The wheel of life turns, and greens appear. Everywhere now there are edible herbs, perfect for picking and eating. It is the fullness of summer and Mother Earth, ever abundant, offers us nourishment and vitality with every breath and beat of her heart. Nibble pigweed, graze on dandelion, savor sumptuous sorrel, pop a red clover blossom, enjoy the taste of rose petals melting in your mouth, devour chickweed, and celebrate the glory of the wild earth!
Chickweed, a common sprawling plant with small bright electric green leaves and pretty little white star shaped flowers, is one of my all time favorites of the wild edible herbs. It is also known as stitchwort or starweed and seems to grow best in shady damp areas with rich soil. Chickweed is a storehouse of vitamins and minerals including iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, silicon, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, protein sodium, copper, carotenes, and vitamins B and C! The entire above ground portion of the plant is delicious, and we enjoy it in salads all summer long.
Frequent consumption of fresh chickweed helps strengthen all systems and rebuild vitality. Some people steam it, like spinach, but I much prefer it raw. Because it is so highly nourishing, chickweed is an excellent nourisher for those recovering from any illness or surgery, those dealing with AIDS or a wasting disease, the anemic and the elderly.
Chickweed has great healing, cooling, drawing, and dissolving abilities. Try it when you want to bring a boil or a pimple to a head, dry up herpes blisters, clean up an infected wound, or extract a splinter. Applied as a poultice, chickweed stops infection by weakening bacteria cell walls. To use fresh chickweed as a poultice, simply apply the bruised leaves directly, covering the plant matter with a thin layer of gauze or a cabbage leaf. When the plant material gets warm, remove and discard it. Poultice again with fresh chickweed as necessary.
When stung by a bee one summer, my son’s lower arm swelled to an alarming size and became very hot to the touch. We poulticed with fresh chickweed and within 20 minutes the swelling and heat were considerably diminished, and by morning, completely gone.
Infused oil of chickweed helps heal minor skin irritations, diaper rash, fever blisters, and bug bites.
Chickweed also has an excellent reputation for aiding those dealing with eye problems including infections, sties, conjunctivitis (pink eye), and tired, sore, inflamed, irritated eyes.
Chickweed tincture (25-40 drops, 4 times daily), dependably dissolves ovarian cysts and reduces swollen glands. Many American Indians used it as a remedy against cancer
Chickweed’s ability to weaken bacteria, combined with its cooling and expectorant actions, makes an awesome ally for those dealing with bronchial problems, chest colds, pneumonia, or asthma. I cook fresh chickweed in boiling water and use a cup of this broth, or 20-40 drops of tincture, at least twice a day.
Chickweed’s alkalinizing properties benefit those with chronic infections of the bladder and urinary tract, including chronic cystitis. But it may take 20-40 drops of tincture daily for at least three months to correct such problems.
Chickweed has been called nature’s diet herb. It contains soapy-like substances called saponins which break down fat cells, sometimes with phenomenal results. Chickweed also nourishes and regulates thyroid function and balances the metabolism.
Chickweed is a joint-oiler and an excellent choice for those dealing with arthritis, rheumatism, and gout. I find consistent use of the tincture, 20-30 drops three times daily, reduces pain and swelling, inflammation, and itching. Chickweed in the daily diet, eaten fresh by the handful or in salads, helps soothe and heal these conditions, as does the infusion, the tincture, and frequent poultices on the affected area.
You don’t have to be ill to benefit from chickweed! Nutritive chickweed is a friend to the healthy that want to stay that way. That is the beauty of herbs; their ability to prevent disease by helping to maintain optimum health.
Chickweed is an abundant weed is some gardens. You may even find it growing in the pot with your houseplants! Chickweed leaves and stems can be gathered anytime it is green and vibrant, before, during, or after the little, white, star-like flowers show. In the winter you can dig it up from under the snow! Chickweed is an annual, so it makes a lot of seeds: enough to feed the songbirds and self-seed readily.
I gather fresh chickweed for salads and use only fresh chickweed for poultices, tinctures, vinegars, or infused oils. Dry chickweed has lost most of its medicinal virtue.
Gail Edwards is the mother of four children and an herbalist with thirty years experience serving her rural Maine community. She is the author of Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs and Traversing the Wild Terrain of Menopause; Herbal Allies for Midlife Women and Men. Gail and her family operate the Blessed Maine Herb Farm, where they cultivate an acre of certified organic medicinal herbs used in the herbal products they make. She offers herbal study programs and apprenticeships at her farm in Athens, Maine and is available for herbal consultations in person or by phone. Visit her on the web at www.blessedmaineherbs.com
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Gail Faith Edwards
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