
  • It also cures interstitial cystitis.
  • It is helpful for clearing infections and inflammation in the genitourinary system.
  • It soothes urinary and gastrointestinal tracts.
  • Its diuretic properties enhance the Urine flow and give relief from other urinary problems.
  • This helps to get rid of Kidney and Bladder stones.
  • It also reduces fibrocystic tissue in the kidneys and clears the Urinary tract and alleviates Prostate disorders.
  • It treats Scurvy.
  • It relieves from burning sensation during urination associated with cystitis.
  • Cleavers tincture prevents the division of Cancer cells. It also reduces the effects of Cancer.
  • Its anti-tumor property helps ease swollen, sore Breasts, Congestion in the breast and Benign breast lumps.
  • Its cooling properties decrease body temperature and give a cooling effect to the body.
  • It counters fever and prevents the occurrence of Viral Infections like Measles and Chicken pox.
  • Direct application of Cleavers is very effective for Cuts and Wounds. It enhances blood clotting and stops bleeding.
  • Cleavers blood thinning properties have beneficial effect on Platelets.
  • When you get a cut it collects the platelets and halts bleeding.
  • Cleavers helps in prevention of Arteriosclerosis, Strokes and Heart failure.
  • It also acts as Blood cleanser.
  • Some have used Cleavers as an appetite suppressant for obesity.
  • Drinking a cup of cleavers herb tea, blended with marigold or echinacea, is a perfect remedy for swollen glands, tonsillitis, or any other ailment that would benefit from lymphatic drainage support like respiratory infections.

Culinary Uses of Cleavers:

  • It is an edible herb. It is mainly used as a pot-herb or as an addition to soups.If you use the plant as a vegetable, it will have a slimming effect on your body.
  • Cleavers seed is said to be one of the best coffee substitutes. It only needs to be dried and lightly roasted, and you can enjoy the same flavor as coffee.
  • Cleavers is a coffee relative, and the roasted seeds are used as a coffee substitute. The young leaves can be eaten like spinach.
  • Wash made out of Cleavers is used to treat sunburn and freckles. You should apply this infusion to your face using a soft cloth or sponge.
  • An ointment is made from the leaves and stems from treating the ulcerated parts. The expressed juice is used internally for the same. The ointment also cures Cancer and tumors.
  • Cleavers was also used as an ointment for scalds and burns in the 14 century, under the name of Clive and Tongebledes (Tongue bleed).
  • It was also used as a cure for colds, swellings, etc. Tea made using the herb is still a used in many rural areas as a remedy for cold.
  • In France, the crushed herb is used as an ointment to be applied to sores and blisters. Cleavers as a herb is used in various forms and is also used as an ingredient in numerous products.
  • Seed extract was used to curdle milk for cheese making.
  • Leaves and stems of the plant can be cooked as a leaf vegetable if gathered before the fruits appear.
  • Fruits of cleavers have often been dried and roasted, and then used as a coffee substitute which contains less caffeine.
  • Tender young shoot tips raw or cooked as a pot-herb.
  • They make a useful addition to vegetable soups.
  • Decoction of the whole dried plant gives a drink equal to tea.
  • Young leaves can be eaten like spinach
  • The very young plant can be eaten as a salad green. Avoid eating it as the plant matures and the hooks develop and become unpleasant to eat.
  • When growing in clusters, cleavers forms a dense mat. This was used as bedstraw (thus one of its common names). It was also used as a sieve to filter milk. (This may have led to the use of cleavers as a vegetable rennet for separating curds from milk to make cheese.)
  • The seeds can be roasted and used to make a roasted-seed beverage.
  • Cleavers was once used as a potherb. It was a useful plant in Medieval kitchens because it could be picked in frost or snow.
  • The plant’s hook-like bristles soften when boiled. Its chopped leaves and stem can be made into soups and stews. The tender shoots can be boiled and buttered as a vegetable.
  • Cleavers belongs to the coffee family and its seeds have been ground to make cleavers coffee.

Other Uses of Cleavers:

  • Ripe seeds when roasted and ground are considered a “poor man’s instant coffee”.
  • Easily matted Cleaver stems were used as strainers to remove particles from liquids and for mattress fillings.
  • Red dye is made from Cleaver roots.
  • Women of the Cowlitz tribe bathed with Cleaver as it was thought to make them “successful in bed”.
  • Belgian lace makers utilized the seeds as pin heads.
  • Dioscorides reported that ancient Greek shepherds would use the barbed stems of cleavers to make a “rough sieve”, which could be used to strain milk.
  • Dried, matted foliage of the plant was once used to stuff mattresses in Europe.
  • Roots of cleavers can be used to make a permanent red dye.
  • When ingested it can dye the bones red.
  • Plant can be found growing in hedges and waste places, limestone scree and as a garden weed.
  • Dried plant is used as tinder.
  • Plant can be rubbed on the hands to remove pitch (tar).
  • Adenitis: Steep 2 tablespoon of dried Cleavers in one cup of hot water for 15 minutes. Strain it. Drink thrice daily.
  • Alteratives: Cleavers has an affinity for the Lymphatic System.
  • Breast Cancer: Take equal quantity of the leaves of Cleavers and Flax seeds. Make Poultice. Repeat it daily for one month.
  • Cancer: Extract the juice of the leaves of Cleavers. Have three times a day.
  • Elephantiasis: Make a concoction of Cleavers leaves, Yellow Dock root, Pokeweed root, Echinacea root, Blue Flag root and Marigold flower. Take twice a day. (Excess use may cause toxicity).
  • Kidney Stones: Steep 2 tablespoons dried Cleavers in 2 cups of warm water for 2 hours. Take 2-3 tablespoons thrice a day. You may add some honey to improve the taste.
  • Liver Detoxification: Prepare a powdered mixture of equal amount of Red clover, Fennel, Cleavers, Dandelion, Oregon grape root, Burdock root, Chickweed and Parsley root. Boil 1 to 2 cups of water. Add one teaspoon of the powered mixture in it. Allow it to get cool down. Consume 1 cup of tea once a day before breakfast.
  • Nipple Discharge: Extract the juice of Cleavers. Have two tablespoon two times a day.
  • Skin Diseases: Crush the fresh leaves and apply for skin problems / Take some fresh juice and apply. It can also be used as a good face wash for a clear skin. / Make a fine paste of Cleavers, Yellow Dock and Burdock. Apply topically.
  • Uterine Fibroid: Have 10 drops of Gallium Aparine tincture in a glass of water 3 times in a day.
  • Urinary incontinence: Urinary Incontinence may be treated by administering a combo of Cleavers, Buchu and Bearberry.
  • Wound Bleeding: Crush some fresh Cleavers leaves and directly apply to heal wounds. It stops external bleeding.

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