Dr Jess says: “As a busy, still-learning gardener, I was excited to discover chickweed had appeared in my raised salad bed. Chickweed grows of its own accord and requires absolutely no care! It grows like a weed and reappears every year. As a herbalist, I have found chickweed great as an oil or cream to soothe eczema or skin rashes, particularly when they are hot and angry. It is mild tasting and easy to add to salads in summer and I can attest to the fact that it lives up to the name…my chickens love it.”
Chickweed, a member of the carnation family, is a pretty addition to any garden, with tiny, white, star-shaped flowers. It is naturally high in vitamin C, and also contains phytosterols (plant sterols, believed to be good for heart and cholesterol issues), tocopherols, which are a natural form of vitamin E and triterpene saponins, which are being investigated by the scientific community for their anticancer properties1.
Chickweed is used in alternative medicine to help aid weight loss2, as an expectorant to help relieve phlegm and to fight inflammation.3 It is also used by herbalists to help promote the healing of cuts, insect bites and grazes. It is a popular remedy in traditional Chinese medicine. The scientific community is only just beginning to realise the many benefits of this powerful plant.4 Traditionally in Europe, it has been used by herbalists externally as a poultice (see below) for skin inflammation, swelling abscesses and ulcers and as a wash for red, irritated eyes. It was taken internally for digestive upset and constipation.5
how to use chickweed
Grow it in your garden or forage it, for your spring and summer salads. Follow one of the many chickweed identification guides (there are many online) and forage for this herb in the great outdoors. You can also grow your own, although do be aware it spreads very easily, so you may struggle to contain it. Add the washed chickweed to your salad leaves for a mild and pleasant taste.
Make chickweed pesto. Add two cloves of minced garlic, ½ a cup of extra virgin olive or sunflower oil, two cups of fresh chickweed, a handful of toasted pine nuts (or any other nuts), ¼ of a cup of parmesan cheese (optional), some lemon juice and salt to taste to a blender, to make a great pesto. This is perfect on rice noodles for a quick and nutritious supper.
Make a chickweed poultice. Apply freshly washed and mashed chickweed to itchy, inflamed, unbroken skin. Cover with a thin cotton towel or some muslin cloth and leave in place for 10-30 minutes. You can also gently cook the plants in water for five minutes before cooling and applying inside a muslin pouch, for longer treatments of up to three hours. This will soothe and calm rashes and skin irritation. Chickweed can be dried and stored for later use at other times during the year.
Make chickweed tea. Place 2tsp fresh (or 1tsp dried) washed chickweed leaves and flowers into a cup of boiling water, and steep for five minutes. Limit to two to three cups a day, as too much chickweed can cause nausea or an upset stomach.
Make a chickweed salve. Chop two large handfuls of fresh chickweed and arrange them in a thin layer on a baking sheet. Leave it somewhere safe from children and animals for 24 hours, for the chickweed to wilt. Add the wilted chickweed to 250ml olive oil and place in a blender. Place the mixture in a Kilner jar (with the lid ajar) and put the jar in a saucepan that is half-filled with water. Gently simmer for three hours, ensuring that the water does not run dry. Strain the mixture through a muslin cloth, collecting the oil (you can re-infuse this oil with a second batch of chickweed for extra strength). Put the oil in a pan on a very low heat with 25g of beeswax warm through gently, stirring until the beeswax has melted. Add 20 drops of lavender essential oil and place the mixture in a glass jar with a sealed lid. This can be used as a homemade skin salve and will keep for several months.
- Triterpenoid Saponin – an overview
- Chidrawar VR, Patel KN, Sheth NR, Shiromwar SS, Trivedi P. Antiobesity effect of Stellaria media against drug-induced obesity in Swiss albino mice Ayu. 2011;32(4):576-584. doi:10.4103/0974-8520.96137
- Polito L, Bortolotti M, Maiello S, Battelli MG, Bolognesi A. Plants Producing Ribosome-Inactivating Proteins in Traditional Medicine Molecules. 2016;21(11):1560. Published 2016 Nov 18. doi:10.3390/molecules21111560
- Oladeji OS, Oyebamiji AK. Stellaria media (L.) Vill.- A plant with immense therapeutic potentials: phytochemistry and pharmacology Heliyon. 2020;6(6):e04150. Published 2020 Jun 7. doi:10.1016/j.heliyon.2020.e04150
- Grieve, M., n.d. A modern herbal. 1931. United States: Stone Basin Books, pp.197-199.