Cleavers (Galium aparine)
Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.
Acumin, amor-de-hortelã (Portuguese - Brazil), amor de hortelano (Spanish), anthraquinon, aparine (Italian, Portuguese - Brazil), asperuloside, asperulosidic acid, attacca mano (Italian), attacca veste (Italian), aucubin, barweed, bed-straw, bedstraw, Burre-Snerre (Danish), cafeic acid, caglio asprello (Italian), campestrol, catchweed, chlorogenic acid, citric acid, coachweed, cleever, clivers, coumarin, eriffe, erva-pegavosa (Portuguese - Brazil), everlasting friendship, flavonoid, gaillet (French), gaillet gratteron (French), gallotannic acid, Galium aparine, Gewöhnliches Kletten-Labkraut (German), gia mara, glucosides, goosebill, goosegrass, grateron, Grepagras (Norwegian), grip grass, harmine, hashishat al af'a (Arabic), hayriffe, hayruff, hedge clivers, hedgeheriff, iridoid glucosides, iridoidasperulosidic acid, Kaz Yogurtotu (Turkish), Kierumatara (Finnish), Kleber (German), Klebkraut (German), Klebriges Labkraut (German), Kleefkruid (Dutch), Klenge (Norwegian), Klengemaure (Norwegian), Klengjemaure (Norwegian), Kletten-Labkraut (German), Kletternde Labktaut (German), Klifurmaðra (Icelandic), Klimmendes Labkraut (German), Krókamaðra (Icelandic), Krøkin steinbrá (Faroese), loveman, mutton chops, p-coumaric acid, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, pega-pega (Portuguese - Brazil), philanthropon (Greek), Przytulia czepna (Polish), Præstelus (Danish), protopine, Ragadós galaj (Hungarian), Robin-run-in-the-grass, Roomav madar (Estonian), rough bedstraw, Rubiaceae (family), rubichloric acid, saponins, scratweed, silicic acid, sitosterol, Snärjmåra (Swedish), Snärmåra (Swedish), stickyweed, sticky-willy, stickywilly, stigmasterol, Svízel přítula (Czech), tannins, Tene (Norwegian), Tirmanici yogurtotu (Turkish), Vitblommig snärjmåra (Swedish), zhu yang yang (Chinese).
Note: Other Galium species, such as Galium spurium L. (False cleavers), will not be discussed in this monograph.
Cleavers (Galium aparine) is a climbing plant native to North America, Europe, and Asia. It has been used to coagulate milk. According to some herbalists, cleavers is a good lymphatic and blood purifying tonic and is often used to treat swollen glands and skin eruptions caused by lymphatic congestion. It has also been recommended as a diuretic for chronic cystitis (inflamed bladder) and prostatitis (enlarged prostate), and has been used traditionally as a treatment for epilepsy. Currently, there is insufficient evidence in humans to support the use of cleavers for any indication.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
No available studies qualify for inclusion in the evidence table.
*Key to grades:A: Strong scientific evidence for this use; B: Good scientific evidence for this use; C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use; D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work); F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.
Antihypertensive, anti-inflammatory, antiperspirant, antipyretic, astringent, benign prostatic hypertrophy, blisters, blood cleanser, breast pain/inflammation, cancer , choleretic, chronic prostatitis, common cold, cystitis, dandruff, deodorant, detoxification, diarrhea, diuretic, earache, edema, enuresis, epilepsy, gallbladder stones, gout, hepatitis, hormonal effects, hysteria, immunomodulator, insect bites and stings (poisonous), insomnia, kidney cleanser, kidney stones, laxative, lymphadenitis, mastitis (animals), menopause, psychological disorders, relaxation/stress/anxiety, restlessness, scurvy, skin eruptions, stomach ailments, sunburn, swollen glands, tonsillitis, ulcers, urinary disorders, withdrawal from narcotics, wound healing.
The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.
Adults (18 years and older)
Although not well-studied in humans, a version of the red clover combination tea modeled after the Hoxsey formula that contains equal parts red clover, burdock, dandelion root, sarsaparilla, Oregon grape, cleavers, buckthorn, poke, echinacea, licorice, ginger, and wild yam (1 tablespoon of the herbal combination simmered in a cup of boiling water for 10 minutes) has been used at a dosage of 1/2 cup every 1-2 hours for one week.
Secondary sources claim that medium-strength doses of cleavers formulated using 2-4g of the dried herb, 2-4mL of a 1:1 25% fluid extract, or 4-10mL of a 5:1 25% tincture, may be taken three times a day.
Traditional practitioners have recommended that a tea made from the cleavers plant may be used internally and externally for the treatment of cancer. Other secondary sources claim that the juice of the plant may be more useful than a tea. There is insufficient evidence in humans, however, to support the use of cleavers for any indication.
Children (younger than 18 years)
There is no proven safe or effective dose for cleavers in children.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to cleavers (Galium aparine), its constituents, or members of the Rubiaceae family.
Side Effects and Warnings
There is insufficient evidence in humans to support the use of cleavers for any indication, as well as a lack of safety information. Cleavers has traditionally been used as a diuretic and caution is advised in patients taking diuretics or with urinary or renal (kidney) disorders.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Cleavers is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to a lack of available scientific evidence.
Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.
Interactions with Drugs
Although not well studied in humans, cleavers may have diuretic, anti-inflammatory, antigout, antineoplastic, laxative, and hormonal properties. Caution is advised when taking cleavers with other agents that have these effects.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Although not well studied in humans, cleavers may have diuretic, anti-inflammatory, antigout, antineoplastic, laxative, and hormonal properties. Caution is advised when taking cleavers with other herbs or supplements that have these effects.
This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
Deliorman D, Calib Y, Ergun F. Iridoids from Galium aparine. Pharmaceutical Biology 2001;39(3):234-235.
Ergun F, Deliorman. D, Velioglu A,. Sener. B. Antimicrobial activities of Galium species. GUEDE J Fac Pharm. Gazi. 1999;16: 7-11.
Lans, Turner N, Khan T, et al. Ethnoveterinary medicines used for ruminants in British Columbia, Canada. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2007 Feb 26;3:11. PMID: 17324258
Morningstar, H. W. Eat Your Weeds! Sentient Times: Alternatives for Personal & Community Transformation 1999;7(4):14-15.
Sener, B. and Ergun, F. Isolation and structural studies on the alkaloids of Galium aparine L. GUEDE J Fac Pharm Gazi 1988;5:33-40.
Temizer A, Sayın F, Ergun F, et al. Determination of total flavonoid in various Galium species by differential pulse polarography. 1996.
Tierra, M. American Herb Association Quarterly Newsletter 1990;7(2):10.
Tzakou O, Couladi MM, Philianos S. Fatty acids and sterols in spring and winter samples of Galium aparine. Fitoterapia 1990;61:93.
Wisdom of an Elder: Dr. Douglas Kirkbride. Medical Herbalism: A Journal for the Clinical Practitioner 1996;8(3):14-15.
Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.
March 22, 2017