Here comes spring (couldn’t come soon enough!) and with spring, comes an assortment of “weeds” that are actually powerful healing herbs. You may have heard about the wondrously multi-purpose dandelion, most certainly you’ve heard of delicious and nutritious nettle, and perhaps even the ultimate splinter remover - plantain, but have you heard of cleavers?
Cleavers, or Galium aparine, is a herbaceous plant that has centuries-old history of use as a medicinal herb. Cleavers are often found in hedgerows, fields, and gardens throughout Europe and North America. You might not know the name, but you have certainly gone for a walk in the countryside during spring, and found a sticky plant with pinwheel-like leaves clinging to your pants or socks. That plant is cleavers!
Of course, Mother Nature is always divine in her timing, so it’s no surprise that this early spring herb is fantastic for gently detoxing the body, mind, and spirit to get us ready for a fresh spring start.
Cleavers stimulate lymphatic drainage, which means ingesting cleavers may help your body flush excess fluids and toxins. This is particularly important in the spring, as we tend to carry a heavier load of toxins after the winter months. Cleavers also have diuretic properties, which means it helps to increase urine production and promote the elimination of excess fluids from the body (and helps us flush all of those toxins that built-up over winter).
Cleavers' anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties make it great for improving skin health, reducing inflammation, and preventing infection. Cleavers are also immune-boosting and have diuretic properties, which makes it an excellent herb for supporting urinary tract health. Struggle with UTIs? Give cleavers a try!
But wait - there’s more! Cleavers are also rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamins C and B6, potassium, and calcium. These nutrients can help to support overall health and well-being, which may be particularly important in the spring as the body adjusts to changes in the environment and activity level.
Energetically, cleavers offer support with emotional spring cleaning, as well. In some spiritual traditions, cleavers are used to help to clear negative energy and promote emotional balance. It's said to be associated with the water element and feminine energy, and is often used in ritual to support purification, foster love, and promote healing. Cleavers are believed to be protective and are sometimes used to create herbal talismans or amulets.
Cleavers Three Ways
Of course, you can always grab a handful of cleavers and add it to your meal - I love to throw herbs into stir frys, soups, or with other veggies in the roasting pan. But, if you want to experiment with cleavers as a detox tool or for lymphatic support, we suggest you try tea, tincture, or herbal oil.
Making cleavers tea is a simple and easy way to enjoy the health benefits of this herb. Here's what you'll need:
- 1-2 teaspoons fresh cleavers (a small handful will do)
- 1 cup of boiling water
- If using fresh cleavers, rinse them thoroughly and chop them into small pieces.
- Place the cleavers in a tea infuser or tea ball.
- Place the tea infuser or tea ball in a cup or mug.
- Bring 1 cup of water to a boil.
- Pour the boiling water over the cleavers in the tea infuser or tea ball.
- Let the tea steep for 5-10 minutes.
- Remove the tea infuser or tea ball and discard the cleavers.
- Enjoy your freshly brewed cleavers tea!
Cleavers tea can be enjoyed hot or cold, and you can add honey or lemon to taste if desired. I prefer to drink it plain when using it to cleanse, because why add all that extra?
You can make your own tinture from cleavers, or you can buy some from LeeHouse here! If you are more of the DIY type here's how we make our tincture.
- Fresh cleavers
- 80-proof or higher alcohol (such as vodka or brandy)
- Pick fresh cleavers from a clean, pesticide-free area.
- Rinse the cleavers and chop them into small pieces.
- Fill a jar with the chopped cleavers.
- Pour enough high-proof alcohol over the cleavers to cover them completely.
- Seal the jar and shake well.
- Store the jar in a cool, dark place for 4-6 weeks, shaking the jar daily.
- After 4-6 weeks, strain the tincture through a cheesecloth or fine-mesh sieve.
- Pour the tincture into a clean, dark bottle and label it with the date and contents.
Of course, I'd never recommend a dosage for any herbal remedy. However, I will share how I've used cleavers tincture to support our own health:
For a lymphatic system support: I add 1 teaspoon of cleavers tincture in water 3 times a day, take as a tonic for up to 2-3 months.
Urinary Tract infections, Cystitis, Bladder and Kidney Inflammation: I like to start with 30 drops three times a day in 1 cup water, After symptoms have subsided, I'll continue for three days.
For skin health - This is an amazing facial tonor: mix 1-2 teaspoons of cleavers tincture with 1/4 cup of distilled water. This will create a diluted solution that is safe for topical use.
For energetic support: Make cleavers tea or add a few drops of tincture to your regular tea or water. Open your mind and heart to the spirit of the plant, imagine that, as the plant energy travels through your lymphatic system, it is also clearing out energetic dust and cobwebs, sweeping away feelings and tensions that no longer serve your hightest good, and filling that clean space with a cool, vibrant greenish light that carries with it a loving, nurturing, feminine energy. Or something like that - you do you!
I'm currently brewing a batch of cleavers-infused oil to try as part of my daily gua sha routine. It seems like using a cleavers-infused oil can enhance the benefits of gua sha by further promoting lymphatic flow and reducing inflammation. I’ll let yoiu know how it turns out. Meanwhile, if you’d like to try making your own, here’s how I am making mine:
- 1 cup of carrier oil (I used jojoba oil but sweet almond oil would work well too)
- 1 cup of dried cleavers, washed and dried
- Fill a clean, dry jar with the fresh cleavers.
- Pour the carrier oil over the cleavers, making sure that the herb is completely covered.
- Seal the jar and place it in a sunny window or other warm place for 2-4 weeks. Shake the jar gently every day to help infuse the oil with the properties of the herb.
- After 2-4 weeks, strain the oil through a cheesecloth or fine-mesh strainer to remove the herb.
- Store the cleavers-infused oil in a clean, dry jar or bottle.
- To use the cleavers-infused oil with gua sha, simply apply a few drops of the oil to the area you will be working on, and then use the gua sha tool to gently massage and scrape the skin. The oil will help to lubricate the skin and enhance the benefits of the gua sha technique.
As with any herbal remedy, it is important to patch test the cleavers-infused oil before using it on your entire face or body. Apply a small amount of the oil to a small area of skin and wait 24 hours to see if you experience any adverse reactions. If you do, discontinue use immediately and consult with a healthcare provider.
So there you have it. What some consider a pesky weed is truly an incredibly diverse healing herb, with numerous benefits for your physical and emotional health. Whether you're using it for physical or spiritual purposes, cleavers can be a great addition to your natural health toolkit. So, go ahead and give cleavers a try! Your body and soul will thank you.
Some obligatory precautions:
While cleavers are generally considered safe, there are some precautions to keep in mind before using cleaver tincture. Here are some contraindications to consider:
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding: There is not enough research on the safety of using cleavers during pregnancy and breastfeeding, so it is best to avoid it during these times.
- Blood-thinning medications: Cleavers may have a blood-thinning effect, so it is not recommended to use cleaver tincture if you are taking blood-thinning medications.
- Diabetes: Cleavers may lower blood sugar levels, so people with diabetes should monitor their blood sugar levels carefully while using cleaver tincture.
- Allergies: If you are allergic to plants in the Rubiaceae family, which includes coffee and gardenia, you may also be allergic to cleavers.
As with any herbal remedy, it is always a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider before using cleaver tincture, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking any medications.
If you try cleavers any of these 3 ways, I'd love to hear about it! Drop us a comment below, or send an email to leslie at leehouse.co.