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An ongoing series of informational entries

Galium aparine

Natures way of spring cleaning 

It is that time of year when the days are getting a little longer, the temperature is warming up a bit and in the PNW, we are all coming out of our homes, eager to feel sunshine on our faces. Our plant allies are awakening too. Small seeds that hibernated over the winter are reaching their roots out to the earth and growing their little leaves strong towards the sun. Spring is a time of movement, of change and a time when we go from a cold, immobile, wet season  to a warmer, less wet season full of movement and possibilities. Cleavers start to emerge at the beginning of spring, right when we need them the most. Cleavers promote movement, very specifically through the lymphatic and urinary systems. Energetically, they clear stagnation and make room for healthy possibilities. Let the spring cleaning begin! 

Urinary system

Cleavers are soothing to the urinary tract, quickly moving urine through the urinary system (diuretic) and it quiets irritated mucous membranes in the ureters, bladder and urethra. Cleavers are used to support healing* for conditions such as urinary tract infections (UTI), Interstitial Cystitis, pyelonephritis (kidney infection) and kidney stones. It has an affinity for the pelvic region, so if you have experienced any kind of pelvic infection such as a yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis or an STI, cleavers can help break up any kind of pelvic stagnation (lymphatically and energetically) and promote overall health.

Lymphatic system

Cleavers are what we call a “lymphagogue” meaning it literally moves lymph. If you have had any edema, and lets face it, who doesn’t experience this a bit towards the end of pregnancy, then cleavers can help move that excess fluid out of the lymph system and tissues and send it to your kidneys, where you pee it out. Cleavers can also reduce swelling in the joints making this a popular therapy for folks with arthritis.

Safety in Pregnancy and Lactation

According to the American Herbal Product Association (AHPA) Botanical Safety Handbook aka my bible when it comes to safety, cleavers are rated a Safety Class 1A with no known contraindications or considerations. 

Where to find them

Cleavers grow in abundance in the PNW. They love cool, moist soil and you can find them growing along roadways and waterways (think movement). They don’t tolerate heat well, so they usually bid adieu by summer. Cleavers have a weak stem that climbs and clings thanks to little hairs on the leaves and stems. They can grow 1-2 feet. You can find them growing along side Nettles, another plant ally of spring that I will discuss in the next blog post. Locally, in my community, I harvest cleavers down at Salmon Creek every year.

How to prepare

Cleavers medicinal actions are in its enzymes. Enzymes can be destroyed in alcohol, so a glycerite tincture will preserved some of the magic. But if you want to get the most bang for your buck, freshly juiced is best. You can juice your spring harvest and freeze it in ice cube trays. Throughout the year you can throw a cube or two into a smoothie when you need. 

In closing, go get outside! Breath some fresh air. Go on a hike and discover the amazing medicine that the earth has given us. Stumble upon a patch of cleavers. Watch out for their bestie, Stinging Nettle, which you guessed it, stings like a mother. Have fun! 

*Do not fool around with UTIs, especially during pregnancy. The can lead to pyelonephritis and preterm labor. Always consult your care provider and take your antibiotics (whether that be pharmaceutical or botanical)  if thats the chosen treatment plan. Cleavers support urinary health and can help heal, emphasis on the word HELP. It's not curing an infection. Seriously, don't mess around with UTIs. 


The information presented in this is for informational, reference and educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as a substitute for diagnosis and treatment by a health care professional. Although, the information presented herein is based on material provided by researchers and sources deemed reliable, we do not presume to give medical advice.

Anyone wishing to use this information should share it with his or her health care provider before embarking on any therapeutic program. It is your responsibility to discuss any alternative or natural remedy with your health care provider before using it as it may harm rather than benefit. Many medical doctors are not acquainted with alternative remedies and natural healing methods. Share this information with them so they may learn, too, or find a practitioner who is familiar with them.