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Cleavers (Galium aparine) Monograph

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Galium aparine

Latin Name: Galium aparine

Common name(s): Cleavers, Goose Grass, Bedstraw

Family: Rubiaceae

Botany: Cleavers are annuals with tiny, star shaped flowers and creeping stems which cleave on whatever they grow on.

Habitat: Grows around the globe, and is often found in fields, woods, and in disturbed soils and waste areas.

History/Folklore: Cleavers has a history of use among several Native American peoples as a treatment for gonorrhea, and also as a dye. 16th Century English herbalist John Gerard called Cleavers a great remedy for bites from “venomous creatures” like snakes and spiders.

Parts used: Aerial parts

Constituents: asperulosidic acid, 10-deacetylasperulosidic acid, asperuloside, monotropein, aucubin, caffeine, phenolic acids, anthraquinone derivatives, flavonoids, coumarins, citric acid

Actions: diuretic, alterative, astringent, anti-spasmodic, vulnerary, diaphoretic, anti-inflammatory, tonic

Medicinal use: The lymphatic system is a part of our body’s circulatory system. Among its major roles are to clear tissues of toxins and cellular waste, and send them into the bloodstream (so they can be processed in the kidneys and liver for discharge). Cleavers act as a stimulant to the lymph system, and are useful for a variety of conditions, including swollen glands, edema, and arthritis. Herbalist Susun Weed offers that Cleavers are useful for common PMS symptoms like sore breasts and water retention. They’re also diuretic, helpful for clearing urinary stones and treating urinary infections.In addition to their benefits on the lymph and associated systems, Cleavers are also useful for treating common skin conditions like acne, and overall has a cooling, soothing effect on the skin. Cleavers also have anti-cancer properties, promote lower blood pressure, and are good for stress reduction.

Common preparation: Tea, Tincture, topical salve for skin conditions, poultice

Contraindications: Excess use can cause skin irritations


Tierra, Michael. The Way of Herbs. 1990, Pocket Books, New York.



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