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As spring very slowly starts to lengthen the days and warm the soil plants start to poke through, braving the last of the frosts and reaching up optimistically,

unfurling their first leaves in anticipation of sunnier days ahead.

Some of these first arrivals are what herbalists over many centuries have classed as Spring Tonic Herbs, so important in the days before freezers and imported fruit and veg as they helped replenish vitamins and minerals lost over the winter months and

support the immune system in recovering from winter ills.

In this blog we are going to look at one of those plants, Cleavers, or Gallium aperine.

Also known as Goosegrass or Sticky Willy most of our first encounters with cleavers start in childhood when we pull it from the hedgerows and stick it to the backs of our unsuspecting friends running away laughing. In fact those sticky burrs have a purpose, sticking to passing wildlife and helping to distribute this common plant widely. Easily identifiable even in spring before the sticky burrs form it's long narrow leaves circle the stem in a whorl. The stems and leaves have tiny hooks which help it clamber through the hedgerow and these distinguish it from the visually similar Sweet Woodruff, or Galium odoratum which has a lovely sweet smell when dried, more about that one in another blog!

Once used as a milk straining sieve by shepherds the seeds were once

dried and ground as a substitute for coffee.

As a medicinal herb it is most well known for it's effect on the lymphatic system, helping to support it during and after illness, like many other herbs it can be made into a tincture or tea, in medieval times it was added to salads in spring for its medicinal and nutritive properties.

It is a very cooling herb and helps expel accumulated toxins through the urinary tract, it is an excellent remedy for swollen glands and sore throats.

Today we are going to make a cold Cleavers infusion, one of the best ways to harness its wonderful properties, all you need is a handful of fresh washed Cleavers, a jar or jug, and some cold water.

Next cover your chopped Cleavers with cold water, leave overnight then strain and drink cold, or pop in the fridge to have later. The cold infusion is also soothing for skin complaints such as eczema and psoriasis.

You can pop the strained herb in your compost :)


Kate x


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