Even through howling/raging winds and torrential rain there is a little green herb pushing its way up and outwards to herald the spring!. It is a tough plant and has earned itself many common names, including Goosegrass, Sticky willie, and Bedstraw among others.
As the herb matures with the months of growth, it becomes gnarled and fibrous and when picked ,it can be rolled into a dense mat-like structure which earned it the name of Bedtraw. It was literally used to stuff mattresses in the past! Another name for the plant is Cleavers which it is commonly known by.
Its botanical name is Galium aparine…aparine comes from the greek ‘aparo’ meaning to lay hold,of to seize, and belongs to the family of plants Rubiaceae.(coffee belongs to this family) The seeds of Cleavers were once roasted and ground and used like coffee,with a less stimulating action!
This plant is as tenacious as it is tough as it clings to surfaces it comes into contact with affording many hours of fun for children who used to delight in playing with it. The aerial part of the plant is used edicinally which can be made into a decoction or infusion and drunk 2x daily.
The soft new tender plant is edible and may be cooked as greens. Clavers was one of the many treasured spring herbs to be savoured and used by rural folk in our not too distant past. Along with Dandelion leaf and Nettle leaf ,the trio offered not only nutrition but an internal ‘Spring clean, enlivening the organism and bringing it into the spring energy.
It is termed a depurative, a remedy which rids the body of toxin accumulation.And to this end it is used by herbalists today. Its main use is as a lymphatic cleanser and helps to clear and clean lymph nodes throughout the body, enhancing immune function by reducing the incidence of infection. It clears obstruction to the flow of lymph through the lymphatic system, relieving lymph node swelling, and reducing water retention and oedema.
Another significant action is its cleansing action for acne and hot skin conditions as it draws out impurities and cools hot inflammation. This is augmented by its diuretic action and an aid to kidney function. The coarse texture of the plant is due to high levels of silica which have a strengthening effect on hair and nails and on the organs such as lungs and kidneys which have lost tone and are weakened by recurrent disease.
Cleavers has earned itself a rightful place in the herbal materia media and graces the shelf, in the form of a tincture, in the herbalist dispensary.
Jacqueline Kylbride, Medical Herbalist