Cleavers: An excellent edible weed!

Cleavers (a.k.a. bedstraw, goose grass, catch weed, sweet woodruff), Galium aparine, is a common annual “weed” that can be found in most parts of North America and Eurasia. You’ll find it twining through hedges and flowerbeds, and give it a pull, just to find the plant was much bigger and longer than you thought. Although they have tiny barbs on the stems and leaves that make them stick to just about everything, every part of them is edible and can be used medicinally as well.

Edible: Although the greens can be eaten raw, the barbs might make it less than palatable when uncooked, therefore cleavers are usually eaten cooked like spinach.  The seeds that form from the tiny star-shaped flowers can be roasted and ground to serve as a less caffeinated, from the garden, coffee substitute (cleavers are in the same family as coffee!).  This could be a tedious task, but fun for an experiment or in a real coffee craving pinch.

Coffee recipe (from Every Green Herb): To prepare cleaver seeds for a coffee substitute, put them in a bowl and wash in cold water. Drain water off the bare black seeds and spread them in a shallow pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes until completely dried and slightly roasted. Cool and grind. Pour on boiling water, steep ten minutes, and enjoy.

Medicinal: As a tea or tincture, cleavers have great cleansing properties, especially for the lymphatic system and urinary tract. They help cleanse the blood and intestines of toxins.  A tea can also be made to use as a wash for all types of skin problems including dandruff, abrasions, scrapes, burns, and even as a complexion toner and skin tightener.

Tea recipe: Clean your harvested cleavers then chop them up.  Add 1-2 tsp of this per cup of boiled water. Drink as a tea, use as a wash, or put in a spray bottle.

Tincture recipe (from The Backyard Patch): Harvest the top two thirds of plant when in flower or setting seed. Tincture in 100 proof vodka.  Dosage is 0.5ml – 1ml in water a few times daily when called for.

Facial wash recipe (also from The Backyard Patch): Bring one quart of water to a boil. Remove from heat and add 3-1/2 tbsp. of dried cleavers. Cover and steep for 40 min. Wash the face and neck often. Packs consisting of a wash cloth or small terrycloth hand towel soaked in the tea, lightly wrung out and then applied to the entire facial area for up to 10 minutes several times a day should help to tighten up loose skin folds. Gradual results should become evident within 2 weeks. One of the first things to look for is a new kind of life feeling in formerly tired, worn-out skin.

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