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Cleavers: The Herb That Clings to You

Cleavers, named for their ability to cling to fur and clothing, are a Spring ephemeral with great medicinal uses. With nourishing and tonic properties, this herb also helps you flush toxins and waste out of your body. The Latin name of this plant is Galium aparine and it belongs to the Rubiaceae family.

This herb has a straggling aesthetic quality and it grows prolifically along roadsides and in gardens. Considered a weed by many, this herb can be harvested before flowering in the Spring and eaten as a salad green, consumed as an herbal tea, or prepared into many other forms of herbal medicine depending on your needs and creativity. It is an annual, known for its square stem, lance-shaped leaves and little, green, prickly fruits.

Video from our Intro to Plant ID Class, part of the Herbal Apprentice Program. Recorded & Edited by Anna Wolf, Smoke and Mirrors Art.


Cleavers has many powerful actions, including:

  • Diuretic

  • Alterative

  • Anti-inflammatory

  • Tonic

  • Astringent

  • Hepatic

  • Mild laxative

  • Vulnerary

Its uses vary, it is commonly used for skin and lymphatic issues. It’s helpful for acne, Eczema, Psoriasis and many other skin issues, particularly ones that would benefit from flushing toxins out of the body. Cleavers stimulate lymphatic drainage, helping relieve swollen lymph glands, boosting the immune system and helping remove excess fluids from the body. Because of this, it also helps to lower blood pressure.

Galium aparine is also used frequently to alleviate a variety of urinary issues. It’s a diuretic that helps flush out the urinary system, but be careful because this herb will make you need to pee! It is used to aid the passing of kidney stones. It is great combined with demulcent herbs, particularly when using Cleavers for the urinary system.

Cleavers also counters infections externally and internally and is frequently used to help Urinary Tract Infections. Be careful, though, because herbs frequently work best over a long period of time, and you may not have that luxury when dealing with an acute or chronic infection. Never hesitate to go to the doctor when necessary, and modern medications are a great support for Urinary Tract Infections.

This herbs ability to counter infections is of great use in many circumstances, though, and can be applied both topically and taken internally to gain this effect. In particular, its stimulation of the immune system can be immensely supportive when fighting off an infection. As a Vulnerary, it can also be useful to apply topically to burns and cuts to aid the skin in healing.


As with any herb, start with a small amount, pay attention to how it makes your body feel, and stop taking it if you experience any adverse reactions. This is a Spring ephemeral that pops up all over the place and can be great to harvest. However, make sure you know your plant identification well and are certain that you are harvesting Galium aparine, as many plants have tricky look a likes. If you’re not sure, go on a plant walk with an experienced herbalist or consider taking Artemesia Academy’s Plant Identification class, where you learn all about plant families and how to safely identify plants.

If you do harvest this herb, take it from a clean source where you are certain that it hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals or covered in car and road pollution. Many parks and public spaces are exposed to strong chemicals that you do not want to put in your body, turning your medicine into poison. Always harvest clean herbs and one of the best ways to do that is to grow them yourself.


So, how do you get the medicine out of this incredible plant? My favorite way to process Cleavers is as an overnight infusion:

  1. Fill a quart jar with nutritive and tonic herbs

  2. Pour boiling water in jar and cover

  3. Leave to steep overnight to extract all the vitamins and minerals

  4. Drink in the morning cool or reheat to have warm

Other great herbs to include in your overnight infusion are:


If you're interested in learning more about magical and medicinal herbs like Cleavers, check out Artemisia Academy’s Herbal Apprentice Program. I recently completed this program and learned so much about herbs, nutrition, medicine making and plant identification.

Much of the information I shared in this post comes from Artemisia Academy’s Herbs for the Body Class (in the Herbal Apprentice Program) and Andrew Chevallier’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, both great references for accurate information about medicinal herbs. It is so important to have more reliable information on the internet about our herbal allies, so I’ll be writing more blog posts about our herbal friends for you all to enjoy.

About the Author

Alicia Cielle Heiser is an Astrologer, Herbalist and student at Artemisia Academy. Her work centers on facilitating a greater understanding of the cyclical nature of the world and the ways that we as humans fit within the greater whole. She is writing a series of materia medica blog posts for Artemisia to make the wisdom and knowledge of herbal medicine more available to more people. Alicia also has a podcast called Conversations with the Planets and she offers herbal astrology readings and crafts personalized herbal tea blends. You can find her at 


Disclaimer: Information presented on this webpage is for educational purposes only, and does not include the diagnosis and treatment of disease nor replace the advice of a licensed physician. Please refer to a licensed health professional for any illness or persistent symptoms before using herbal remedies.

Herbs can sometimes cause discomfort or side effects, and may interact adversely with pharmaceutical medications. Do not use herbs internally without the approval of a doctor or medical professional if you are currently on medications or have a history of medical conditions.


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