Galium aparine. Cleavers.
Nat. Ord. — Rubiaceae. Sex. Syst. — Tetrandria Monogynia.
Description. — This plant has many common names, as Goose-grass, Catch -weed, Bed-straw, etc. ; it is an annual, succulent plant, with a weak, procumbent, quadrangular, retrorsely-prickled stem, which grows from two to six feet long, and is hairy at the joints. The leaves are one or two inches in length, and two or three lines in width, verticillate in sixes, sevens, or eights, linear-oblanceolate, nearly sessile, mucronate, tapering to the base, rough on the margins and midvein ; peduncles axillary, one or two-flowered. Flowers white, small, numerous, scattered. Calyx four-toothed ; corolla rotate, four-parted ; stamens four, short ; styles two. Fruit large, bristly with hooked prickles.
History. — This plant is common to Europe and the United States, growing in cultivated grounds, moist thickets, and along fences and hedges, and flowering from June to September. Its root consists of a few hair-like fibers, of a reddish color. There are several varieties of this plant, all of which possess similar medicinal virtues, as Galium Asprellum, or Pointed Cleavers, which differs from the above in having its leaves in whorls of four or six, and smaller, its fruit smooth, its stem less in length, and is perennial ; Galium Verum, or Yellow Bed-straw, with an erect stem, leaves in whorls of eight, root long, perennial, fibrous, flowers densely paniculate, yellow, and terminal ; Galium Trifidum or Small Cleavers, with a perennial root, decumbent stem, herb smaller than the others, leaves in fours or fives, and white flowers.
In the green state these plants have an unpleasant odor, but are inodorous when dried, with an acidulous, astringent, and bitter taste. Cold or warm water extracts the virtues of the plants; boiling destroys them. They have not been analyzed. The roots dye a permanent red, and the plant when eaten by animals, colors the bones similar to madder. The flowers are said to curdle milk, but this property is not constant.
Properties and Uses. — This is another remedy of the Eclectic school of medicine, the virtues of which are unknown to allopaths. It is a most valuable refrigerant and diuretic, and will be found very beneficial in many diseases of the urinary organs, as suppression of urine, calculous affections, inflammation of the kidneys and bladder, and in the scalding of urine in gonorrhea. It is contra-indicated in diseases of a passive character, on account of its refrigerant and sedative effects on the system, but may be used freely in fevers and all acute diseases. It has been recommended in scorbutic and nervous affections, but cannot be depended upon. An infusion may be made by macerating an ounce and a half of the herb in a pint of warm water for two hours, of which from two to four fluidounces may be given three or four times a day, when cold. It may be sweetened with sugar or honey. Equal parts of cleavers, maidenhair, and elder-blows, macerated in warm water for two or three hours, and drank freely when cold, form an excellent drink in acute erysipelas, scarlatina, and other exanthematous diseases, in their inflammatory stages.
The infusion made with cold water is also considered very beneficial in removing freckles from the face, likewise lepra, and several other cutaneous eruptions ; the diseased parts must be washed with it several times a day, and continued for two or three months in cases of freckles.
Off. Prep. — Infusum Galii.