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  • Writer's pictureAnna

Do an inner spring cleaning with cleavers (Galium aparine)

Between March and May, this climbing plant makes its appearance along roadsides, woods and gardens. The tiny hairs on its stems and leaves are the reason it’s called “sticky weed” in a variety of languages. Even its proper name in English, cleavers, comes from the word “cleave”, now an old-fashioned expression meaning “to cling to”.

Its appearance in spring gives a clue to its effect on the body: it is one of nature’s great detoxifiers, especially for the lymphatic system, urinary tract and skin. Traditionally, poultices were made from the pulp of the fresh plant and applied to skin conditions, burns and insect bites.

Today you’ll find cleavers in commercial “detox tea” blends, especially those aimed at addressing water weight gain.

Otherwise, however, your best bet for finding cleavers is in the wild, as it were wherever you find other wild medicinal plants which are also considered common weeds, such as dandelion, plantain, daisy or stinging nettle. My favourite way of preparing the fresh plant is as a cold maceration: simply wash your cleavers and leave them to steep in a jar of water for a few hours or even overnight. This cleavers water is a refreshing (and cooling) drink perfect for a warm spring day.

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