The stems and leaves of Cleavers are covered with little hooked bristles, which attach themselves to objects. Leaves are narrow, lance-shaped and rough along the margins and surface with prickles pointing backwards. They occur in whorls of 6 to 8 leaves, around and along a square, delicate, stem. They can reach up to 6 or more feet in length. The flowers are white and tiny in size, averaging 1/16 to 1/8 inch in diameter.
It is considered a valuable diuretic and is often used to treat skin problems such as seborrhea, eczema and psoriasis. It has a mild laxative effect and stimulates the lymphatic system. It is used in the treatment of glandular fever, tonsillitis, hepatitis, cystitis and as a treatment to help with liver, bladder and urinary problems.
The herb is alterative, anti-inflammatory, antiphlogistic, aperient, astringent, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic, febrifuge, tonic and vulnerary. The plant contains the valuable constituent asperuloside, a substance that is converted into prostaglandins which are hormone-like compounds that stimulate the uterus and affect blood vessels.
Cleavers is edible raw used as an addition to soups. The plant, when used as a vegetable has a slimming effect on the body. Cleavers seed is one of the best coffee substitutes, it merely needs to be dried and lightly roasted and has much the same flavor as coffee.