Monday, 23 April 2012

Cleavers Spring Tonic

One of the simplest herbal tonics I can think of, cleavers spring tonic makes use of the abundant early growth of this hedgerow plant. At this time of year the base of every hawthorn hedge I pass on my cycle to work seems to be filled with the vibrant, green, upright stems and leaves of cleavers.

Cleavers (Galium aparine) is familiar to most people, especially children, as the 'sticky' plant which readily attaches to hair and clothing. Herbalists use it as a gentle but effective cleanser of the lymphatic system which is helpful in clearing up skin problems. I have heard its action described as 'a pipe-cleaner for the body', and its appearance seems to echo this!

My interest in making and drinking this tonic is to clear up a few spots on my face in time for my wedding at the end of May. I'll be taking it every evening until then and hopefully in concert with changes to my diet (such as avoiding sugar) I'll have lovely clear skin on my wedding day.

The tonic is made by filling a glass jar or other similar container with chopped fresh cleavers (stems and leaves) and adding water to the container until the plant material is covered. The container is then put in the fridge overnight and can be drunk the following day, when the water will have taken on a pale green hue and the flavour of the plant. It will keep for two to three days in the fridge.

Before collecting any plant material consult a good field guide and ensure that you can identify exactly what you are picking. Cleavers should only be collected from places away from vehicle fumes, where you can be sure that no dogs have urinated on it, and it's good practice to collect a little from a number of plants rather than stripping an area entirely, so that the plants can recover.

Surprisingly, cleavers is in the same plant family as coffee, and later in the year after flowering it produces seeds which contain caffeine.

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