Saturday, May 12, 2007

Spring Tonic

Gallium aparine-Cleavers
Spring Tonic Extraordinaire

What are the plants that spring up by your front step?

If it grows near to where you live or walk it is a reminder that it is calling to you.

For me it's Cleavers. gallium aparine.

Here is an beautiful old drawing

and the quintessential herbal info site

It's a powerful little weed. Bright green and reaching towards you, this is to me the signature of a spring tonic.

A troublesome weed to many gardeners, you'll recognize it as a plant that is long and stringy and sticks to you like velcro.

It's great for making garlands to add flowers to because it will stay on your head when everything else tends to fall awkwardly to one side.

I walked by a flower bed today and I could see some cleavers reaching up to wrap themselves around the spent tulips toward the sun. I picked the tops (about 8 inches) of four or five stalks. I put them in my purse and brought them to work. I simply placed them as they were in a heat-proof pint glass and poured boiling water over them. I let it steep for about ten minutes and have drunk about half of it and I will add more water to it throughout the day until there is no more flavor. You could also just drink it the once and compost the herb, but I like the never-ending cup of tea. It's beautiful in the glass and so alive and vital. The taste is clean, light, green and slightly sweet and mineral-y.

Cleavers are traditionally used as a purifying spring tonic, nourishing in particular to the glandular system.
tonic: An invigorating, refreshing, or restorative agent or influence.

I also make a tincture of cleavers that I reach for throughout the winter when my glands are swollen. The first time I drank my cleavers brew from the previous spring's harvest, I could feel the cool drainage down the sides of my neck within an hour.


I make my cleavers tincture in wine, because it is easily extracted, there is no need for anything stronger.
To make your own:

Simply snip cleavers into any size clean jar. Fill to the top with the herb then fill to the top with wine. You can use any wine, but I prefer to use a white wine so I can watch the color changes. I generally do a triple tincture with cleavers, which is to let the first infusion sit in the fridge for a week or two, then strain out and compost the herb adding more to the same jar of wine, increasing its potency.

Now I just wait until I feel a bit sluggish or my glands feel swollen. I'll either just nip off the top of this or I'll strain and rebottle.
I keep this in the fridge due to the low alcohol content.
The dose I take is a couple tablespoons in a beautiful cordial glass or a small jelly jar and I find it tastes better if you let it warm to room temperature. It tastes a bit like beets if it is a strong infusion. To make a stronger brew just strain the herb from the wine and to the same wine add more herb and let it set for two weeks with each batch of herb.

Don't wait on this one, it really is a Spring herb.




Thank you for your insights! I found this at the perfect time of year...

jewels said...

You're truly welcome.

Karen said...

well written and inspiring. Thank you.

janice tharaldson said...

Really well done!!!I know this little "weed" by its grasp & will now eagerly look forward to it finding me this spring so that I can follow your directions for tea....which is beautifully presented.

janice tharaldson said...

Really well done! I know this "weed" by its cling in the spring!
I'll look forward to it grabbing me this year so I can invite it home for tea! Your descriptions were clear and beautifully presented.

Melissa said...

So glad to have stumbled upon you. I am from Portland but live in Rainier now. I was wondering if July is too late to use my cleavers, seeing as this is hardly a typical July?
Thanks for the great information!

florapdx said...

Sorry I am late in replying.
Cleavers are best before they are too laden with their little velcro balls.
Spring is best, even in a late-ish spring I would say June at the latest.

I think of Spring Tonics as being Pisces.
Late February through March being their peak.

nettlejuice said...

Lovely post about cleavers.
I just found your sight and love it.