Cleaver Tea - with a Touch of Chickweed

Tea Tuesday: Cleavers

“Reduce excesses, but not excessively.”


As we enter into mid-Spring in the South, the conversation turns to cleansing our bodies from the rich foods; the slower movement; and the inherent build up of excess waste from the Winter months.

We can look at cleansing our bodies in the same way as we look at maintaining our automobiles. If they are evaluated and cared for regularly, they will run better, last longer, and not break down. So it is with our body.

There are many ways to “cleanse:”

  • from fasting;
  • to water/juice based diets;
  • to exercise;
  • to elimination diets;
  • to baths and saunas;
  • to specific liver detox programs;
  • and the list continues with some creative, even scary, options.

All have their pros and cons with much personal research needed to make sure whatever you choose is safe for your body type, your nutritional profile and your goals.

(For a subsequent post, it is also fascinating to see that many religious holy days of cleansing and fasting occur in the Spring in an effort to promote clarity, purpose, faith, and spiritual health.)

As if to “know” what we need to be well, Spring brings “gentle gifts” to us through the cooling and cleansing greens bursting forth on the early warm days. And, medicinal infusions are a great way to begin the cleansing process.

This infusion of CLEAVERS (with a touch of chickweed) steeped overnight to be enjoyed throughout the next day. This tea is recommended for dissolving calcium stones and as a general diuretic, astringent, anti-inflammatory, and lymphatic tonic. The old Herbals, it is extolled for its powers and it is still employed as a purifier of the blood, the tops (as seen in the photo) being used as an ingredient in “spring drinks,” as a sleep soother for insomnia, and for “colds in the head.”

It tastes like a weak black tea without any of the “plant-like, dirt-like” aftertaste. (Btw, I let the leaves dry overnight to reduce the water content.)

The red brown tint of this infusion is of no surprise since it belongs to the MADDER (Rubiaceae, 3000+ species) family where many species, including the cleavers, have roots which yield a bright red dye. Cleavers share kinship with Cephalanthus (Button Bush, one of my favorite pollinator shrubs); Houstonia (Bluets, blooming in Southern fields as we speak), Mitchella (Partridgeberry, a beautiful native woodland ground cover), Rubia tinctorum (Madder Vine, of red dye fame), AND COFFEE!

Cleavers get its name by being covered with Velcro-like stickers that cling to the clothing of passersby! The hooked bristles also fasten themselves 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 other common name “bedstraw” comes from the practice of filling mattresses with the plants which apparently do not pack down flat, but retain some loft.

Cleavers incorporated in your Spring protocol is important as a adjunct to any liver cleansing as a way to make sure the extra toxins make their way from the lymphatic system and are eliminated timely and well.

This infusion is a great, and tasty, way to start – but, you can also use it as a potherb, salad green, tincture, dried tea, juice, wash, oil, ointment, vinegar, and poultice.

Resources Reviewed: Botany in a Day by Thomas Elpel; Medicinal Plants, Trees and Herbs by Sophia Grieve, and Staying Healthy with the Seasons by Elson M. Haas, M.D.