Chickweed Materia Medica
Stellaria media, Caryophyllaceae
Literally means “in the midst of stars”
Chickweed is a low grower who knows no boundaries. She sneakily, sweetly sprawls, hugging the earth and producing a soft green carpet in her wake. Chickweed loves cool weather and cool, damp places. You will find her in moist, fertile, low spots of the land, alive and kicking in winter, early spring, and even into summer in cooler climates. Chickweed is shy, blending in with other garden weeds and hiding her gentle white, star-shaped blossoms until mid-day. Chickweed is good for the garden. She helps soil retain nitrogen and forms a protective barrier for gardens in the off-growing months. Chickweed has naturalized herself throughout the US and if you see her, you should use her- her medicine is absolutely best fresh (seriously, don’t even bother with dried Chickweed. Her power is held in the moment)
Chickweed is a nutritive tonic, rich in minerals. Eat her daily if you can! Chickweed is a cooling agent in her anti-inflammatory, anti-pyretic, and refrigerant properties. Chickweed soothes - she is a demulcent, emollient, vulnerary, and pectoral herb perfect for any itchy, inflamed, painful or irritated situation.
Fresh Chickweed juice is rich in steroidal saponins. These compounds have a soap-like activity in the body. As you can imagine how soap cuts through grease, Chickweed’s saponins also cut through fat in the body. In the same way, chickweed’s steroidal saponins increase cellular membrane (made of fats) permeability, making it easier on cells to release and neutralize toxins while uptaking good minerals and nutrients. Chickweed can even soften bacterial cell walls making it easier for the immune cells to destroy them. Chickweed’s saponins and delmulcent qualities are great for breaking up gunk in the lungs and a fresh poultice can even dissolve cysts. Rinse eyes with diluted (with distilled water) fresh chickweed juice or a poultice for inflamed, itchy, or infected eyes. Chickweed’s anti-inflammatory, bioavailable nutrition are a dream on hungry, inflamed, and upset tummies. For any hot, inflamed and dry condition, think Chickweed! Hot sore throats, congestion, dry coughs, hoarseness, cranky livers, and constipation - think Chickweed!
Identification points: habitat, small white flowers with five deeply divided petals, single row of tiny hairs growing along stem- smooth otherwise, grows out instead of up, crush the stems- feel the juiciness
Taste: mild, buttery, sweet, cooling, nutritive/salty
Best as: FRESH! Chickweed salad, pesto, substituted anywhere you would use fresh greens, broth, tincture added to water and/or vinegar - stay away from dried (basically worthless)
Visit our Perfect Pesto Every Time post for our full-proof pesto recipe
Eileen Brantley & Amy Wright
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