Latin name: Stellaria media
Common Names: chickenwort and winterweed
Descriptive Characteristics: Heinerman (1996) describes chickweed as a matted annual. Apparently, it likes to take over the area like so many other plants do. It likes fall weather and survives frosts, blooms in snow and “laughs at” weed killer. My kind of plant! It has been known to flower no matter the month. It grows to about a foot tall. It has egg-shaped lower leaves but they like to look different as you go higher up the stem. The flowers close at night and open wide in the sun.
Parts used: above-ground parts
Texture: feels like straw
Color: light green
Aroma: smells like silage - the feed in the silos for cows
Flavor: Slightly saline
Active Constituents: Mills and Bones (2010) list flavonoids, phenolic acids, triterpenoid saponins, phytosterols, carotenoids, and lipids. Hoffman (2003) says Saponin glycosides; coumarins and hydroxycoumarins; flavonoids; carboxylic acids; triterpenoids; Vitamin C (150-350mg/100g).
Chickweed is an important herb because it contains a wide range of nutrients in addition to its medicinal constituents. It is high in vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin B, and the minerals calcium, iron, potassium, copper, sodium, phosphorus, and zinc. The presence of both copper and iron is particularly useful, because the body requires a certain amount of copper to assimilate iron. It also contains a saponin that accounts for the expectorant action, some mucilage, resin, and glycosides that have a mild antiseptic action when heated. (Class Lesson, Herb 502)
Therapeutic Actions: Demulcent, astringent, refrigerant, anti-ulcer (peptic), gastrointestinal inflammation. Alterative, antirheumatic, antiscorbutic, antiseptic (mild), demulcent, diuretic (mild), emollient, expectorant, laxative, nutritive, pectoral, and refrigerant (Class Lesson, Herb 502). Hoffman (2003) says antirheumatic, vulnerary, and emollient.
Indications: Use chickweed as a dietary supplement: It is rich in nutrients and is widely available in temperate districts during winter, when cultivated greens are scarce. It can be eaten raw in salads or slightly steamed with other green vegetables. (Class Lesson, Herb 502)
Class Lesson, Herb 502
Abscesses, Boils, Inflamed skin, Scalds, Skin eruptions, and Ulcers: Apply a poultice of the fresh leaves. Also, bathe the area with the decoction, then apply an ointment.
Colds, Coughs, and Bronchitis: Use the infusion, fluid extract, or tincture.
Constipation: Use the decoction prepared from the fresh herb.
Eczema, Dermatitis, and Itching skin: Bathe area with decoction and apply ointment.
Eye infections: Use the strained decoction as eyewash.
Hemorrhoids and Sores: Use the ointment.
Obesity (and weight loss): Chickweed infusion should be used regularly.
Rheumatic pains: Use the tincture. The ointment or juice of the fresh plant can be massaged into the painful area.
Formulary: This is also an excellent blood cleaner (alterative).
Class Lesson, Herb 502
Chickweed Ointment: If you prefer, you can make an ointment without lanolin. Refer to the instructions earlier in the course. 1-lb chickweed Stellaria media, fresh, 1½-lb anhydrous lanolin, 1-2-oz beeswax. Cut the chickweed. Place all ingredients except the beeswax in a stainless steel or enamel bowl. Cover and put the bowl over a pan of water, and heat gently for one to two hours until the lanolin has extracted the color and constituents from the herb. Strain the lanolin mixture through muslin. Add beeswax to harden the ointment, more or less depending on the desired consistency. Cool slightly and pour into sterile jars.
Dr. Christopher's Black Healing Ointment: 1-oz chickweed Stellaria media, 1-oz comfrey Symphytum officinale roots and leaves, 1-oz lobelia Lobelia inflata, 1-oz goldenseal Hydrastis canadensis, 1-oz marshmallow Althaea officinalis, For every 1-lb of fresh herbs (or ½-lb dried) use: 5-oz anhydrous lanolin, 1-oz beeswax, 2-oz vegetable glycerin, 3-oz wheat germ oil, 3-oz olive oil. Heat lanolin and herbs together in a double boiler or bowl over a simmering pot of water for half to one hour. Remove from the heat and strain through muslin. Return to heat, add beeswax, wheat germ oil, olive oil, and glycerin, and whip all together. Pour into sterile ointment jars. Label and store in a cool, dry place.
Green Drink (Hoffman, 2003)
Fresh leaves mixed with pineapple. Blend.
General adult dosage information:
Mills and Bones (2010)
Infusion: 3-15 g/day dried aerial parts
1:1 liquid extract: 3 15 ml/day
fresh plant succus or capsule: 3-6 ml/day
1:5 tincture: 6-30 ml/day
Class Lesson Herb 502: Adult: All doses three to four times a day unless stated otherwise:
Decoction: 4-T to 8-T
Fluid extract: 1½-ml
Infusion: 6-T to 8-T
Tincture: 2-ml to 10-ml
Hoffman (2003, p. 585)
Infusion: 2t of dried herb in 1 c boiling water, steep 5 minutes. 3/day
Contraindications: Some may have allergies
Lab, Notes And Media:
Make a poultice upon first indication of tetanus or blood poisoning. 1T powered ginger root, capsicum, and kelp. Add just enough honey and wheat germ oil (equal parts) to make a smooth paste and apply to the affected area using clean gauze. At the same time, make a tea.1T dried herb to 2 cups boiling water. Steep 20 minutes before drinking. (Heinerman, 1996, 147-148)
On 16 March 2019, I started 28g of herb in a 1:6 50%, no dilution required recipe. I used a menstruum of 158ml. On 17 March, I added another 28ml of alcohol because there were no movement when I tried to shake it for a ratio of 1:7. On 10 April, I strained it and got 100ml of yield.
Interestingly, Heinerman also suggests chickweed could be used to treat obesity. He had an herbalist friend named Mike Tierra who wrote Way of Herbs (guess I need to buy this book now). Mr. Tierra suggested with chickweed having both diuretic and laxative properties, it may help with weight loss.
Heinerman, J. (1996). Heinerman’s Encyclopedia of Healing Herbs and Spices. New York, New York: Penguin Group. 103-104.
Hoffman, David. (2003). Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
Mills, S. & Bone, K. (2010). The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety. Elsevier Limited. 337-338.
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