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Spring Foraging Season Is Arriving- Cleavers (Gallium aparine)

Springtime is right around the corner here in Wooster, Ohio. I know that I am personally antsy to start looking for plant medicine, but that time is not quite upon us yet. Friends who are further south are starting to see some goodies, so here is the first part of a quick series about plants that you probably have in your yard but didn't realize that they were useful.

Cleavers, also known as Galium aparine, is a plant that has been traditionally used for medicinal purposes for centuries. The health benefits of cleavers include:

  1. Lymphatic system support: Cleavers is known for its ability to support lymphatic drainage and reduce inflammation in the lymphatic system. It is often used as a natural remedy for conditions such as lymphedema, swollen lymph nodes, and tonsillitis.

  2. Kidney health: Cleavers has diuretic properties, which means that it can help to flush excess water and toxins from the body through the kidneys. It is often used to support kidney health and improve urine flow.

  3. Skin health: Cleavers has a cooling and soothing effect on the skin, making it an effective natural remedy for conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and rashes. It can also help to reduce the appearance of dark circles and puffiness around the eyes.

  4. Immune system support: Cleavers contains antioxidants and has immune-boosting properties, which can help to protect the body against illness and disease.

  5. Digestive health: Cleavers has been traditionally used as a natural remedy for digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, and indigestion. It can help to soothe and heal the digestive tract and improve digestion.

  6. Anti-inflammatory effects: Cleavers contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties, making it useful for reducing inflammation and pain throughout the body.

Cleavers is a plant that can be easily identified by its unique physical characteristics. Here are some key features to look for when identifying:

  1. Stem: Cleavers has a long, thin, and square-shaped stem that can grow up to 6 feet long. The stem is covered in small hooks, which allow the plant to cling to other plants or objects for support.

  2. Leaves: Cleavers has small, narrow, and pointed leaves that grow in whorls of 6-8 around the stem. The leaves are slightly hairy and can be up to 2 inches long.

  3. Flowers: Cleavers produces small white or greenish-white flowers that bloom from May to August. The flowers grow in small clusters from the leaf axils, which are the areas where the leaves meet the stem.

  4. Fruit: After the flowers have bloomed, cleavers produces small, round, and prickly fruit that can stick to clothing or animal fur.

The best way to consume cleavers is to throw them into a blender with a little water and make a "juice" out of it. You won't want to eat them like a salad green- those little "hooks" on the leaves won't feel great in your mouth or throat. The cleavers juice can be frozen into ice cube trays for the winter. I keep a bag of cubes in my freezer and add some here or there to any soup that I'm making for a little boost over the long winter.

You can also make an infusion from it and drink it like tea.

As always, triple check identification of any plant before consuming. Never harvest in areas contaminated by runoff or areas which have been sprayed.

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