|Chickweed is a common “weed” that is high in vitamins and minerals and can help relieve ovarian cysts, kidney problems, sore throats and more.
By Deb Soule
Various species of chickweed grow around our planet. A member of the Caryophyllaceae (Carnation) family, chickweed grows as an annual and reseeds easily in cool, moist soils. Its Latin genus name, Stellaria, means little star, a reference to its white, star-shaped flowers. The leaves are smooth and oval shaped, and the delicate leaf stalk has a single line of hairs running up the stem, which changes position at the nodes.
Stellaria media is the most succulent of the species and is commonly found growing in compost piles and rich damp garden beds in New England. Its presence indicates nitrogen rich soil. Chickweed can be collected in early spring and again in fall into winter (depending on where you live). Continuously harvesting the greens prevents the plant from becoming stringy. To extend chickweed’s growing season, seed it directly into coldframes or window boxes inside a greenhouse in September. You will have luscious greens to harvest from fall into early winter and again from late winter into spring. You can eat chickweed throughout the winter if you keep some in a heated greenhouse or sunroom.
Chickweed has a delicious, fresh taste and is high in minerals and vitamins.
Consumed in salads or made fresh into a tea, glycerite, tincture, succus (expressed juice), its demulcent properties soothe the digestive system, kidneys, bladder, urinary tract, sore throat, lungs and bowels. It is useful for people with stomach and duodenal ulcers to use regularly. Because chickweed is cooling and moistening, ingesting it reduces hot and dry conditions, such as fevers and dry, red, itchy, scaly skin conditions (including eczema or psoriasis). Its moistening properties help relieve constipation, and its cooling and anti-inflammatory properties ease arthritis and nonspecific joint and muscle pain.
Chickweed helps the body absorb nutrients better.
It is a safe and nourishing herb for a person of any age to take over several months when weak, chronically tired from overwork and stress, traumatized, anemic or recovering from a long-term illness or surgery.
Chickweed benefits women working to reduce and eliminate breast cysts, ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids or lymphadema. Eat a few fresh handfuls chopped into salad as often as possible or take a glycerite, succus or tincture made from the fresh herb two to three times per day over several months. Continue using the herb as a preventive three to four times a week after the growth disappears or is removed surgically.
A fresh chickweed poultice reduces swellings and inflammations from bruises, mosquito bites and bee stings; hot spots on animals; and helps heal skin ulcers and other inflamed or itchy skin conditions. A fresh poultice also draws out infections from abscesses, boils, cuts and pus-filled wounds very effectively. Years ago I helped a woman with her nine-year-old dog whose belly was covered with open, oozing, cancerous sores. Within three days of applying fresh chickweed poultices every few hours over the area, the infection drained, the odor lessened, and new pink cells formed. Soaking any inflamed wound or skin irritation once or twice a day in a strong infusion of fresh chickweed is soothing and anti-inflammatory. A chickweed salve can ease itching of eczema or psoriasis and assist in healing hemorrhoids, minor cuts, diaper rashes, skin eruptions or dry, inflamed skin rashes.
A tea made from fresh chickweed leaves and used as a wash relieves eye inflammations and helps heal eye infections (in conjunction with such herbs as Echinacea, goldenseal and eyebright), pinkeye, tired and sore eyes and eyelids that may be crusted over.
A highly restorative, nourishing and gently detoxifying juice or blended green drink can be prepared with chickweed and other spring greens, such as violets, nettle, dandelion leaves, watercress and lamb’s quarters. This drink will add strength and vitality to any northerner after a long, cold winter.
Chickweed seeds (organic) are available from Horizon Herbs, P.O. Box 69, Williams, OR 97544-0069, tel: (541)-846-6704; and Abundant Life Seed Foundation, P.O. Box 772, Port Townsend, WA 98368.
Use whatever proportions of the following ingredients you desire:
Large handfuls of freshly chopped chickweed
Grated carrots and beets
Different colors and textures of lettuce or mesclun greens
Chopped chives, parsley, lamb’s quarters and watercress
Add purple chives blossoms and Johnny jump-up flowers when available to garnish the salad.
Add toasted sunflower and/or pumpkin seeds and a handful of toasted and crumbled dulse.
3 Tbsp. sesame tahini
1 to 2 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil or olive oil
1/4 cup yogurt or water
2 to 4 Tbsp. of your favorite herb vinegar
1 Tbsp. tamari sauce
1 to 2 medium cloves of freshly chopped garlic (or more if you want)
About the author: Deb is the founder of Avena Botanicals and the Avena Institute in West Rockport, Maine. She also wrote A Woman’s Book of Herbs. You can visit her Web site at www.avenaherbs.com. This article is for information only; please consult a health care practitioner if you have a serious medical problem.