Now that the sun’s finally out, we’ve been walking a lot and spending time in nature. I’ve become increasingly fascinated by nature’s medicinal properties. Recently, I wrote about the health benefits of dandelions, and here’s another ‘weed’ that has surprising benefits… Cleavers (also known as Stickleweed, Goosegrass, catch-weed, hedge-burs, scratch, stick-a-back, and in Scotland, sticky willy).

As children, we loved to throw cleavers at each other, and Kenny, our cat, often brings them in on his fur. This sticky weed is more than just a garden nuisance; it’s a powerhouse of health benefits and easy to incorporate into your diet.

According to the Eat Weeds website, cleavers were a valuable plant in medieval kitchens because they could be picked in frost or snow. The plant’s hook-like bristles soften when boiled. Its chopped leaves and stems can be made into soups and stews, while the tender shoots can be boiled and buttered as a vegetable.

So What are the Health Benefits of Cleavers

Lymphatic System Support:

Cleavers help stimulate lymphatic drainage, reducing swelling and assisting in toxin removal from the body.

Diuretic Properties:

As a natural diuretic, cleavers promote increased urine production. This helps flush out toxins and reduce water retention, aiding in detoxification.

Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant:

Cleavers have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, reducing inflammation and protecting cells from oxidative damage. This makes them beneficial for overall health and chronic disease prevention.

Skin Health, Haircare and Deodrant:

Applied externally, cleavers can help with skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and acne due to their soothing and anti-inflammatory effects. Field Fresh website says, Cleavers contain three distinct acids: tannic acid, citric acid and rubichloric acid. It’s great for eczema and psoriasis and makes a good face wash to clear the complexion. It can also be used to treat sunburn and in an ointment for scalds and burns. In a hair tonic, it will improve texture and shine as well as treating dandruff. In addition, it is a good herb to use in making natural deodorants.

Digestive Aid:

Cleavers act as a mild laxative, aiding digestion and relieving issues such as constipation.

Immune Support:

The herb’s tonic effect can help strengthen the immune system, making it more effective in warding off infections.


How to use Cleavers

Cleavers can be used in both fresh and dried forms, in hot or cold water. Here are some traditional and modern ways to enjoy this versatile sticky herb:


Herbalists suggest steeping a handful of chopped fresh cleavers overnight in cold water and leave in the fridge. The next day, drink the infusion throughout the day for a refreshing and health-boosting beverage.

Herbal Tea:

You can also steep fresh or dried leaves and stems in hot water to make a soothing cleavers tea. This method is perfect for extracting the herb’s beneficial compounds.


Fresh cleavers can be juiced alone or combined with other fruits and vegetables. Spring is the best time to juice cleavers when they are young and tender.


Blend fresh cleavers with water and berries to make a nutritious and refreshing drink. This combination is delicious and packed with health benefits.


Cleavers are in the same family as coffee. The fruits of cleavers have often been dried and roasted and then used as a coffee substitute, which contains less caffeine.


Add young cleavers to salads for a mild flavour boost. You might prefer to skip the bristly texture and boil them first. They are a great addition to various dishes without overpowering other ingredients.


Cleaver poultices can be applied to the skin to reduce irritations, inflammations, wounds, or burns. They’re good for bites and stings too.

Potential Dangers and Precautions

While cleavers offer many health benefits, there are some precautions to consider:

  • Cleaning and Safety: Before use, thoroughly wash cleavers to remove any dirt or contaminants. It’s important to pick your cleavers from areas away from polluted roads or industrial sites to avoid potential contamination.
  • Allergic Reactions: Some people may be allergic to cleavers. If you experience any adverse reactions, discontinue use and talk to a healthcare provider.
  • Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid using cleavers due to the lack of sufficient safety data.
  • Medication Interactions: Cleavers may interact with certain medications, especially those affecting the lymphatic or urinary system. Consult with a healthcare provider if you are on any medication.


Cleavers is a natural remedy that offers a range of health benefits. From supporting the lymphatic system to improving skin health and digestion, this versatile herb is worth incorporating into your wellness routine. Whether you enjoy it as a tea, juice, salad addition, or tincture, cleavers can provide a natural boost to your health. Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new herbal regimen, especially if you have existing health conditions or are taking medications.

Stories, Science, and Secrets

For even more exploration of the natural world, tune in to our “Stories, Science, and Secrets” podcast: here.  Join us as we delve into the fascinating world of biomimicry and the inspiring ways science learns from nature’s genius.

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