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Cleavers (Galium Aparine)


Clevers, scientifically known as Galium aparine, are herbs that are native to Eurasia and North America belonging to the family Rubiaceae of annual plants. Cleavers are creeping plants depending on other plants for support. They produce flowers which are star shaped, green or white in color and often tiny in summer though some begin flowering in spring. The flowers occur in clusters, mostly two and occasionally three at the leaf axils. Just like the flowers, the leaves occur in whorls of eight to six and are narrow and simple. The seeds occur clustered just like the parent flower and have a burr, special hooks which enable their dispersal by animals.                                       

Medicinal Uses

  • Cleavers have a wide range of herbal and medicinal uses, the latter because of the myriad chemical constituents notably caffeine, iridoid glycosides, citric acid, red eye, coumarins, flavanoids, anthraquinone derivatives, phenolic acid, aucubin, monotropein and asperuloside.
  • The most common way of consuming herbal extract of cleavers is as tea. The beverage made from cleavers will not only provide the caffeine effects but also act as a diuretic, detoxifier and a lymphatic. Continued usage, in this light, is known to nourish the human lymphatic system acting as a lymphatic tonic on swollen lymphatic glands for those who get tonsillitis.
  • Cleavers are an important ingredient in soaps, body washes and poultices which aids in preventing and even treatment of skin rashes, burns, light wounds and ailments. Poisonous bites from insects can be quenched by use of the cleavers pulp. The pulp is made by crushing the whole plant and making a paste which is applied to the specific skin area.
  • Cleavers has also been used in the treatment of pets and other animas because of the mild sedative content asperuloside.
  • The roots of the drug have been used to make red eye and the barbed cleavers stems have been used in the olden times to strain milk from the rough sieve.

Dosage and Administration

Cleavers can be used in two ways, as a traditional herb extract and as a chemically processed medicine. The latter is the most common means of using cleavers. In both cases, it can be used three times a day. The three main dosage and administration forms for cleavers are:

  1. As a dried herb. Consume 2-4 grams per session.
  2. For tea. Use a tablespoon of dried herb each time.
  3. As a fluid extract in 25 percent alcohol in the ratio of 1:1, use 2 to 4 ml.
  4. Consume 4 tor 15 ml of cleavers express juice.
  5. The dosages indicated above are not the ultimate way to use them and for proper usage, the services of a herbal specialist or doctor specification should be followed.

Parts Used

Generally, all parts of cleavers plant are usable. The leaves and the stems are edible as vegetable. The fruits are usable as coffee substitute when roasted. The entire plant can be crushed to make pulp used in making washes, soaps and poultices. The stems can be used to make a rough sieve because they are barbed hence suitable for straining milk especially for pastoral communities. The modern medicinal extracts mainly use the dried aerial parts of cleavers to make a variety of cleavers combo for beverage or skin ointments. The aerial parts are gathered during the flowering or fruiting season.


  • The leaves and the stems can be cooked as vegetable and consumed but that is before flowering.
  • The fruits can be dried, roasted and used to make beverage akin to coffee because they contain considerable caffeine amount because they belong to the same family as coffee, Rubiaceae.
  • In the early years and at present in some pastoral or non-modern communities, medicine men mixed buchu, cleavers and uva ursi to treat lymphatic system problems like tornsilitis and other diseases like kidney stones and gallstones.

Side Effects

 The use of cleavers is not without side effects.  For example:

  • The use of cleavers can inhibit the effective action of other drugs at other times because of the coumarine present in cleavers.
  • Cleavers and cleavers products should not be used by those on medicines containing procarbazine antineoplastic agents because it increases the chances of depression of the central nervous system.

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