Herb: Goosegrass

Latin name: Galium aparine

Family: Rubiaceae (Madder Family)

Medicinal use of Goosegrass:

Goosegrass has a long history of domestic medicinal use and is also used widely by modern herbalists. A valuable diuretic, it is often taken to treat skin problems such as seborrhoea, eczema and psoriasis, and as a general detoxifying agent in serious illnesses such as cancer. The whole plant, excluding the root, is alterative, antiphlogistic, aperient, astringent, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic, febrifuge, tonic and vulnerary. It is harvested in May and June as it comes into flower and can be used fresh or dried for later use. It is used both internally and externally in the treatment of a wide range of ailments, including as a poultice for wounds, ulcers and many other skin problems, and as a decoction for insomnia and cases where a strong diuretic is beneficial. It has been shown of benefit in the treatment of glandular fever, ME, tonsillitis, hepatitis, cystitis etc. The plant is often used as part of a spring tonic drink with other herbs. A tea made from the plant has traditionally been used internally and externally in the treatment of cancer. One report says that it is better to use a juice of the plant rather than a tea. The effectiveness of this treatment has never been proved or disproved. A number of species in this genus contain asperuloside, a substance that produces coumarin and gives the scent of new-mown hay as the plant dries. Asperuloside can be converted into prostaglandins (hormone-like compounds that stimulate the uterus and affect blood vessels), making the genus of great interest to the pharmaceutical industry. A homeopathic remedy has been made from the plant.

Description of the plant:


120 cm
(4 feet)

June to

Habitat of the herb:

Hedgerows and as a weed of cultivated land. Moist and grassy places on most types of soil.

Edible parts of Goosegrass:

The tender young shoot tips - raw or cooked as a pot-herb. A rather bitter flavour that some people find unpalatable, they are best used in the spring. They make a useful addition to vegetable soups. It is said that using this plant as a vegetable has a slimming effect on the body. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute. One of the best substitutes, it merely needs to be dried and lightly roasted and has much the flavour of coffee. A decoction of the whole dried plant gives a drink equal to tea.

Other uses of the herb:

A red dye is obtained from a decoction of the root. When ingested it can dye the bones red. The dried plant is used as a tinder. The plant can be rubbed on the hands to remove pitch (tar). The stems are placed in a layer 8cm or more thick and then used as a sieve for filtering liquids.

Propagation of Goosegrass:

Seed - best sown in situ as soon as the seed is ripe in late summer. The seed can also be sown in spring though it may be very slow to germinate. Once established, this plant does not really need any help to reproduce itself.

Cultivation of the herb:

Hedgerows and as a weed of cultivated land. Moist and grassy places on most types of soil.

Known hazards of Galium aparine:

The sap of the plant can cause contact dermatitis in sensitive people.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.