Chickweed: Stellaria media
Chickweed is a simple little herb that has been found in prehistoric and Roman excavation sites in Great Britain, is also a native to Europe and which has naturalized throughout much of the world.
The common name is derived from the fact that chickens and other fowl do well on the herb, while wild birds take the seeds. The Latin name ‘Stellaria’ refers to the tiny white star like flowers which are said to be a ‘fall out’ from the Milky Way.
The small white star-like flowers of chickweed are said to open regularly at nine o’clock in the morning on fine days, and to close at nine in the evening. And have been used to predict the weather; if they open fully into flower there will be no rain for 4 hours. However, if the flowers remain shut you will need an umbrella!
In astrology, chickweed is considered a feminine plant and is governed by the moon. Culpeper referred to chickweed as a “fine soft pleasing herb under the dominion of the moon”. He said “the juice or distilled water is of much good use for all heats and redness of the eyes, to drop some thereof into them”.
Within European folklore and magic chickweed was used to promote fidelity, attract love, and maintain relationships. While a sprig of chickweed was carried to draw the attention of a loved one, or to ensure the fidelity of one’s mate.
Due to the Vitamin C content of this herb, Sailors used it preserved in vinegar to prevent scurvy when fresh citrus was unavailable.
Growing in clumps it is a herb that teaches us to live in harmony with ourselves and with others. On closer inspection you will notice that within the ‘clump’ each separate plant has plenty of space to grow while still being in contact with the group. Chickweed shows us the importance of being a strong individual within a healthy balanced group.
Chickweed is a herb that rarely need be bought, as anyone with a garden will have it growing. It is an underappreciated herb considered by the tidy gardener as a weed; however, its ability to protect soil from drying out over winter, and from losing vital nutrients to the rain should not be overlooked.
The tender tops of this little plant contain vitamins A and C and minerals including potassium and calcium. It can be eaten in salads or gently cooked and has a light refreshing taste. Traditionally chickweed has been fed as a blood tonic in the spring and during convalescence.
Modern uses of chickweed attest to its value as a cooling remedy for inflammatory conditions, particularly of the skin. Applied fresh it will ease itchy skin conditions, burns scalds, ulcers and abscesses. The drawing properties of chickweed make it a wonderful lymphatic decongestant, especially useful for mastitis and cellulite.
Its soothing and cooling properties work equally within the digestive tract and treat inflamed conditions such as gastritis, colitis and acid indigestion. It may also be useful when treating irritable bowel, while its carminative and mild laxative properties help to relieve bloating, wind and constipation.
Chickweed’s expectorant and soothing effects can be given for sore throats, laryngitis, bronchitis, asthma, harsh dry coughs and pleurisy.
Chickweed’s diuretic action reduces fluid retention and helps eliminate toxins and heat from the body via the kidneys. This is useful when treating skin problems, arthritis, rheumatism and gout. As a soothing diuretic, it relieves fluid retention, cystitis and irritable bladder.
Chickweed can be used fresh or made into infusions, ointments, poultices and tinctures.
Chickweed is taken for unresolved emotional issues from the past that create tension or insecurity, and stop one from entering joyfully into the present. Carrying around such unresolved feelings may affect one’s health and energy, and may cause problems such as overweight, as the body adds protective layers to compensate for feeling vulnerable. Chickweed helps one to let go of the past and relax into the present moment, able to respond freely to whatever arises, without feeling of being threatened or needing to be in control.
The leaves contain saponins, excess doses of which can cause diarrhoea and vomiting. Avoid in pregnancy and when breastfeeding.