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Leave it to cleavers to cleanse kidney

The first time I heard the word “cleavers” roll off someone’s lips I was having a riveting conversation with a fellow about soil composition. Just when I was trying to find a delicate way to excuse myself, he said the word “cleavers.”

You have to understand, this guy was from New England and while he looked nothing like him, he sounded like the elderly gentleman in those old Pepperidge Farm cookie commercials.

“CLEE-vahs,” he said, “CLEE-vahs is an herb I do like! Why, I can remember as a child walking through fields of CLEE-vahs.”



I became absolutely fixated on the word CLEE-vahs. I had no earthly idea what the herb could do, but I knew that I’d never forget the herb’s name.

The irony is, a lot of herbalists know this herb but they don’t use it as much as they could. It’s not usually found in the “Herbal Top 100” list nor is it praised in peer-reviewed herb journals.



The fact is, cleavers (Galium aparine) is a weed. But what a weed! Gardeners may curse the day cleavers wandered onto their property, but herbalists revel in its possibilities.

Ideally, the fresh plant is the most active medicinally and can be harvested from spring until fall. It is, in fact, one of the hardiest herbs on the block ” often times thrusting it’s little sticky stem through the snow in hopes of getting a head start on the plant competition.

Cleavers does two basic things. First, it activates the lymphatic system, helping to pump toxins from the body, thereby cleansing the bloodstream.

Secondly, cleavers works like a dynamo on the kidneys, again flushing unwanted debris from the body through the bladder.

Best of all, it does its job gently. I have found that there are only a few gentle herbal lymphatic drainers which work without making the “cure” worse than the complaint.

Cleavers is a gentle and good tasting tea by itself. But be assured, it is steady and effective at charging the lymphatic glands when used properly. Lymph tenderness and swelling are usually signs of a sluggish system.

It can also be the physical trigger that says the flu is a headed your way. Typical lymph swelling is found on the side of your neck directly under the ear lobes, in your armpits and in your groin.

If your goal is to rid your body of excess water (such as with edema) or you would like to try a natural remedy for infections of the urinary tract such as cystitis and urethritis, you can drink cleavers tea either by itself or in combination.

If you choose the herb by itself, the fresh plant is always better. However, the dried plant does work.

The tea to water ratio is one tablespoon of the dried plant or two tablespoons of the fresh plant to 8 oz. of very hot but not boiling water. Never boil cleavers since it will take the medicinal ability out of the plant. Drink one cup of this blend an hour before each meal.

Being that cleavers works its little sticky bristles off to cleanse the lymph and bloodstream, the herb has been found to work very well in combination for those suffering from psoriasis.

One important word here, however. In holistic medicine, psoriasis has many possible physical roots. It can sometimes manifest from an impure bloodstream or sluggish lymphatic system. Poor diet often plays a role ” especially where processed foods are eaten instead of the wholesome, fresh variety.

Emotionally, holistic professionals believe psoriasis is often linked with a nervous personality, a loner unwilling to get close to other people. Minor to major stress and anxiety usually trigger the outbreaks. The point of all this is to say that while the herbal combination has proven itself effective, the deeper personality traits need to be addressed if the psoriasis is to be completely eradicated.

Here’s a good psoriasis formula:

Cleavers (1 teaspoon)

Red clover (1/2 teaspoon)

Nettle (1/2 teaspoon)

Calendula (1/4 teaspoon)

Combine the herbs with 16 oz. of hot (but not boiling) water. Steep covered for 15 minutes, strain and sip the 16 oz. over a two to three hour period. This should be repeated twice a day for maximum effectiveness. Continue for two consecutive weeks and then take a break for one week.

There are only two cautions with cleavers.

First, since it can be a powerful diuretic and internal cleanser, diabetics should avoid using the herb since it could alter the amount of insulin within the body.

Secondly, cleavers is astringent due to its high tannin content. For this reason, one should regulate its use. The best rule of thumb is two weeks on the herb (either alone or in combination) and two weeks off the herb.

Whether you call it cleavers or “CLEE-vahs,” this is truly one herb you have to pee to believe.

The information in this column is not meant to take the place of your physician, nor is it intended to treat, diagnose or prescribe. Pregnant or nursing women should consult their doctor before using herbal therapy.

E-mail your questions to The Humorous Herbalist at writer8@sopris.net.


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