Stellaria spp. – Chickweed

ChickweedStellaria spp.

Stellaria = L. from “star” (the appearance of stitchwort flowers);

Identification: Chickweeds are slender herbs 5-30 cm tall and are found growing in tufts or mats. The flowers are small. The leaves are blue-green, linear and stiff with lower leaves turning brownish with maturity. The seeds are borne in shiny black capsules.

Distribution & Habitat: This common low-lying herb is found in mats along road sides, paths and open meadows from the Rocky Mountain Foothills to the alpine meadows.

Preparation & Uses: As a salad herb, chickweed is excellent. The young shoots are best, as the older ones toughen and become strong-tasting, although they are good blanched.

As a pot herb it is cooked like spinach. It is best boiled in a small amount of water for about 20-30 minutes, salting it if desired. It is good with vinegar or butter. Chickweed is quite small and in mature plants only the youngest leaves are good. This makes it tedious to collect a usable quantity.

Chickweed is an excellent healing herb. It is a good treatment for pulmonary complaints, any form of internal or external inflammation of membrane and skin, and weakness of the stomach and bowels. For inflamed or ruptured appendix, give a strong enema while drinking the tea and a apply hot fomentation over the infected area. It is soothing for external wounds, skin diseases, inflamed surfaces and burns. Bruised leaves in coconut or other oil make a good ointment for skin irritation.

The roots can be used medicinally, like dandelion, as a tonic, laxative and diuretic. The dose is three heaping tablespoons to one quart water; boil down to one pint. Take a wineglass full every three hours.

Chickweed Ointment
– 1 pound fresh green chickweed
– 1½ pound lard (lanolin will also work)
– 2 ounces wax

Cut up the chickweed and place all the ingredients in a stainless steel pot. Cover the pot and place in oven under 200 F. for three hours. Strain through a fine strainer and cool. Leaf lard (found just above the kidney of pigs) has no salt and so is the best to use. The wax is used to stiffen the ointment. Use more or less to get the right consistency.

Chickweed has an amazing effect in soothing itchy skin. Make a strong tea and wash the area. It is especially suitable for babies and children. I have made strong decoctions of this herb and poured it into bath water for its soothing effect. Hives can also be treated this way.

Chickweed is the base of many weight loss formulas in both tea and capsulated form. As the common name suggests, chickens as well as other poultry, like chickweed seed. The greens have been used for centuries as a feed for pigs and rabbits.