Foraging,  Recipes

Cleaver Tonic – A Spring Time Cleanse

I remember my childhood days of pulling up this roadside weed and sticking it on the back of my unsuspecting sisters. Sticky willy is what I knew it as then, and its uses – only to keep me amused on a spring time walks. Little did I know it was edible and has a whole host of amazing properties.

Cleavers have several different names which include; sticky willy, sticky weed, stickybob, hitchhikers, bedstraws, goosegrass and many others. The first cleavers shoots are just appearing along roadsides, in hedgerows and other grassy verges. They are spring-time weeds that grow abundantly in unmanaged, scrubland areas.

Cleavers are an edible weed that can be prepared in a number of different ways and provide a huge number of different health benefits. As well as simply eating as a spring green, it can be used to make infusions, teas and tinctures that provide vitamins and nutrients.

Today I am going to focus on Cleavers as alterative herbs and how to make a cleansing spring time cleaver tonic.

Cleavers – An Alterative Herb

As spring arrives our ancestors would have been brewing some spring cleansing tonics, often with cleavers, that can help to clear out the body of the heavy winter foods. The winter diet would have been very carbohydrate rich comprising of grains, seeds and root veg. As the spring greens arrive, with it comes the chance for the body to cleanse and take in those vital vitamins and nutrients it would have been missing over the winter months.

Cleavers are classed as an alterative plant in herbal medicine due to their ability to gradually restore the proper function of the body. Tonics and tinctures made of cleavers are used to clear toxins from the body and increase health and vitality after the long winter.

Cleavers are a cooling herb in that they reduce heat in the body and act as a diuretic getting rid of waste and clearing the toxins from the body. They work on the lymphatic system which means they drain toxins from the body through the urinary tract and are often prescribed for water retention.


Cleaver tonic has many health benefits for the body.

  • The cleansing and diuretic properties of cleavers make this herb a useful slimming aid.
  • Cleavers are considered to have blood thinning properties, which may have a beneficial effect in lowering blood pressure.
  • Studies done of the benefits of Cleavers have also shown them to ease symptoms of psoriasis and eczema.
  • Drinking a cleaver tonic can also aid in easing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and intestinal cystitis.
  • Cleaver tonic can also be used as a face wash and acts to tighten skin ready for exposure to the summer sun.
  • Cleavers have also been used to treat a number of kidney and urinary conditions.
  • It is also an anti-inflammatory, so can be use to ease symptoms of arthritis.

How to make

This is incredibly straight forward.

Collect the small fresh shoots that start appearing in the spring. These are more tender and have the most nutrients. Give them a quick rinse and the roughly chop into large chunks. Soak in cold water in the fridge or on your counter top. I used roughly 3 or 4 handfuls with 3 – 4 pints of water. Roughly a handful per pint. Leave overnight to infuse in the fridge or 5-6 hours on the counter top.

A cold-water infusion is best with cleavers, as boiling for a tea will break down the cleavers cleansing properties.

I added a squeeze of lemon to give my tonic a little extra flavour.


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