Clivers or Goosegrass is a truly cosmopolitan herb, having made itself at home practically everywhere it went or was inadvertently taken to. A relative of such botanical eminences as coffee and cinchona, the source of quinine, cleavers is mostly regarded as a lowly, invasive weed. Its common name goosegrass refers to the fact that geese are very fond of it, while clivers or cleavers as well as most of its local names refer to its clinging nature. At first the plant gives quite a straggly and feeble impression, but this is only half the truth. In fact it is quite tough and stringy, covered all over with tiny hooks that assist it in scrambling even through thick mats of undergrowth and hedgerow herbs. Clivers can reach an astonishing 9 feet in height. It is indeed rather clingy though, a clever device to utilize unsuspecting passers by as dispersal agents for its seeds. The seeds are edible and lightly roasted make a good substitute for coffee.
Clivers tend to be under utilized for medicinal purposes for it is indeed a most useful healing herb. Its action is cleansing and alterative. It clears obstructions, especially of the lymphatic system. Its primary action is on the kidneys, bladder and liver. It used to be used as a blood cleansing agent, especially for spring cleanses, but also when fasting. It is said to help those that suffer from obesity, but should be avoided in cases of diabetes. It is a powerful diuretic and helps to break down and eliminate stones. By its inner cleansing action it is indicated in all types of skin conditions that are due to impurities of the blood. It is even used as a remedy for ulcers, tumours and cancerous growth, both as an external application (ointment) and simultaneous doses of expressed juice. It is soothing as an application to irritable skin conditions and the effects of stinging nettles and older writers recommend it for the bites of venomous beasts, snakes and spiders.
Clivers is used in love magic. At midsummer's night (St. John's) girls would wind a wreath of clivers as they circled the midsummer fire and solemnly proclaimed a rhyme to the effect that their future loves should appear, either on the spot or at midnight in front of their beds. The clinging nature of this herb, also referred to as 'loveman', no doubt contributes to its magical use.