At this time of year, just before the winter sets in, I like to ally with an herb called Cleavers for a 2 week period to prepare my body for the warrior season of winter. Cleavers, botanically named Galium aparine, are also called Everlasting Friendship, Grip Grass, Sweethearts, Love-man, and Sweethearts. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? While it’s not an aphrodisiac herb per se, there is a lot to love about this clingy little plant friend.
The cleaver plant is found in hedgerows and fields where there are bushes, with tiny flowers and small prickly green fruits. The stems are “hairy,” and stick to animals, other plants, and people passing by it. It is one of the first wild plants to sprout as early as January.
Cleavers is an excellent tonic for the Lymph System.
When we think of winter, we usually think about building up and strengthening our immune systems for potential dangers such as colds, flus, and viruses. That is true. We must also be aware of the importance of the health of our lymph system in building our immunity. The lymph system, part of the circulatory system, “provides a vehicle for the elements of the immune system to travel about monitoring the body’s internal environment and maintaining the stability of the body functions.” (Rosemary Gladstar) Different parts of our bodies are protected by groups of lymph nodes. For example, nodes on the neck protect the head, nodes under the arms protect the chest, and so on. Often the first indication of an infection in the throat is that swollen feeling in the glands (which are really clusters of immune system cells), an indication that the body is waging war on a foreign invader, and healing itself.
A clear, flowing lymph system is pivotal in our overall health and wellness, though it can be prone to toxic buildup or stagnancy. That is because another function of the lymph is to carry various wastes from the liver and cellular metabolism. When the lymph system is overburdened with wastes, it is unable to filter and neutralize waste properly, resulting in inflammation, chronic fatigue, and reduced immune response. Cysts, tumors, prostate infections, urinary infections, and even pimples are also caused by buildup of lymph toxins. When the lymph system is weakened or backed up, the immune system cannot function optimally by any means.
That is why cleavers are such a treasured ally at this time – before winter comes, and also in the Spring, to cleanse the body once more. Cleavers are Nature’s gift to us in relieving lymph buildup. They actually help the lymph system in its job of neutralizing metabolic wastes! Oftentimes, chronic skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne, and eruptive infections are lymph-related and can be improved with lymph-cleansing. Other conditions related to the lymph are ear-infections, swollen adenoids, glands, and tonsillitis.
Last year, I allied with Cleavers and Milk Thistle for a 2 week period. I made a delicious tincture that I called “Celebration of the Changing Seasons tincture,” featuring these two herbs. Cleavers for the lymph and Milk Thistle for the liver. I felt great, did not have a flu shot, nor did I get sick once throughout the winter. This 2 week Cleaver cleanse in conjunction with exercise, eating seasonally, dressing warm, and allying with other herbs for warmth and nourishment in the winter are all you need to build a fortress of wellness around yourself for winter.
Try cleavers :tea, tincture, infused in vinegar or honey, or fresh in salads.