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Therapeutic Actions & Health Benefits of Cleavers Herb

devon 10 Comments

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Therapeutic Actions & Health Benefits of Cleavers Herb

Devon 10 Comments

Cleavers well known medicinal herb (and sticky garden weed) that offers great benefit for the urinary and lymphatic system. Make a cleavers tincture to address boggy and cystic conditions such as retained water, cystic acne and fibrous breast tissue.

Cleavers (Galium aparine)

Energetics: cool, dry

Therapeutic Actions: alterative, anti-inflammatory, astringent, diuretic, lymphatic, tonic

It is funny now as an adult and herbalist looking back at my childhood.  I was certainly a plant nerd way back then.  I distinctly remember in the rarely used side yard at my paternal grandparents’ home, under the dappled shade of an old cherry tree, a sea of green sticky weeds every spring.  My cousin and I would create long chains and “necklaces” that would tangle in our hair.

I now know this plant to be cleavers, a lymphatic herb with profound, yet gentle, diuretic action.  As it is known first and perhaps foremost as a lymphatic, I waffled a bit on featuring cleavers as an herb for the renal and urinary systems.  But it would only make sense that these “sister systems” would benefit notably from this humble, sticky wild herb.

Better known as a weed.

Cleavers Herb Medicinal Benefits

Cleavers is an herb of the fluid moving variety.  It is the preferred herb in instances of water retention and edema.  It may be particularly helpful for bladder inflammation and urine retention, as well as acute or relapsing urethritis.  It is also indicated for kidney edema and may help to relieve kidney stone issues; kidney infection, however, should be addressed with antibiotic under the care of a medical doctor.

As a lymphatic, it helps to soften and normalize hardened, swollen lymph nodes, especially about the head and underarm.  It has a particular affinity for the spleen, assisting the organ with waste removal and acting as an alternative to help “cleanse” the blood.

Applied as a poultice to the skin, this herb has been associated with the clearing of boils, blisters, and sores.


Cleavers Herb Identification

Cleavers are characterized by their clingy nature.  Thousands of tiny barbs cover the leaf and stem making the herbs almost feel sticky to the touch and they will certainly adhere to practically anything that the herb touches.  Sets of 6-9 narrow lance-shaped leaves in a whorl around a central stem and inconspicuous white flowers appear in spring and summer. This common weed is mostly creeping in habitat, using other nearby plants as support, and have been known to grow upwards of six feet in length.  I have yet to see such an impressive sight, but I have no doubt it exists.

All above ground parts are medicinally valuable.


Cleavers Herb Safety

Cleavers is a safe herb with no known safety issue other than allergy.  However if pregnant, nursing, with chronic conditions, or taking prescription medication, please consult your primary care physician before using this or any other herb.

A tincture of the herb can be take in the amounts of 4-8ml, up to three times daily.  An infusion can be prepared by steeping 1-2 teaspoons of the dry herb in 8-10oz of freshly boiled water.  It can even be juiced or added to a green smoothie.

FDA Disclosure

I am a trained herbalist with a degree in Complementary and Alternative Medicine, I am not, however, a doctor. Posts in this blog are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Before using any herbs, check for appropriate dosage, drug interactions, and contraindications. Information contained herein is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prescribe. Please consult your primary care physician regarding your specific health concerns.

Cleavers Tincture for Water Retention

I like to prepare cleavers as a simple tincture in a 1:5 ratio in 100 proof spirits.  This is achieved by using one part chopped stem and leaf (I do prefer fresh for this application) to five parts alcohol.  This mixture is left to infuse for approximately six weeks and should be shaken daily.  After the tincture is strained and bottled, I use this tincture for complaints of water retention, puffiness, lymph complaints, and cystic conditions.

Cleavers Tincture

Interested in learning more about common medicinal plants?  Check out my new book The Backyard Herbal Apothecary!

Cleavers Tincture Recipe

Cleavers Tincture

Cleavers tincture is a simple remedy t.o assist those with water and urinary retention, sluggish lymph movement, and cystic conditions. Safe dosage is 4-8mls, up to three times daily.


  • 1 part fresh cleavers cleaned and chopped
  • 5 parts 100 proof spirits


  • Place chopped cleavers and spirits in a tightly lidded jar.  Infused for at least six weeks and shake daily.
  • After infusing, strain tincture through tightly woven muslin cloth.  Pour into dropper bottles and label.  Safe dosage is 4-8mls, up to three times daily.

Cleavers well known medicinal herb (and sticky garden weed) that offers great benefit for the urinary and lymphatic system. Make a cleavers tincture to address boggy and cystic conditions such as retained water, cystic acne and fibrous breast tissue.


Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism the science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Wood, M. (2016). Earthwise herbal repertory: traditional western herbalism. North Atlantic Books.


Devon is a writer and author on subjects of holistic and sustainable living. She has a degree in Complementary and Alternative Medicine from the American College of Healthcare Sciences, and her first book, The Backyard Herbal Apothecary, was published by Page Street Publishing in Spring 2019. Devon's work outside of can be seen at,,, and in the magazine The Backwoods Home. Devon's second book, The Herbalist's Healing Kitchen, will be published Fall 2019.

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  • Courtney April 16, 2017 at 6:35 pm

    A naturopath just told me my puffy eyes were from sluggish kidneys. Cleavers took care of things quickly. I was pretty amazed!

    • Devon April 17, 2017 at 12:00 am

      I am so glad that cleavers helped you out! Such a remarkably effective little weed, isn’t it? Thank you!

    • Lisa June 14, 2017 at 12:18 pm

      You had puffy eyes? I have them and it drives me crazy. Did you do a cleavers tincture for it? Thanks….


      • Devon June 14, 2017 at 2:52 pm

        Hi Lisa — I tend to only get puffy eyes seasonally or if I am dealing with an upper respiratory infection. Cleavers is wonderful for helping move excess fluid from tissues, so I think this would be a perfect long-term herb for that complaint. Another good thing for puffy eyes is resting the weight of your head into your hand, with the heel of your palm placed against the under eye area. This helps to “flush” the accumulated fluids away from the area.

  • Anna April 18, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    I have a ton of bedstraw. I wish they were interchangeable. They look so much alike.

    • Devon April 18, 2017 at 2:56 pm

      They do look similar, don’t they?! Bedstraw does have some diuretic benefits, but cleavers is really the superior herb in terms of its actions. Thanks, Anna!

  • Aleida April 24, 2017 at 4:18 am

    Sorry to ask but what is spirits?

    • Devon April 24, 2017 at 3:18 pm

      No need to apologize — spirits is just another generic term for alcohol. I generally use vodka for most tinctures, but other’s may prefer other alcohols.

  • Renee June 1, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    I love your pictures! So clear as to see the” hairs”. Very informative. My dog has a habit of walking through them and dragging a long string behind her. I’m glad I found your article, my Cleavers is just now growing enough to be able to harvest. Thank you!

    • Devon June 1, 2017 at 8:44 pm

      Thanks, Renee! It is officially cleavers season here! I can only imagine your dog’s cleavers “train”!

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    I am an herbalist, farmer, cook, and forager. I get my hands dirty and am not afraid to do things the "hard way". Sharing my Nitty Gritty Life with you! Read More



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