Chickweed / Stellaire
Stellaria media / (Caryophyllacea) / Chickweed is also known as adder’s mouth, alsine, chick wittles, clucken wort, common starwort, craches, hen’s inheritance, mischievous jack, passerine, satin flower, star chickweed, star lady, starweed, starwort, stitchwort, tongue grass and winterweed.
Parts Used: The aerial parts of the plant.
Habitat: Originally native to Eurasia, this plant can be found everywhere in the temperate regions. It can be an annual or a perennial. In areas where it dies off in winter, the plant will quite readily self-seed. Each plant can produce over 15,000 seeds a year. The flowers are star-shaped and the genus name Stellaria is derived from the Latin stella, meaning star. The flower will close when weather turns cloudy. The plant is an excellent nitrogen fixer and does not do well in depleted soil.
Properties: Anti-inflammatory, antineoplastic, antirheumatic, antiviral, antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, demulcent, diuretic, emollient, expectorant (secretolytic), febrifuge, laxative, nutritive, vulnerary.
Uses: Chickweed is an excellent wound healer and is most often used externally for wounds, burns, bites, scrapes, rashes and stings. The fresh herb makes an excellent poultice or compress. Like many other vulneraries it is useful for minor infections such as conjunctivitis. A poultice can be applied several times a day – to both eyes. Well known for fighting itching, a strong infusion of chickweed can be added to bathwater to provide relief from poison ivy. New scientific research out of China shows that chickweed extracts are antiviral against the Hepatitis B virus. Chickweed contains saponins; these constituents are responsible for the herb’s action upon the lungs as an expectorant. It is useful for hard dry coughs, bronchitis, asthma and whooping cough. The young plant can be eaten as a salad green (quite bland). The plant has a history of use for weight loss; this may be due to its containing a plant sterol (beta-sitosterol) that has a similar structure to dietary fat. In the GI tract this reduces the absorption of actual fat. It is also a mild diuretic and may just be pulling water out of the body as opposed to contributing to any real lasting reduction in body weight. Chickweed contains high levels of minerals and vitamins. For those who are depleted or convalescing, it can be deeply nourishing. To use as a nutritive, large quantities of the herb would need to be consumed – utilizing it as a food source.
Preparation/Dosage: Tincture or long infusion. Common ingredient in salves and ointments.
Safety Considerations: Excessive use of the plant can cause diarrhea.