Cleavers, the sticky willy stickyweed

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Galium aparine or Cleavers, also known as: Clivers, Goosegrass, Catchweed, Stickyweed, Robin-run-the-hedge, Sticky Willy, Sticky Willow, Velcro Weed, and Grip Grass

Cleavers are in the Rubiaceae family which consists of flowering plants in the coffee, madder, or bedstraw family. In particular cleavers are in the bedstraw family. There are upwards of 3,000 species in the Rubiaceae family. Other names that cleavers are known as include sticky willy, stickybud, stickyweed, kisses, and clivers. Some people may experience a rash when they touch this plant; if so, do not ingest!

Distinguishing Features: Cleavers are an annual plant that creeps along with straggling stems that branch out. They attach themselves to anything in their way with small hooked hairs that grow out of the leaves and stems.

Flowers: Flowers can be inconspicuous as they are very small (1mm long and 1-2mm across). They are white with four petals and fused together at their base. Flowers are arranged in small spreading clusters (1-9 flowers) on short side branches. They have four tiny yellow stamens and flowers occur mostly late spring into summer.

Leaves: Stalkless leaves are borne in groups of 6-9 at each of the stem joints and they are whorled. Cleaver leaves are narrow (10-80 mm long and 2-10 mm wide) or lance-shaped with pointed tips and tiny backward-pointing prickles along their margins. Upper and lower leaf surface are loosely covered with tiny hooked hairs.

Height: Cleavers typically are creeping plants and do not grow in height unless they attached themselves to a tall plant or tree. The stems can grow up to two metres (6’) in length.

Habitat: Cleavers commonly grow in hedgerows and field margins. They also grow near crops, orchards, waste areas, disturbed areas, pastures, open woodlands and in gardens. This plant is commonly found in temperate environments but it can be found in some sub-tropical areas. Native to Europe and western Asia is has made its way throughout Australia, Canada, U.S., Mexico, Central America, some countries in South America and North Africa.

Edible parts: Cleavers have historically been known as a medicinal plant although it is food too. The leaves and stems can be used as leaf vegetable although it is very sticky so it will not blend well in a salad. It can be used on bread in sandwiches and sautéed. Fruits of the cleavers can be collected and dried, then roasted for use as a coffee substitute. Leaves and stems can be dried and used for tea.

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Benefits & uses

Medicinal Uses: Eczema, Hair, Hypertension, Kidney, Pet, Psoriasis, Skin Care
Properties: AntiCancer, Appetite Depressant, Astringent, Depurative, Diuretic, Refrigerant, Tonic, Vulnerary
Constituents: coumarins,iridoid glycosides (asperuloside, acumin),tannins,citric acid,gallotannic acid

Cleavers make an excellent cleansing tonic that purifies the lymphatic system and urinary tract. Cleavers help remove toxins from the blood and intestines. They also make a cooling drink when treating feverish conditions. Cleaver tea is often used as a wash for burns, scrapes, abrasions, ulcers, dandruff, itchy scalp, and other skin problems. The tea is also good for relieving stress, tonsillitis, and prostate disorders.

Poultices and washes made from cleavers were traditionally used to treat a variety of skin ailments, light wounds and burns. As a pulp, it has been used to relieve poisonous bites and stings. To make a poultice, the entire plant is used, and applied directly to the affected area.

When treating kidney and bladder problems, cleavers should be mixed with Uva-Ursi and Marshmallow root for best results. Often, cleavers are used as a remedy for asthma and other breathing problems. Use with Echinacea or calendula for added strength. Cleavers may also be used as a gentle laxative.

They can be cooked as a vegetable (like spinach), used in tea, or preserved in tincture form. Young sprouts may be used in salads. Fresh cleavers may be pulverized in a food processor and taken as a nourishing green drink.

The roots of cleavers can be used to make a permanent red dye.

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Dosage: one ounce of dried leaves to a pint of water, 1 to 2 teaspoons of tincture, or 2 to 4 grams of the dried herb in a cup of boiling water, three times daily.

Coffee: Use three heaping tablespoons of roasted and ground cleaver seeds for two cups of coffee. Put them in a bowl and wash in cold water. Drain water off the bare black seeds and spread them in a shallow pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes until completely dried and slightly roasted. Cool and grind. Pour on boiling water, steep ten minutes, and enjoy.

Deodorant: Make a strong tea with a large handful of cleaver stalks, leaves, and a pint of water. Gently simmer for fifteen minutes, strain, and bottle. Keep in a cool place, out of direct sunlight, and apply to armpits with a cotton ball as needed. This “cleavers deodorant” will keep for about a week.

Facial toner: Use in tea form and splash on after washing, apply with a cotton ball, or apply with spray bottle.


Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galium_aparine

http://www.ediblewildfood.com/cleavers.aspx

http://www.everygreenherb.com/cleavers.html

http://www.vintageamanda.com/2012/03/a-simple-green-and-foraged-drink-for-spring-cleansing/

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