An extremely prolific weed, chickweed (stellaria media) is an abundant source of edible and medicinal foliage. It has traditionally been harvested as a vegetable, cooked like spinach or used in salads or soup. It has also been used as a healing herb for centuries. The name ‘chickweed’ derives from its use as food for birds and domestic fowl and ‘stellaria’ comes from the Latin ‘stella’ or star, relating to the shape of its flowers.
Chickweed is used internally to treat rheumatism and chest infections, externally for itching skin conditions, eczema, psoriasis, urticaria, ulcers, boils and abcesses.
The leaves infused in oil make a simple remedy for dry, itchy skin (try adding a tablespoon to bath water for eczema) and a poultice of fresh leaves in muslin can be used for inflammation or external abcesses (use the water you boiled the herb in to bathe the affected area). However, chickweed is mostly used in the form of an ointment which is cooling when applied to piles or sores.
A soothing, cooling herb that relieves itching and promotes healing.
Flowers bloom from March through to late autumn, the leaves closing up at night to protect tender buds and shoots.
Collect the whole herb from May to July, when in best condition.
CAUTION: Do not use during pregnancy; Excess causes diarrhoea and vomiting.
PLEASE NOTE: These notes on the history and use of herbs have been compiled for general interest and are not intended as medical advice, for which you should consult a professional herbalist.
'A Modern Herbal' Mrs M. Grieve FRHS ed. Mrs C. F. Leyel (1973)
'RHS Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses' Deni Brown (2002)
‘Herbs and Healing Plants of Britain and Europe’ Dieter Podlech (1987)