Botanical name: Stellaria media Parts used: stems, flowers, leaves and seeds.
Description: creeping annual ground cover herb, with tiny white flowers and oval shaped leaves; stems can reach up to 60 cm in length.
Nutrients: vitamins C and A; minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, selenium and zinc; protein.
You may have nibbled on this tender and highly nutritious ‘supergreen’ while out in the garden, or used it to replace spinach or parsley in a recipe. You may have fed it to your chicken, duck or turkey friends.
But maybe what you don’t know is that it is a highly valuable medicine that has been used for centuries. The first known use of chickweed was in the 14th century, as an aid in weight loss. It is the soap-like constituent – saponin – that dissolves fat cells and may help to lower cholesterol.
Chickweed is used topically as a wash, poultice, compress, oil, salve or cream to relieve inflamed itchy skin. It is commonly used for insect bites, nappy rash, burns, eczema, psoriasis, acne, boils, abscesses, bruises, cuts and wounds. It is even used as a compress to soothe cracked nipples, or to draw out mild breast infections.
If you eat too much chickweed you may get diarrhoea; and it can be toxic if eaten in large amounts. If you’re pregnant, only use it topically, or in small amounts of food, but not as tea, tincture or juice.
- Pick your chickweed and weigh it. Wilt it on a screen until it is one third of its original weight (such drying avoids rancidity).
- Chop the wilted chickweed up and place it in a clean jar. Cover with vegetable oil, and put the lid on.
- Place the jar in a cool, dark space for two weeks.
- Shake the jar every day.
- After two weeks, strain the material through cheesecloth or an old T-shirt, and rebottle the oil.
- Store the oil in the fridge for up to a year.
- Use the oil on skin irritations or inflammations.