• Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
Home Plant Lore Clivers


E-mail Print PDF

JUNE 2012: CLIVERS (Galium Aparine)

Clivers Description and Habitat:: Clivers is abundant in hedgerows, fields and waste land throughout Europe and North America. The family Rubiaceae to which the Clivers belongs includes almost 3,000 species. Many of these are highest prized by man both as food and medicine and include the coffee-tree, “Coffea Arabica” and “Cinchona” which provides the valuable drug quinine. Many species growing in tropical climates are noted for the beauty and fragrance of their flowers.

Our British representatives are of a very different character, being all herbaceous plants, with slender, angular stems, bearing leaves arranged in whorls or rosettes and small flowers. From the star-like arrangement of their leaves, all these British species have been assigned to the tribe “Stellatae” of the main order Rubiaceae. All the members of this tribe, numbering about 300, grow in the cold and temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Fifteeen of these including Clivers are native to Britain.

Both the angles of Clivers’ quadrangular stalks and leaves are covered with little hooked bristles which attach themselves to passing objects. In this way it fastens itself in a ladder-like manner to adjacent shrubs, so as to push its way upwards through the dense vegetation of the hedgerows into daylight, its rough, weak stems then struggling over and through all the other wayside plants, often forming vast matted masses.

Clivers has narrow, lance-shaped prickly leaves about 1/2 inch long and 1/4 inch broad arranged in rosettes or whorls, six or eight together. The flowers in pairs or threes, rise from the axils of the leaves and are small and star-like, either white or greenish-white. They are followed by little globular seed-vessels about an eight of an inch in diameter, covered with hooked bristles and adhering, like the leaves, to whatever they touch. By clinging to the coat of any animal that touches them, the dispersal of the seeds is ensured.

Common Names:Cleavers, Clite, Click, Clitheren, Clithers, Goosegrass. Barweed. Hedgeheriff. Hayriffe. Hedge-burrs, Eriffe. Clabber Grass, Grip Grass. Hayruff. Catchweed. Scratweed. Mutton Chops. Robin-run-in-the-Grass, Cheese rent herb Robin, Loveman. Goosebill. Everlasting Friendship, Bedstraw, Coachweed, Milk Sweet, Sticky Willy, Kisses, Sweethearts.

Most of the plant's popular names are connected with the clinging nature of the herb. Some of its local names are of very old origin, being derived from the Anglo-Saxon 'hedge rife,' meaning a tax gatherer or robber, from its habit of plucking the sheep as they pass near a hedge. The old Greeks gave it the name “Philanthropon”, from its habit of clinging. The specific name of the plant, “aparine”, also refers to this habit, being derived from the Greek “aparo” (to seize). Clite, Click, Clitheren, Clithers are no doubt various forms of Clivers or Cleavers, and Loveman is probably an Anglicized version of “Philanthropon”. Its frequent name, Goosegrass, is a reference to the fact that geese are extremely fond of the herb. It is often collected to feed Poultry, Horses, cows and sheep.

The seeds of Clivers form one of the best substitutes for coffee when dried and slightly roasted over a fire. They have been so used in Sweden. The whole plant gives a decoction equal to tea.

We learn from Dioscorides that the Greek shepherds of his day employed the stems of this herb to make a rough sieve, and it is remarkable that Linnaeus reported the same use being made of it in country districts of Sweden as a filter to strain milk; the stalks are still used in this way in Sweden.

The plant is no scent but has a slightly bitter and astringent taste. The roots make a permanent red dye and if eaten by birds will tinge their bones. A Staffordshire Ale was once made from Clivers.

Part Used Medicinally: The whole plant excluding the root, gathered in May and June, when just coming into flower.

Medicinal Uses: In old Herbals, Clivers was extolled for its powers and it is still employed in country districts, both in England and elsewhere, as a purifier of the blood and as an ingredient in rural 'spring drinks.' Modern herbalists and homoeopaths still recognize the value of this herb and use it for scurvy, scrofula, psoriasis and skin diseases and eruptions generally. It is a quite powerful diuretic and acts as a solvent of stones in the bladder.

The predominant uses for cleavers is external, although the tea has been recommended for stomach and intestinal catarrh and for irritations of mucous membranes, tonsillitis, arthritis, jaundice and dropsy. The juice of the fresh plant including the crushed leaves or a tea made from the dried plant is popular for skin problems and for stopping bleeding. Clivers is used in Europe for ME, Hepatitis, healing wounds and sores, psoriasis, cysts, boils, and swellings and for treating skin infections, swollen lymph glands and snakebites.

An infusion can be used to stimulate the kidneys, to help the body eliminate excess water, help cure cystitis and to expel kidney stones while the juice of the fresh herb which contains citric acid can be used for scurvy. The cold infusion removes freckles when applied externally and due to its refrigerant properties it is excellent in all cases of fever, scarlet fever and measles.

Clivers makes a good face wash to clear the complexion and used as a lotion it makes a first-rate tonic for the scalp which clears it of dandruff. It was once held to cure leprosy and is still used to treat skin cancer.

Clivers has a most soothing effect in cases of insomnia and induces quiet, restful sleep while a wash made from Clivers is said to be useful for sunburn and freckles. The herb has a special curative reputation for cancerous growths and allied tumours and was also used as an ointment for scalds and burns in the fourteenth century. It was also used for colds, swellings and diarrhoea while Clivers tea is still a rural remedy for colds in the head. In France the crushed herb is applied as a poultice for sores and blisters.

Culpepper recommends Clivers for earache while Gerard writes of Clivers as a marvellous remedy for the bites of snakes, spiders and all venomous creatures, and quoting Pliny, says: 'A pottage made of Cleavers, a little mutton and oatmeal is good to cause lankness and keepe from fatnesse.' Also cooked as a vegetable, like spinach, Clivers which the Chinese call Chu-yang-yang, was considered by the ancients as an excellent remedy for obesity and also for cleansing the blood. A medical herbalist reported the case of an overweight woman who took daily infusions of cleavers. During the first month nothing happened, but on the fifth week she began slowly losing weight and at the end of 6 months her weight was down to normal. She had lost a total of 32 lbs. and has not put them back on again.



Last Updated on Friday, 29 June 2012 18:36  



Let us know what features you might like to see on this site. Contact scribe@wightdruids.com.