Cleavers with Angela Rahim


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Cleavers (Galium aparine) is fun to play with, fun as a bracelet, fun to stick on somebody's back…yet it has gentle, but powerful medicinal gifts, as well. Listen in as I explore the many benefits of cleavers with Angela Rahim. You’ll also receive Angela’s kid-friendly recipe for a cleavers omelette.

Angela Rahim is an herbalist, permaculturist and the author of the children's herbal adventure series called Sam: The Junior Herbalist. She's the mother of seven and resides in Ohio.

Listen in for:

► Making it fun for children to work with herbs 

► Soothing irritated skin with cleavers 

► Getting to know easily overlooked herbs


-- TIMESTAMPS -- 

  • 01:24 - Introduction to Angela Rahim
  • 02:05 - The role of family and community in Angela’s start as an herbalist
  • 03:25 - Angela shares how she introduced herbs to her children
  • 05:49 - Why Angela loves cleavers (Galium aparine)
  • 06:46 - How to identify cleavers
  • 07:50 - How Angela works with cleavers medicinally
  • 12:07 - Angela’s Cleavers Omelette recipe
  • 14:54 - How the Sam: The Junior Herbalist book series was born
  • 21:47 - Herbalism in an urban environment
  • 22:43 - Getting to know herbs on a deeper level

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Connect with Angela


Transcript of the Cleavers with Angela Rahim Video

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Hello, and welcome to the Herbs with Rosalee Podcast, a show exploring how herbs heal as medicine, as food, and through nature connection. I'm your host, Rosalee de la Forêt. I created this channel to share trusted herbal wisdom so that you can get the best results when relying on herbs for your health. I love offering up practical knowledge to help you dive deeper into the world of medicinal plants and seasonal living.

Each episode of the Herbs with Rosalee Podcast is shared on YouTube as well as your favorite podcast app. Also, to get my best herbal tips, as well as fun bonuses, be sure to sign up for my weekly herbal newsletter at the bottom of this page. Okay, grab your cup of tea and let's dive in.

I'm so thrilled to bring you this conversation with Angela. We've actually been working on getting together for months now. So, it's a pleasure that this moment has finally arrived. For those of you who don't know Angela, Angela Rahim is an herbalist, permaculturist and the author of the children's herbal adventure series called Sam: The Junior Herbalist. She's the mother of seven and resides in Ohio. Well, hello and welcome to the show, Angela.

Angela Rahim:

Thank you so much for having me. I'm so happy to be here.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Oh, it's such a pleasure to have you. Well, the first thing I want to do is just jump in and hear how you found yourself along this herbal path.

Angela Rahim:

Oh, my gosh. Well, it started quite some years ago. I met my late husband and his mother was into herbalism, and he said that he wanted his children to know about herbs and things like that, as well. So, we have six boys. Before he passed, we had six boys, and I started learning about herbalism and I was like, "Okay, well, if I'm going to do this, I need to take some classes." So, I reached out to the community and said I wanted to take classes. And with the support of the community, they paid for my herbal training. And it just went up from there.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Hmm. You were hooked then?

Angela Rahim:

Yeah.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

You were like... Kind of dipped your toes in and then it was full on in.

Angela Rahim:

Oh yeah. So, when I finished, I was like, this information is so good that I was like, "I have to go back and take another class." So, I went back to the community, said, "Hey, I enjoyed it. I really want to do it again." And the community came and they supported me and paid for another class. And then I went and did the master herbalist classes and it was great.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Hmm. I'm just assuming that it became a pretty natural thing to just immediately start working with herbs and all your children.

Angela Rahim:

Oh, yeah. So, after I finished the classes, of course I knew what dandelion was and its benefits, but then to really take the classes and then go outside and see these plants... I looked at them totally differently. It was just like, "Oh, what plant is this? I need to learn more about it." And then, of course, I had my children and I introduced them to the plants as well. So, I have a son and he's 13 right now. But when I started some time ago, he was a lot younger and he would always get bit by mosquitoes. So the first plant I introduced him to was plantain and he became fascinated with it. And then he started working with it and my children just basically naturally started really learning about it and picking up the plants and asking the names of them. And they help me a lot with my herbal studies as well.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Oh, I love that. I have thought about that a lot... Those of us who are learning now as adults  – because there's been this much-heightened interest in herbs and herbalism – and how many children are just growing up with that as just a totally natural way of life. The question of, "How did you get started on this plant path?" They'll just be like, "What plant path? That's just how I live. This has been my way of life."

Angela Rahim:

Exactly. And I didn't have that growing up and I definitely wanted my children to have it, as well. So, my son, I know everybody who's watching this is pretty familiar with Burt's Bees products. And my son, we went to the store, he looked at the ointment and he said, and he calls me ummi, which means my mother. So, he says, "Ummi, we could make this, we make this. So, you can do that." And I love that, because that's the whole thing about herbalism... It says that it's the people's medicine and it really is the people's medicine. And so, for him to even look at it and say, "Hey, we can actually do that, too," was something that I definitely wanted him and my children to realize and others... that we can do it, too.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Oh, I love that so much. So, today we're going to talk about cleavers, which is such a fun plant on so many levels. And why did cleavers come up for you as the plant that you wanted to talk about today?

Angela Rahim:

Cleavers is fun. It's something that you can easily recognize. There's no doubt about cleavers when you see it. Clingy cleavers is what I call it. It was something that I used to make little bracelets with, just putting around, and my children would play with it. My daughter would play with cleavers. So, I'm just like, it's an easy one. It's easily recognizable. So, I'd like people to get to know the plants that are around them and that, for a lot of people, they might be kind of intimidated about going out there, looking at plants and foraging for them and not really comfortable. So, I've picked a plant that I felt is pretty recognizable and there's no doubt about it.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah. So, I'm sure a lot of people will know cleavers who are watching or listening to this, but for someone who's not familiar with cleavers, how would you describe it? And we'll put images up on the screen too, but what are some identifying characteristics of this clingy plant?

Angela Rahim:

Oh, you just said it, clingy is a perfect one. It has a very, I'm going to say, velcro-ish texture to it. And it also sticks to you. And then it has the leaves that go in a whorl. So, it's pretty easily recognizable. So, I think those are the defining traits.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

I feel like a lot of kids play with cleavers, even if they don't grow up in herbalist families, just because they're fun to stick on somebody's clothing if they're not knowing or something like that, it's just a fun plant to know, because it is clingy. Yeah. I love how you love it. 

Angela Rahim:

Well, I have six boys. So, cleavers has been on somebody's back at some particular point where they didn't know it and I would just pull it off.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah. So cleavers is fun to play with, fun as a bracelet, fun to stick on somebody's back. What are some of the medicinal ways that you work with cleavers?

Angela Rahim:

So, cleavers is really good for skin-related issues. So, like I said, I have a son and he'd always end up with a rash or some kind of skin-related issue, ever since he was a baby. So, using something like cleavers is cooling, it's good for skin-related issues. So, outside of that, it's also good for the lymphatic system, as well. It's an herb that I go to, especially if I want to do something like... I don't know, sometimes people do spring cleaning. So, I say, "What about the internal spring cleaning?" So, cleavers is one of those herbs that I would use in just a gentle formula for my lymphatic system. So, that's how I like to use cleavers.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Now, when you're working with it for those different ways, how do you like to use it as a gentle internal cleanser? Do you like it as a tincture, as a tea?

Angela Rahim:

I like cleavers as a tea. I do like also putting it in my food, as well. So, sometimes I will make pestos or something of some sort, using different herbs, and cleavers would be one of those particular herbs, as well. Or I just put it in my smoothies, stuff like that.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Oh, nice. And then, what about when working with it for a small child, like with skin stuff... Is it a tea, as well?

Angela Rahim:

So, no, I actually use cleavers as an ointment. So, I use it with an oil and then I make it into an ointment and then I would apply it for... even if it's just like my son has a rash or something like that, he would carry it as an ointment and use it himself and apply it himself when he needs to.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Oh, that's nice. And do you often use it as a simple, as an ointment – or combine it with other things?

Angela Rahim:

So, I do like combining it with chickweed, because chickweed is another good, gentle skin herb, and that's one I've used on my sons if they had like a little rash or something like that... I use chickweed, as well. So, I would combine those two for an ointment.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah. I love that combination, chickweed and cleavers; that's a lovely combination. And interesting, those two do tend to kind of grow near each other and grow at the same time. Like here, they grow in the spring and then they might pop up again in the fall when cooler weather comes along. So yeah, they're nice companion plants in more ways than one.

Angela Rahim:

Oh, yeah. I love them. And they're both gentle. So, I feel pretty confident in using both of those, as well. And I've gotten great results with both of those herbs, even when I have friends with really sensitive skin and I would make them those ointments just as gifts, just to give to them for that particular thing. And then, they would say, "Oh, this is great on my skin. It feels so good. And it helped so much." So, now I just make it and then I give it to people who need it.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Nice. Yeah. That's lovely. I was just reminding myself about cleavers in anticipation of our chat. And I was reminded, I had found this writing from the 1800s of a doctor who said that he applied cleavers poultice to somebody who had leg ulcers that wouldn't heal. And the writing is a little bit stodgy or whatever. Because it's from a while ago, it's very formal. But it basically was just like... and then the leg ulcer miraculously healed after it wasn't healing, with this cleavers. And I love that about so many of our plants, they're gentle, you can rely on them, they're nourishing and then they can really make a big impact, too, when necessary. You don't have to have harsh things with really hard side effects to have benefits, as well.

Angela Rahim:

Right. Right. And I love those kind of stories, because that's what I tell my students... It's herbalism and it's been around for so long, and tried and true... One of the amazing things about herbs is that they're so beneficial and right there.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Right there, like cleavers. Yeah.

Angela Rahim:

Yep.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah. I love that you eat cleavers. I don't know that I've really had cleavers in a meal, but you have a recipe for us. It's cleavers in an omelette.

Angela Rahim:

Yes.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

So, tell us a bit about that.

Angela Rahim:

Yes. Okay. So, omelettes can be pretty forgiving, you can go ahead and, like with this recipe, everybody can tinker with it, you can add things, you can take things out. This was just basically a really simple omelette with cleavers and wild onions, eggs, some milk. And basically, I just made it into an omelette and my kids love it. You can add other herbs, as well. So, I felt like it was a pretty easy recipe and if people wanted to add some other things to that, they could. Sometimes I want to add other things with my cleavers or sometimes I just want cleavers. So, it's pretty flexible.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

I just can imagine, you could probably have some of your kids go get the cleavers, like, "Okay. It's cleavers omelette time. Go get them."

Angela Rahim:

Oh, yeah. Of course, because now – and that's one of the fun things about making the omelettes or making the recipes with the children is because they have a hands-on opportunity. They go out, they love to go out and go get it. And then they love to be a part of making it. And then, they'll actually really enjoy eating it, because they had such a big part in all of the whole process. It's not like, "Well, I'm just forcing you to eat this." And you're just like, "Ugh, I don't want it." But kids who actually take part in it have an easier time actually eating it and things like that, because they played a part in it.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah, absolutely.

This message is for the listeners. As you probably know by now, I love to share recipes when we talk about these plants. Recipes are a wonderful way for you to get involved and create your own experience with herbs. It's one thing to hear cool facts about cleavers, but an entirely other thing to form your own relationship with this plant, through observing, tending, tasting, or just sticking cleavers on the back of somebody's shirt.

To help you get to know cleavers more deeply, Angela is sharing a cleavers omelette recipe. You can download your recipe card by clicking the link above this transcript.

Well, I'm very excited to talk about your book series, Sam: The Junior Herbalist. And that's how I think you came on my radar lots earlier this year, maybe this spring or something. And I just noticed it, thought it was so cool. I don't have kids, I ordered the book, and I've since ordered several books and I give them away as gifts. So, I'm excited to hear about the book series and the workbook and all that came about from Sam: The Junior Herbalist.

Angela Rahim:

Oh, gosh. Okay. So, I'm excited to talk about Sam, too. It just was a conversation. I have an identical twin sister, she's one minute older, and I just sent her a message on Facebook. And I was like, "Yeah, I'm just thinking about this book and a child that's an herbalist from Baltimore," because that's where I'm from. And she was listening and I think she stopped typing and I was like, "Okay, guess maybe she wasn't paying me any attention."

And then, the next day, she came out with the book cover for Book One and she said, "What about this?" And I love it, because we have our twin thing... I don't know what we call it, but I didn't have to say to her, "This is what I envision him to be." She did it, she came out with it and I was like, "That's perfect." And I was like, "Let's do this children's herbal adventure series about a little boy from Baltimore and get children interested in herbalism, learn some vocabulary words at the same time. And then also, get them excited about going outdoors and looking at plants with their person and getting a hands-on experience with it."

Sam's based in the city. So, just like me, I live in the city. You don't have to live on 10 acres of land or you don't have to be out in the country – there's herbs all around us. And if we take time to get to know them, you'll find that they have so much to offer us and for us to offer them in return. So, that's pretty much how Sam came about.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

I love that. So, you were struck by this idea, and I just love that there wasn't any back and forth about it. It was just like, "Okay. Here's the cover."

Angela Rahim:

It was... Yes. It was so easy. And she made Sam embody all six of my children. They all look like Sam. So, it was perfect. So, I have six sons, she has six girls and one boy.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

No way.

Angela Rahim:

She has one boy and I have one girl. So, her son and my sons, they all look like Sam. And our children relate to the book so much, because they've all grown up or they are growing up with herbalism in their life. So, a lot of the stories when people say, "Where did you get the idea for the Sam books?" I'm like, "Well, I have six sons. So, these are plants that I've introduced them to. And these are the methods of application that I've introduced them to when they learn about those plants." So, it's basically based off a true story.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah. That's wonderful. So, you had the idea for the book, the book came out first, Sam: The Junior Herbalist. And then, you felt the need for the workbook. It was kind of like, "All right, people like this, let's dive deeper."

Angela Rahim:

Yes. I did. And I felt like... We had a school in Oakland, California buy the book for the whole elementary school.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Cool.

Angela Rahim:

And children said, "Hey, I want to be an herbalist when I grow up." I wasn't expecting anything like that. I just wanted children to know that these plants exist and you can use them. But I didn't expect children to turn around and say, "Hey, I want to be an herbalist, too." Or, "I want to learn more about plants." So, the workbook is a companion workbook. And just like we have our materia medica as herbalists, I made a little one for children that they can read more about these plants and they can go outside and say, "Oh, Sam mentioned this plant in Book One. He saw a dandelion and red clovers." And there's more information in there for children and little activities, so they can color and have some fun at the same time.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Wonderful. I think you mentioned we're coming up on a year anniversary for Sam: The Junior Herbalist.

Angela Rahim:

Yes, we are. It came out December of 2020, yeah, 2020. And it'll be one year this December, and I'm excited about it. It's gone further than I really imagined. I just was like, "Okay, I'm going to come out with this book and share with other people." And then, I see that it's in schools and in homeschool groups and people giving it away and discussions about the book and I'm really humbled by it. It's overwhelming in a good way. And I had adults who said they don't have children, who actually use the book as well, and I didn't imagine it. And I'm thankful.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

I'm curious how the process was. Because you had the idea, you got the cover, you got the story, then you created the book. Was there a big learning curve? Was it difficult to actually get it into a physical printed form?

Angela Rahim:

No. So, Sam is actually not my first book. I wrote a book about 10 years ago and it was something just about homemaking and my experience with homeschooling and homemaking with the children. It was a really easy experience. I have to actually really thank my husband, because I remarried and then I have my sister and it really was a very smooth effort. Him and I wrote the books together and we talked about the story, he helped with editing it. My twin sister, she just focused on graphics. Once we finished the book and then we actually got our copies in our hand, we were like, "This is amazing." It went from a, "Hey," Facebook message. "I'm just thinking about this book," to an actual physical copy in our hands. And we were excited. It was an amazing experience.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Oh, what a special thing that your whole family played a part in such interesting ways from the kids to husband, to sister. Yeah. And this is a series. So, you have Book One available and the workbook for Book One and you have plans to keep going.

Angela Rahim:

Oh yeah, we have Book Two, Case of the Icky Itches, and another fun one, because my son fell in poison ivy one day and I was like, "Okay, well, you know what, you are basically laying the foundation for all those stories." But yeah, we have that book and looking forward to Book Three and its companion workbooks to go with those, as well.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Oh, wonderful. What a gift. I'm so glad that these books are just getting out there. And like you said, that they're showing plants in an urban environment and inspiring kids who may not be living on 10 acres of land, like you said.

Angela Rahim:

Oh yeah. Yeah. That's the thing... I just wanted children and adults to see that there's so many beneficial plants. And the plants that I talk about are the same plants that I see in Baltimore. When I go to visit my family in Baltimore and I walk around the neighborhoods, I see chicory, I see cleavers, I see chickweed, I see plantain. And I'm like, "So many people walk past these plants on a daily basis and they really don't know what gems they have." And it's part of our purpose as herbalists to share that, "Hey, these plants are actually really beneficial. And if you take the time to get to know them, you'll unlock the secrets that they keep to themselves unless you're actually really interested in them."

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah. Well, my last question for you is one I've been asking everyone for season two and that is what along your plant path has surprised you along the way?

Angela Rahim:

Oh my gosh. Okay. I was thinking about this question for so long. What has surprised me is that I came to a point where it's just that, "Wow, I didn't realize that there's more to these plants than I realize." And every time I see a new plant and I learn about it and its qualities and how people before us used these plants, I'm always amazed. I'm deeply impressed about just the properties of these plants and how we can actually use these properties to benefit ourselves and other people. No matter how long you've been an herbalist, it's always amazing to learn more and more about plants. And it's just, I don't know, I'm a plant nerd. So, I love getting to know them. I probably take longer walks than I need to because I'm always looking at the plants and I'm just always amazed by what they offer.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah. I've been thinking about that a lot lately, too. Because sometimes I see people dismiss herbs like, "Oh, I already know that herb," and that to me does such a disservice for that person and to the herb, because there's always so much more to know. Like, how is that plant different growing in this location versus that location? Or how is it as a tea versus a tincture...or whatever other herbal preparation there is out there? And all of the just different ways of fresh versus dried, or how is it for this person versus that person? We all have our personal affinities. It is endless that we can know or experience with one herb versus all the herbs that grow around us. So, definitely, as they say, we never get bored as herbalists.

Angela Rahim:

Yes. And it's so true. And I have friends, as soon as they find out that I'm an herbalist, they'll say something like, "Oh, you probably already know this." And I say, "No, don't act like that. I might not know. So, tell me, please. And I love your enthusiasm. So, tell me what you're excited about." And it's always refreshing to hear over and over again, even about the properties that I do know about the plants. But to hear other people's excitement about it, I never want to dim that for anybody. So, I'm like, "Go ahead, tell me. And I'm so thankful that you decided that you wanted to tell me what you learned about these plants and then also that I just may learn something new." So, it's good.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah. And we all have our own experiences, too. And that's the thing. If you think about all the plants there are to know and all the experiences we can have, really, the only way we're going to collectively learn is by sharing and diving deeper.

Angela Rahim:

And that's how the herbal tradition continues. It was oral tradition. It carried on and on and on for generations to come. And that's how we got to this particular point. We were having this conversation today, because we learned about plants from someone else, and that person learned from someone else. And that's part of our mission now is that we share with other people and they keep on sharing and that's how we keep it going.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

That is so true, Angela. And I'm so grateful that you followed that spark, that your whole family got involved, and that we have the gift of Sam: The Junior Herbalist.

Angela Rahim:

Yeah. I'm excited to see where Sam goes next on his adventures.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

So am I. Thank you so much, Angela, for being here. I really appreciate it.

Angela Rahim:

You're very, very welcome. I'm on it. I've read your books. I love your work so much. So, let me have my fan girl moment. Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it. I don't even know where to begin. I couldn't tell enough people that I was doing this podcast.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

That's so sweet.

Angela Rahim:

Yeah.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Well, I feel likewise. We've been communicating on social media for a while now and I've been watching your posts and likewise have a lot of admiration for you, too. So, yeah.

Angela Rahim:

Thank you.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Thank you so much for being here. Thanks for your kind words.

Angela Rahim:

You're very welcome.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Thanks for reading. Don't forget to click the link above this transcript to get free access to Angela's cleavers omelette recipe. You can also visit Angela directly at www.SamTheJrHerbalist.com. If you enjoyed this interview, then before you go, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter below, so that you'll be the first to get my new videos, including interviews like this. I'd also love to hear your comments about this interview and this lovely plant. I deeply believe this world needs more herbalists and plant-centered folks. I'm so glad you're here as part of this herbal community. Have a beautiful day.


Rosalee is an herbalist and author of the bestselling book Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients Into Foods & Remedies That Heal and co-author of the bestselling book Wild Remedies: How to Forage Healing Foods and Craft Your Own Herbal Medicine. She's a registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild and has taught thousands of students through her online courses. Read about how Rosalee went from having a terminal illness to being a bestselling author in her full story here.  



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