Galium aparine-Cleavers

Family: Rubiaceae

Other Names: Goosegrass, Clivers, Coachweed, Catchweed, Aparine hispida, Aparine vulgaris, Asterophyllum aparine, Galium charoides

hazardsmallThe sap of Cleavers; Galium aparine, can cause contact dermatitis in sensitive people. Can cause severe skin irritation.


Habitat: Europe, including Britain, from Scandanavia south and east to Spain, N. and W. Asia. Hedgerows and as a weed of cultivated land. Moist and grassy places on most types of soil.

Description of Cleavers:

Galium aparine; Cleavers, is a ANNUAL growing to 1.2 m (4ft) by 3 m (9ft 10in).
It is hardy to zone 3 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jun to August, and the seeds ripen from Aug to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Flies, beetles, self. The plant is self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

Galium_aparine,CleaversCultivation of Cleavers:

Prefers a loose moist leafy soil in some shade. Plants tolerate dry soils, but they quickly become scorched when growing in full sun. They do not thrive in a hot climate. Another report says that plants succeed in most soils in full sun or heavy shade. A scrambling plant, the stems and leaves are covered with little hooked bristles by which it can adhere to other plants and climb into them. A good species to grow in the wild garden, it provides food for the larvae of many butterfly species.

Propagation of Cleavers:

Seed – best sown in situ as soon as the seed is ripe in late summer. The seed can also be sown in spring though it may be very slow to germinate. Once established, this plant does not really need any help to reproduce itself.

Culinary uses of Cleavers:

Edible Parts: Leaves.
Edible Uses: Coffee;  Tea.

The tender young shoot tips – raw or cooked as a pot-herb. A rather bitter flavour that some people find unpalatable, they are best used in the spring. They make a useful addition to vegetable soups. It is said that using this plant as a vegetable has a slimming effect on the body. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute. One of the best substitutes, it merely needs to be dried and lightly roasted and has much the flavour of coffee. A decoction of the whole dried plant gives a drink equal to tea.

Collection: The plant should be gathered before flowering and dried in the shade.

Galium_Aparine_BotanicalMedicinal uses of Cleavers:

Actions: Diuretic, alterative, anti-inflammatory, tonic, astringent.

Parts Used: Dried aerial parts and the fresh expressed juice.


It is a very valuable plant, being perhaps the best tonic to the lymphatic system available. As a lymphatic tonic with alterative and diuretic actions it may be used safely in a wide range of problems where the lymphatic system is involved. These include swollen glands (lymphadenitis) anywhere in the body, especially in tonsillitis and adenoid trouble. It is helpful in skin conditions, especially the dry kind such as psoriasis. It is helpful in the treatment of cystitis and other urinary conditions where there is pain and may be combined with urinary demulcents for this. There is a long tradition for the use of Cleavers in the treatment of ulcers and tumors. This may have its basis in the lymphatic drainage, which helps detoxify tissue. Cleavers also makes an excellent vegetable.

Priest & Priest tell us that it is a “soothing, relaxing & diffusive diuretic: increases aqueous excretion, corrects inability to pass normal catabolic wastes and relieves irritation. Preferred diuretic for exanthemas.” The specific indications: dropsy, renalobstructions, bladder stone, gravel, calculi, scalding micturation, dysuria, irritable bladder, cystitis, enuresis in children, eczema, psoriasis.

Ellingwood recommends it for the following patholgies: acuteinflammation of the urinary tract, dysuria, nephritis, strangury, cystic & prostatic irritation in old men.


For the lymphatic system combine with Poke, Echinacea or Calendula. For skin conditions combine with Yellow Dock and Burdock. For diuretic purposes it is often used with Buchu and/or Bearberry.

Preparation and Dosage of Cleavers:

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

Tincture: Take 2-4 ml of the tincture three times a day.

Other uses:

Tinder, filter, dye, cleanser

A red dye is obtained from a decoction of the root. When ingested it can dye the bones red. The dried plant is used as a tinder. The plant can be rubbed on the hands to remove pitch (tar). The stems are placed in a layer 8cm or more thick and then used as a sieve for filtering liquids.

Esoteric uses of Cleavers:

None known but if you use Cleavers please let us know!

The Chemistry:

Constituents: Glycoside asperuloside, gallotannic acid, citric acid

Galium aparine

Cleavers (Galium aparine) are herbaceous annual plants of the family Rubiaceae , which are native to North America and Eurasia .