Calium aparine, Rubiaceae. It also has the names goosegrass, clives, gripgrass, catchweed and stickywillie.

The dried aerial parts and freshly expressed juice are used.

Cleavers can be a troublesome annual weed in the garden. It has been used in folk medicine for centuries. The roasted seeds can be used to make a coffee substitute.

Functions of cleavers

Cleavers is a common plant that is very valuable and is possibly the best tonic to the lymphatic system available.


  • as a lymphatic tonic with diuretic actions, may be used in a wide range of problems where the lymphatic system is involved. This includes lymphatic congestion and swollen lymph glands, congestion of the breast. It is said to have an anti-tumor action particularly when the tumor is in the skin or breasts or lymphatic system.
  • diuretic action aids in the elimination of wastes and the promotion of lymphatic drainage of toxins that can be eliminated through the urinary system. This makes it an excellent remedy for fluid retention, urinary infections, arthritis, gout and skin problems, such as:
    • burns and sunburn,
    • eczema,
    • psoriasis,
    • acne,
    • boils,
    • dandruff and
    • abscesses.
  • has cooling properties, reducing fevers and resolving eruptive infections such as, chickenpox. It cools inflammation as seen in conditions such as cystitis, arthritis, inflammatory skin problems and digestive problems.
  • has bitter properties which will stimulate liver function and enhance digestion and absorption of nutrients.
  • can be applied to cuts and wound to check bleeding and to speed healing (the fresh leaves are used). The juice or an infusion can be used to bathe varicose ulcers, or fresh leaves can be made into a poultice.
  • juice made from the leaves and stems can be used for prostate problems.

Notes on cleavers

  • For the lymphatic system cleavers can be used in combination with marigold and echinacea.
  • For the skin cleavers can be combined with yellow dock and burdock.
  • Cleavers should not be used by diabetics or anyone with a tendency towards diabetes.


Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 2-3 teaspoonsful of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times per day.

Tincture: take 1-2 ml of the tincture three times per day.

For the gardener

Cleavers is grown from seeds and is self grown easily. It will grow in most soil types and positions.

It can be harvested at any time and hung to dry. If the seeds are attached be sure not to spread them over other parts of the garden.


Hoffmann, D. 2000, The New Holistic Herbal. Element Pub.

McIntyre, A. 1995, The Complete Women's Herbal. Henry Holt Reference Books.

Mills, S. Y. 1989, The A-Z of Modern Herbalism: A Comprehensive Guide to Practical Herbal Therapy. Thorson.

Woodward, P. 2003, Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies. Hyland House.




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