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The bedstraws.

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Ubiquitous herbs, but I only use two species.

You'll find bedstraws (Galium spp.) everywhere. The most common one, up here, is white bedstraw, Galium album. It's so common that I haven't even gotten around to taking pics of it yet - it's invisible, just green noise.

People frequently misspell it as gallium. Umm, no, that's a chemical element (which is why your spellchecker doesn't flag it), it's not a herb.

I've only used two kinds of galiums:

  • cleavers (Galium aparine and similar clingy bedstraws), and
  • yellow bedstraw, (Galium verum).

My plant name database turns up lots of galiums. Most of the old tomes (linked from King's) only mention cleavers; but both King's and the USDisp mention other galium species, as well.

I use these two in recurrent urinary tract infections. They're also very good lymphatics. Howie said (about red root) on a list for herbalists, that red root, Ceanothus, is stronger than cleavers but weaker than poke root, Phytolacca.

That means cleavers is the weakest lymphatic of those three.

Ceanothus and phytolacca are both exotics to me, and I have cleavers and yellow bedstraw all over the place - the cleavers in damp meadows and vegetable plots, and the yellow bedstraw on dry meadows. They're easily picked in quantity, easily dried, and easy to add to tea blends.

Picking cleavers: pull up the plants (they're annuals), remove yellow and brown bits, make into a wreath, and store that on your head until it gets so heavy that it slides off. Take the top-heavy thing inside (or put it into a basket or paper bag), and go out and weed some more. There's capsella and bidens to be had in the same spots, but it's a poor herbalist who only gets three medicinals when weeding the veggies.

Picking yellow bedstraw: I cut a few flower stalks from the edges of larger yellow bedstraw clumps (they're perennials); on a largish meadow that gives me a basketful in a little under an hour. There's a but: there's lots of horseflies on the hot summer meadows in yellow bedstraw time, so it's not all that comfy: either swat away the horseflies all the time, or get bitten, or cover up completely and sweat as you go.

Drying them: I hang them up to dry, the cleavers as is (it clings to itself), the yellow bedstraw in bundles of 10-12 flower stalks per bundle.

They're lovely little herbs. I'm told (but I haven't tried it) that you can roast the clingy seeds of cleavers for a substitute coffee - sounds like a lot of work, and you'd need oodles and doodles of cleavers for that.

And an overnight infusion of cleavers is extremely tasty. Mmmm, a hint of nuts. Lovely, with or without milk. Gotta make some more of that. It's even better than nettles.

Related entries: Picking yellow bedstraw - The bedstraws - The yellow herbs of summer: Yellow bedstraw

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