Worth it’s Weight in Gold
How many plants do you know that are effective for a variety of ailments, whether taken internally or applied topically? How many have no drug interactions and can be used in unlimited doses? How many both taste good and are incredible nutritious?
No! It’s just the humble, ubiquitous chickweed (Stellaria media), a bane to the unenlightened gardener but a boon to the rest of us.
Chickweed grows as a low, loosely tangled mat of bright green stems and small oval leaves with tiny, star shaped white flowers (hence the Latin name, Stellaria). The English name is derived from the fact that chickens love to eat this healthy plant, although it could just as easily have been called rabbit weed or goose weed. Animals know a tasty tonic when they find it.
Best harvested anytime after its first green appearance in the spring, fresh chickweed is used both internally and externally. It can be consumed as a salad, potted herb, or tea and has astringent, carminative, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, laxative and refrigerant (body cooling) properties. Traditional Chinese medicine regards chickweed as sweet, moist and cool as well as vulnerary (wound healing). It doesn’t dry well, losing many of its therapeutic qualities when dried.
The major constituents of chickweed are:
◙ Ascorbic Acid (vitamin C)
◙ Beta-carotene (vitamin A precursor)
◙ B Vitamins, thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2) and Niacin (B3)
◙ Bioflavonoids: (found in fresh vegetables and fruits; confer various health benefits including protection from heart disease and cancer). One flavonoid is rutin, which strengthens capillaries, is effective for bruises, varicose veins and hemorrhoids and shows antiviral, anti-microbial and anticancer activity.
◙ Coumarins soothe the vascular system and may benefit migraine sufferers.
◙ Gamma-linolenic acid (omega-6 essential fatty acid).
◙ Genistein (potent cancer fighter)
◙ Minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, manganese (for protein and fat metabolism and blood sugar regulation), silicon compounds, (for immune boosting, anti aging and cardiovascular health) and zinc.
In the kitchen, fresh chickweed is a nutritious and delicious addition to salads. It can also be added to soups and stews. Throw some in a blender with your favourite juice, yogurt for an inexpensive and healthful drink.
A decoction of the whole plant is prescribed for internal use as a post-partum purifier and emmenagogue promoting menstruation, galactogogue (promotes milk flow) and circulatory tonic.
When making ointment or cream, the herb is particularly effective combined with marsh mallow, a seaside plant readily found in health food stores.
Finally when harvesting chickweed or any other wild herb, ensure that the area has not been chemically sprayed. Don’t be greedy and pull the herb up by the roots. Always leave enough for the plant to regenerate and re-seed.
Herbal Remedy Hero:
Chickweed tea relieves bronchitis, coughs, hoarseness and other chest aliments. For a medicinal tea, pour one cup boiled spring water over two tablespoons of fresh chickweed, steep for 10 mins.
Topically: Chickweed is primarily used to treat eczema, minor skin wounds and rashes, and varicose veins. It can be applied as a decoction or juice or made into an ointment or cream. As a poultice or an infusion added to the baths, it can also help combat rheumatism. It’s partly the saponins that make chickweed valuable as a soothing and healing skin treatment.
1 Tbsp (15 ml) fresh chickweed
½ Tbsp (7.5 ml) fresh calendula petals
½ Tbsp (7.5 ml) fresh crushed camomile flowers
2 Cups (500 ml) distilled or purified water
1 Cup (250 ml) extra virgin cold pressed olive oil
1 ounce (28 grams) beeswax, grated or finely chopped
15 -16 drops Fryers (Balsam Tincture or Benzoin)
6 drops Lavender essential oil
Make a decoction of the herbs by simmering them in the water until it has been reduced to half a cup. Strain in a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Allow solids to settle before decanting and straining again to ensure sediment free ointment.
Melt the beeswax in the olive oil in a double boiler. Add the decoction and stir until all the moisture has evaporated (when the spluttering stops). It’s vital to cook all moisture out to prevent rancidity and mould.
Pour a small amount into a jar. If it doesn’t solidify when cool, add the balsam and essential oil. Mix well before pouring into small, darkly tinted glass jars. Allow to cool and solidify before placing lids on the jars.
To make this wonderful early spring treat combine:
2 cloves of garlic, 3 Tablespoons of pine nuts or sunflower seeds, ¼ tsp. salt, 2 packed cups chopped fresh chickweed, ½ cup olive oil, and ½ cup Parmesan cheese in a blender…
Serve this over pasta or just use it as a dip for crackers or vegetables. You can even freeze some in case you decide to make a lot at once.
Throw chickweed into a smoothie to add nutritional value and make the smoothie extra frothy!
It’s delicious and filled with nutritional value as well.
A great example of food as medicine.
Chickweed is high in vitamin C, calcium, and iron as well as many other important minerals. It is also very nourishing for the lungs.
Eating chickweed also thins the membranes of your cells so that nutrients are more readily absorbed and utilized.