An Herbal Interlude with Cleavers (Galium aparine)

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Cleavers (Galium aparine)

Botanical family – Rubiaceae or Bedstraw Family

About Cleavers

There are several species of Galium in the west. G. aparine, or Cleavers is probably the most common. Other varieties are loosely grouped together and referred to as Bedstraw. All have almost identical constituents and medicinal uses and so are used interchangeably.

Common Names for Cleavers


Cleavers is also called clivers, bedstraw, goosegrass, catchweed, stickyweed, sticky bob, Robin-run-the-hedge, grip grass, sticky grass, bobby buttons, and velcro plant


Cleavers is a short, naturalized annual with square stems that be either smooth or bristly. The leaves are even and whirling. They grow in clump-like mats, trailing over larger herbs and shrubs mostly from a single feeble stem. The larger bedstraws are small erect perennials that grow up to a few feet tall (usually up to a foot in our area). Both Cleavers and Bedstraw have small, white or greenish-white flowers that bloom from May to September and exude a strong, honey-like odor.

Part Used and Harvesting Information

The above ground part of the plant is used.  Usually in spring or early summer. 

To gather cleavers, wad up a large wad of the clinging mass and place in a card board box to dry.  If making a tincture or extract, dry or wilt the fresh cleavers by leaving them out to dry for a day or so.  Then chop it into small bits, place it in a jar and fill with 30 to 40% food grade alcohol.  (Vodka or diluted Everclear both work well).   

Medicinal Use

Cleavers is a cooling herb. It is cleansing and soothing with a special affinity for the water systems and the skin. Cleavers supports the lymph system promoting drainage of toxins and wastes that are then excreted through the urinary system. The herb has a long history.  As a mild, persistent diuretic and is used to treat cystitis, kidney and gall stones.  Use it to address swollen glands, swollen breasts, PMS, mild lymph edema, gout and prostatitis. Cleavers has mild or feeble effects on the liver, but is one of the few herbs that may be used during a hepatitis flare-up without fear of irritation.

According to Herbalist Michael Cottingham, Galium’s energy focuses on the smallest of blood vessels bringing healing energy and vitalization. This makes it especially useful in wound healing, both internal and external. Vitalization at the subtlest level brings great healing to the whole.


Externally Cleavers is often added to formulas that protect and enhance the skin. It helps speed healing and eases the discomfort of skin disorders such as psoriasis, eczema, acne, boils, blemishes, and abscesses and makes an excellent facial wash to tone and reduce wrinkling. (When treating eczema, it is best to also use Galium internally as well as externally).

This is an excellent herb to take both internally and externally when treating eruptive infections such as measles and chicken pox. The fresh leaves can be applied to cuts or wounds to check bleeding and speed healing. The juice or an infusion can be used to bathe varicose ulcers, or the fresh leaves can be made into a poultice. Cleavers will soothe and cool burns, sunburn and inflammatory skin problems. Sam Coffman of the Herbal Medic University uses cleaver stems as a kind of spaghetti or cooked vegetable. All that healing and it tastes yummy too.

Preparation Methods and Dosage Suggestions

There are so many ways to use Cleavers.  And as with most herbs, I use it in combination or formula for the best benefit.   With that in mind, following are some general guidelines.  

  • Tincture – about 3 to 5 millilitres (1/2 to 1 teaspoon) per day.
  • Tea or infusion – 1-3 cups per day, depending on the person and issue.  For more information on teas and infusions check our our free class \”Nourishing Tea\”.
  • Infused oil or salve – as needed to heal tissue.

Recipes For Cleavers

Spring tonic 

Use Equal parts

  • Dandelion Greens or Roots (extract or freshly dried herb).
  • Cleavers (extract or freshly dried herb)

Take 30 to 60 drops of the tincture or 1 cup of infusion 3 or 4 times per day for two weeks to vitalize digestion and elimination of wastes. 


To my knowledge, Cleavers has no contra-indications and is considered safe.  

That said, you never know how someone will respond to a new herb.  Therefore it is always best to take only a drop or two of a new herb, (or a sip or two of the tea).  Then see how it feels in your body.  For the most part Cleavers is a forgiving herb.  Usually not causing an issue even if you take to much.  However, I always feel it is best to learn how to listen to your body.  Then move forward.


Cleavers Products By
Wonderment Gardens LLC


The statements and ideas presented here are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. They have not been evaluated by the FDA. All ideas presented are for the sole purpose of education. To help you take control of your own health. If you have a health concern or condition, consult a physician. We suggest that you always consult a medical doctor before modifying your diet, using any new product, drug, supplement, or doing any new exercises.

These statements and products have not been evaluated by the FDA. They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. If you have a health concern or condition, consult a physician. Always consult a medical doctor before modifying your diet, using any new product, drug, supplement, or doing any new exercises.

Herbs taken for health purposes should be treated with the same care as medicine. Herbal remedies are no substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle. If you are serious about good health, you’ll want to combine diet, exercise, herbals, a good relationship with your doctor and a generally healthy lifestyle. No one of these will do it alone.

This information is designed to be used as part of a complete health plan. No products are intended to replace your doctor’s care, or to supersede any of his/her advice or prescriptions.


22 thoughts on “An Herbal Interlude with Cleavers (Galium aparine)”

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