Galium aparine- health benefits and side effects

Galium aparine- health benefits and side effects

It is said that you don’t find Galium aparine; it finds you. This herb, which you may know under the more popular name of Goosegrass, uses its multiple small hooks to cling onto almost everything it touches.

The following paragraphs will introduce you to the secrets of this sticky weed: you will discover not only a botanical hitchhiker, but also a plant with a spectacular medicinal past, present and future.

Alternative Denomination and Spread

The list of colloquial names under which you can find Galium aparine is long and varies a lot according to the region of this plant’s growth. Ancient Greeks made fun of its clinging nature and called it “philanthropon”, which literally means “man loving”. Contemporary popular denominations include “cleavers”, “goosegrass”, “barweed”, “hedgeheriff”, “tongue bleed”, “hayriffe”, “grip grass”, “sticky bud”, “catchweed”, or “mutton chops”.

Galium aparine can be found almost anywhere in the northern hemishpere (all throughout Europe, North America, and some parts of Asia). It occurs as far north as Alaska and Greenland, but it’s hardiness made it easily adaptable even in new habitats, such as Australia, New Zealand, and the sub-Antarctic isles.

No matter the continent, this plant is a common sight in hedgerows, shingle banks and field margins, in moist and grassy surroundings on most kinds of soil. In lands cultivated with cereal crops, Galium aparine is very often seen as a troublesome weed.


Galium aparine is a herbaceous annual plant belonging to the same family as coffee (Rubiaceae). Its stems often exceed 3 feet in height and, if provided with climbing space – even if only on the tops of other plants - they can triple their length. These slender four-angled stems are covered with narrow, linear leaves arranged in groups of 4 to 8.

Goosegrass flowers are small and star-shaped, colored in a white-greenish shade, and clustered in groups of maximum 3. Their blooming period covers almost the entire spring and summer. After that, Galium aparine develops tiny, round fruits covered, just like the entire plant, in hooked hairs clinging to skin, fur and clothing – this is a rather efficient distribution strategy, which has much contributed to the plant’s wide geographical distribution.


All the parts of Galium aparine are edible, even if they are not particularly tasty. Eating it raw is not very recommended, since the numerous small hooks covering the herb not only make it less palatable, but can also produce mouth injuries.

Nevertheless, if harvested before the apparition of fruits and properly cooked, Galium aparine leaves and stems may be used as a leaf vegetable in soups, side-dishes, and salads – as it happens in Chinese cuisine. Dried and roasted, the seeds are suitable for the preparation of a coffee-substitute drink, with a much lower caffeine content. The good news is that is tastes just like coffee!

Moreover, if you boil for 10 or 15 minutes the tender young tips of Galium aparine, you will get an excellent green tea with a rather bitter flavour. Rumour has it that infusions and decoctions made from this herb have a slimming effect on the body, apart from many other medicinal properties.


The chemical structure of Galium aparine is rather complex; it includes iridoid glycosides (such as monotropein and aucubin), alkaloids (caffeine), flavonoids, coumarins, and organic acids (citric acid, among others). This unique combination of physiologically-active compounds qualifies the plant for a variety of therapeutical uses.

A Valuable Partner in Detoxification

Galium aparine has a long history of domestic medicinal use as a general detoxifying agent, while also being recommended by many modern herbalists. Its diuretic action elliminates the water accumulation in the tissues, so you will no longer have to worry about swollen feet and water retention.

Taken internally in infusions or decoctions, Galium aparine has a strong detoxifying action; as a lymphatic tonic, it enhances the functioning of your lymphatic system, which means that it will help you get rid of toxins. It is also a strong cure for swollen lymph glands, thus being used in cases of tonsillitis, glandular fever, and recurrent throat infections.

Used in combination with other herbs for making spring tonic drinks, it strengthens your immune system and, thanks to its high concentration of citric acid, it has considerable anti-tumor activity. Galium aparine is also much appreciated in improving the functioning of the liver, the pancreas, and the spleen, by purifying the blood from toxic wastes.

Skin Disorders

When it comes to the external homeopathic use of Galium aparine, it is important to mention that poultices and washes made from this plant have been traditionally used against a wide range of skin ailments, from light wounds, curs and burns, to the treatment of eczema, psoriasis, and seborrhoea. A poultice made using all parts of the plant has beneficial effects if applied directly on the affected area.

Other Medicinal Uses and Benefits

Galium aparine’s relatively high content of coumarin recommends this plant for treating bladder and kidney ailments, including stones, dropsy and fever. It is enough to drink 2 or 3 cups of infusion per day, for a couple of months; this will also decrease high blood pressure and have a tonic, rejuvenating effect upon your entire organism. On the other hand, plant extracts rich in asperuloside will act as a mild sedative, being recommended in cases of insomnia.

Apart from what has already been mentioned, the whole Galium aparine plant has antiphlogistic (anti-inflammatory and febrifuge) action; it also works as an aperient (gentle laxative), depurative, and astringent agent.

Cautions and Recommendations

The hooked hairs covering Galium aparine are bristly to touch and, for this reason, they are likely to cause contact dermatitis or severe skin irritation in sensitive people. In addition, its diuretic action requires more caution froom patients suffering from diabetes.

Remember that, despite their many beneficial effects, not all the natural remedies are safe under any circumstances. This is why, previous to administering Galium aparine homeopathic products internally or externally, we advise you to seek qualified medical advice, in order to avoid any unpleasant side effect or adverse reaction.

It’s up to you to make your treatment safe and healthy!