Cleavers, or Galium aparine, is a truly seasonal herb. Like Saint John’s Wort, who shares her affinity for fire, most of her active properties are lost in the drying process. She’s related to Lady’s Bedstraw (G. verum) and Hedge Bedstraw (G. mollugo), all of the Madder family, and has often been used interchangeably for them. Medicinally, she offers support to the lymphatic system, encouraging the healthy flow of lymph through the tissues and by extension she’s cleansing and supportive to the kidneys, circulatory system, and even the liver. Most herbalists extract her properties into tinctures, teas, and vinegars or they press out her juice to use by the tablespoon through the later winter, spring, and early summer.
Cleaver’s nutrient complex includes vitamin C, which evaporates when heated or dried, along with trace elements that help the body release heat, reduce inflammation, and promote healthy circulation. It’s often used as a potherb alongside nettles and spring dandelion tops.
As a magical partner, Cleavers’ velcro-like quality of sticking to everything she touches reminds us to stick with whatever it is we’ve set ourselves to. She’s been used in traditional magic potions and rituals for her protective properties and her tenacious nature. She also offers support for other intentions or systems you may be using.
When I began my oil of cleavers this spring, I was primarily thinking of using it as a salad dressing and maybe including it in a formula with other traditionally cooling herbs like plantain and yarrow to cool burns and reduce inflammation to skin, muscles, and joints.
Now that I’ve spent some time more directly with this tenacious herb, I see she’s encouraging me to cleave to my herbal and artistic practices more vigorously than ever before. I’ve given them, particularly my art, the back seat to the demands of raising and schooling my boy and of supporting Hunter Creation, my man’s graphic design practice. Now that my boy’s heading off to High School, the time for me to give all that energy to my herbalism and artistic practice has come. An ounce or two of my cleavers oil is going into a magical oil designed to help me stay focused, stay motivated, and most of all be tenacious as I grow into the next phase of my pursuits.
Ideas for other Cleavers projects:
- Arrange and press a few sprigs to use as a bookmark, especially to mark your place as you study subjects you find challenging.
- Cleavers infused vinegar combined with that of plantain and yarrow to help ease the pain of burns, including sunburn and rashes.
- Dry cleavers to use as a supportive or protective element for magical incenses.
- Include a few cleavers seeds or burs in mojo bags to help you strengthen your intention and stay with the course you’ve set for yourself.
- Make a tincture blend of cleavers, dandelion, burdock, and birch or licorice root to use as a gentle, cleansing tonic after illness or in the spring.
For more information on the medicinal and magical uses of Cleavers, see The Practical Herbalist!