Cleavers, galium aparine, (also known as Bedstraw because deer use the dry matter for bedding) is a proliferative weed here in Oakland, often growing up to knee-height if left to its own devices, with sticky leaves that catch you as you try to pass, and tiny white flowers. What astonished me about the Cleavers used to make this tincture is that we had it growing quite moderately in our yard the first two Springs I lived here, but last year it exploded in a way that it hadn’t done before. When I found out that it has been used historically by herbalists for cancer and prostate issues, I understood. My partner had been diagnosed with prostate cancer the summer before. In this little story is the truth that is around us all of the time: plants want to help.
Cleavers comes into its full power, seasonally, just as we are moving from Winter into Spring and our bodies start urging us to move out of hibernation and shed our Winter layers. Cleavers supports this natural urge towards detoxification and clearing out the old by purifying the waterways of the body, with its most popular contemporary use as a lymph tonic, helpful for swollen glands and autoimmune conditions. Lymph, or lymphatic fluid, is a key aspect of the immune system. Comprised largely of white blood cells, lymph travels through your body and carries bacteria back to the lymph glands to be destroyed. According to Matthew Wood, the 19th-century doctor Frederick Locke suggested that cleavers had a positive effect on patients fighting cancer, and indeed that it could potentially ‘remove the constitutional tendency to the disease’. More from Wood (from The Book of Herbal Wisdom):
“By taking away toxins Cleavers gently opens the passageways leading to and from the liver, pancreas, and other internal organs, so that it has a general cleansing and decongesting capacity. […] It contributes to the general nutrition of the body by cleansing out the fluids surrounding the cells, making nutrition and waste removal easier.”
This medicine was made on the 2015 Spring Equinox, a day which is energetically about endings, the cleansing of physical, emotional, psychospiritual space, and making way for new ideas and forms. It is available in two forms: a tincture of fresh plant material, macerated in grain alcohol, and a succus. I recommend using the plain tincture with physiological issues, and to use the succus more energetically for support in letting go of relationships, patterns, and habits that no longer serve your best interests (more info on the succus and a link to buy will be posted imminently…).
Use with: swollen lymph glands, kidney or urinary issues incl. UTI, detox support, autoimmune support, chronic or acute skin conditions. Its Chinese medicine properties are cooling and bitter; it clears damp-heat, clears toxin, and disperses stagnation.
CAUTION: due its diuretic properties, not for use by diabetics. Cleavers can be very cooling and is not advised for those who are constitutionally very cold.