Cleavers – The Spring Tonic

What could be more invigorating, waking up from the winter doldrums and bursting into spring than a tonic to do that very thing! (wow, I rhymed) There’s an herb for that! It goes by the name cleavers (or clivers or bedstraw).

You can find a huge list of things that cleavers can be good for, but today let’s focus on the word “herbal tonic”. The earth that we live on is usually the best indicator for what to use, when, where herbal tonics are concerned, and the herbs that grow in every yard and in every open place they can find in the wild, this time of year, include cleavers, chickweed, henbit, dandelion, and dead nettle.

History of Cleavers as a Spring Tonic

Cleavers enjoys a wonderful history as a cleansing remedy. It works by clearing toxins from your body’s system and reducing heat (remember, it is a cooling herb) and inflammation. Cleavers has a diuretic action, so it is helpful in helping your body get rid of wastes. It is a lymphatic system specific, which means it is a tonic that works particularly well on the lymphatic system, promoting lymphatic drainage of toxins and wastes so that they can be excreted via the urinary system.

These actions combine to make cleavers excellent for fluid retention, which in turn can provide aid to lowering blood pressure. A study conducted by French researchers in 1947 has shown that an extract obtained from cleavers seems to bring down high blood pressure. (I read this study, but lost the link… still looking)

cleavers in our pasture
cleavers is often found around growing around something it can climb up on

Cleavers has a gentle diuretic cleansing action, and as a result often helps to ease symptoms in some skin disorders like psoriasis and eczema.

Cleavers exhibits anti-spasmodic properties on the urinary and digestive tracts. It provides for an effective aid in easing the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and interstitial cystitis.
Cleavers is our finest lymphatic tonic, cleanser, and cooling diuretic. Share on X
Cleavers makes and excellent face wash as it tightens the skin. Again… spring cleaning, getting everything aired out, tightened up and ready to face the skin exposure of summer heat. Use it steady for a couple of weeks and see if you don’t agree. It works. It is especially nice when it is stored in the fridge and put on a cloth and laid on your face when you come in from doing garden work 😉

To make cleavers tea to drink or to use as a wash:

1 oz. of the fresh herb should be infused to 1 pint of water. This infusion should be taken in wineglassful doses. (approx. 4oz) It can be taken either hot or cold. Cleavers tea has a soothing effect helping you get to sleep if you find it difficult.

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I’ve read that it helps you attain a quiet, sound and restful sleep.

According to James Green… [1]

Cleavers is our finest lymphatic tonic, cleanser, and cooling diuretic.

A Couple of Recipes from other Herbalists

Rosemary Gladstar’s Lymph Congestion Tea [2]
Regular consumption of this help helps ensure proper lymphatic drainage.
2 parts clivers, aerial parts
2 parts calendula, flowers
1 part mullein, leaves
1 part spearmint, leaves (or any flavorful herb of your choice – such as orange peel, cinnamon, gogi berries, licorice)

Add 6 tablespoons to 750 ml boiling water, let sit overnight. Strain and drink 2 – 3 cups for several weeks (Gladstar, 2008).

Deb Soule‘s Herbal Cleansing Support [3]
This mix supports the hormonal system and the liver to assist the body in removing wastes.
2 parts clivers, aerial parts
2 parts red clover, flowers
1 part violet, leaves
1 part dandelion, root
2 parts calendula, flowers
2 parts licorice, root
1 part thuja, twigs

Prepare as above or in a tincture.

And this is for my friend Robin, a fav quote of mine from jim mcdonald…

Teas (for fresh or dried herbs)
Steep an arbitrary amount of an herb in an arbitrary amount of hot (not quite boiling) water for an arbitrary length of time. Strain & drink.[4]

Oh, P.S. I found this site on Plant Lore for cleavers… lots of cleaver trivia!

cleavers, the spring lymphatic cleaner


  • Green, James Herbalist “The Male Herbal” 2nd Edition 2007
  • Rosemary Gladstar “Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health: 175 Teas, Tonics, Oils, Salves, Tinctures, and Other Natural Remedies for the Entire Family” 2008
  • Deb Soule, “Roots Of Healing” Woman’s Book Of Herbs 1995
  • Herbcraft – Herbal Preperations… – Jim McDonald Herbal Preparations
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"The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease" ~ Thomas Jefferson

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