Chickweed (Stellaria media) is an annual plant native to Europe that has become naturalized in North America, where it is mostly considered a weed. However, to herbalists and practitioners of alternative medicine, chickweed is a potent and long-standing folk remedy believed to offer significant health benefits.
The flowers, leaves, and stems of chickweed have long been used to make oral decoctions, extracts, and teas. Today, chickweed is more commonly used in topical ointment form to treat a variety of skin conditions. The consumption of chickweed, while common in some cultures, is typically avoided due to the risk of side effects.
Chickweed is recognized by its hairy stems, oval leaves, and small, daisy-like blossoms with five crenelated petals.
Chickweed’s use in folk medicine has been recorded as far back as the 16th century, when it was often used to treat wounds. Over time, it was embraced as a “blood cleanser,” as well as used to treat asthma, constipation, menstrual pain, peptic ulcers, rabies, respiratory illnesses, and scurvy, among other common and uncommon conditions.
I harvest fresh leaves early spring along the creek bank. It grows in shady to part sunny areas. We enjoy the tiny leaves in a salad or fresh sitting by the creek. It makes a refreshing spring pick-me-up tonic after a long winter.
Mostly I harvest Chickweed to make Chickweed Salve for rashes, sores, boils, and other skin complaints. It’s hard to beat its healing properties.
You also dry it for teas later when the Chickweed is long gone when the sun become too hot for this cool weather plant.
When used topically, chickweed is generally considered safe and well tolerated. However, some people exposed to chickweed have been known to develop a mild rash. People allergic to plants of the daisy family may be at higher risk.
The greater concern arises with the oral consumption of chickweed. Saponins and nitrate salts, both found in chickweed, pose a risk of toxicity if eaten in excess. Although saponins pose a lesser risk in humans, the combination of the two has been known to cause poisoning, even in larger mammals such as cows. So, with that in mind, take it slow.