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Cleavers: An Herb for Gentle Detoxification

Cleavers: An Herb for Gentle Detoxification. Image features a close up image of the Cleavers herb.

Elizabeth Ferns |

Native to most temperate and subtropical regions of the world, Cleavers (Galium aparine) is a common weed that blooms in early spring. Its alterative, anti-inflammatory, and astringent actions on the body make Cleavers a great herb for gentle detoxification. Whether you’re embarking on a spring cleanse, or simply looking to fortify the body’s natural detoxification pathways, this herbal ally is a great addition to your home apothecary.

Disclaimer: This blog is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your health care practitioner before adding any new herbs to your wellness routine.


Historical Use

Cleavers has a rich history of use worldwide. In North America, Indigenous peoples use this herb to support kidney function, as well as using it as a poultice to treat burns, bites, or other wounds on the skin.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Cleavers is used to cool the body, gently detoxify, soothe inflammation – both on the skin and within the body – and to soften kidney and bladder stones. It is even used to combat anxiety and moodiness.

In Europe, this herb’s adhesive nature made it a top choice for bedstraw. It caused all the branches to stick together, and once dried, the thickness of the mattress filling could be easily maintained. The roots of the plant were also used to make red dye.

Our co-founder, Yarrow Willard, provides his Herbalist perspective on Cleavers in the video below. Check out Herbal Jedi on YouTube for more of Yarrow's expertise.


Benefits of Cleavers

Protects the Liver

Cleavers has shown the potential to protect and fortify the liver. One study was done to determine the effectiveness of using Cleavers prior to introducing toxic levels of acetaminophen in rats. By pre-treating with Cleavers, there was a significant reduction in liver damage compared to the control group (1).

Rejuvenates the Kidneys

This herbal ally has a long history of being used within infusions as a diuretic. Cleavers can support the kidneys in flushing out waste, toxins, and excess minerals and fluids. Over time, this can even prevent the formation of kidney stones (2).

Enhances Immunity

Cleavers is incredibly rich in antioxidants and can be considered anti-proliferative – meaning it can inhibit unwanted cell growth (3). Various studies have shown that this herb can combat breast cancer cells (4), and that it is a significant stimulator and modulator of the immune system (5).


How to Identify and Harvest Cleavers

Cleavers is one of the first plants to bloom in April and has a few unique characteristics that make it easy to identify when foraging. True to its namesake, it has many little bristles that allow it to cling and climb its way upwards. Cleavers’ leaves are narrow, spear-shaped, and occur in rounds of six to eight leaves along the stem. Learn how to forage mindfully with these tips.


How to Add Cleavers to Your Routine

We’ve intentionally added this potent herbal ally to a variety of our formulations.

Artisan Teas

Our Cleanse Artisan Tea is formulated to help you glow from within.

Sip your way to cycle balance and relief with our Moontime Artisan Tea.

Our Clear Flow Artisan Tea will help you find your flow with every sip.


Find Cleavers in our Klear Kidney Tincture Blend, formulated to fortify the kidneys and ease urinary tract discomfort.

Not looking for a blend? Our Cleavers Tincture offers the potent benefits of this herb on its own.


Looking for more herbal wisdom? Click here to watch past webinars on how herbs can support a variety of wellness needs – from cleansing to sleep, and everything in between.

Article References

1. Şahin, B., Karabulut, S., Filiz, A. K., Özkaraca, M., Gezer, A., Akpulat, H. A., & Ataseven, H. (2022). Galium aparine L. protects against acetaminophen-induced hepatotoxicity in rats. Chemico-Biological Interactions, 366, 110119.
2. McIntyre, M. J. (1993). British herbal compendium. Vol 1: A handbook of scientific information on widely used plant drugs. (Companion to Vol 1 of the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia). Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 1(4), 226–227.
3. Dayangaç, A., Korkmaz, N., & Sevindik, M. (2021). ANTIOXIDANT, ANTIMICROBIAL AND ANTIPROLIFERATIVE ACTIVITIES OF GALIUM APARINE. Ankara Üniversitesi Eczacılık Fakültesi Dergisi, 554–564.
4. Atmaca, H., Bozkurt, E., Cittan, M., & Tepe, H. D. (2016). Effects of Galium aparine extract on the cell viability, cell cycle and cell death in breast cancer cell lines. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 186, 305–310.
5. Ilina, Т., Кашпур, Н. В., Granica, S., Bazylko, A., Шинковенко, И. Л., Ковалева, А. М., Goryacha, O., & Коshovyi, O. (2019). Phytochemical Profiles and In Vitro Immunomodulatory Activity of Ethanolic Extracts from Galium aparine L. Plants, 8(12), 541.