I've chosen for March's 'Herb of the Month', cleavers, as this is the perfect herb to enter Spring for its multi Spring cleaning actions and properties!
Cleavers, or you may know it as clivers, bedstraw, goosegrass or sticky willy is a plant that is very common and grows wild in the UK, throughout Europe and some parts of Asia. I often see it along pathways in both countryside and more suburban/city areas, you may have picked it up as a child and discovered the sticky results particularly when thrown at friend's and seeing it cling onto clothes! To me it reminds me of those Victorian chimney sweeping brushes that clear out tube-like passageways, which is quite similar to its medicinal action inside the body. It is known as a lymphatic and an alterative, which means it is very cleansing on the lymphatic system and for the skin.
Although cleavers is a herb that has been recorded to have been used medicinally for many years dating back to medieval times used even as a cancer treatment, in modernday science there is lacking research on the plant so there is limited scientific evidence. But alas that is the case for many medicinal herbs we herbalists use and the traditional uses are sometimes the most effective means of how best to use a plant dating back centuries of use before the science behind was even discovered, which in most cases would likely confirm what we already knew.
Cleavers is a great plant to start on wild foraging, as only the aerial parts are used, as long you are conscientiously picking as you don't want to deplete the source completely preventing a possible food source for animals and further pollination, you also don't want to pick too close to road traffic so alongside hedgerows in a public field, park, your own back garden would an ideal place! The tops have been found to contain flavonoids, iridoids, coumarins, tannins and polyphenolic acids. Use gloves as the bits that make it stick cover the stems and can be prickly and sharp, it is best gathered in the springtime before it flowers, the fresh plants can then be used as an infusion and drunk as a herbal tea or it is effective made into a juice and taken 3 times daily. These treatments would be particularly useful for urinary complaints such as cystitis, stones in the urinary tract as it is a diuretic and also for lymphatic problems such as raised lymph nodes, tonsillitis or enlarged prostate. It can also be used externally and is effective when made into a cream can cool and calm skin conditions such as psoriasis or any other skin inflammation complaints.
My name is Helen Davison and I'm a NIMH registered practising Medical Herbalist based in Ramsbottom, Lancashire. I've had a keen interest in herbal remedies since my early teens and would experiment creating my own balms and bath bombs using natural ingredients, which prompted me in discovering and pursuing a career in Western Herbal Medicine.