Chickweed

Stellaria_media, chickweed

Stellaria media-Chickweed 

Family: Caryophyllaceae

Other names: Alsine media, Alsine apetala, Arenaria vulgaris, Stellaria vulgaris, Starweed, Satin Flower, Starwort, Winterweed, Stitchwort, Tongue Grass, Adder’s Mouth, Indian Chickweed, Passerina

hazardsmallThe leaves of  Chickweed contain saponins. Although toxic, these substances are very poorly absorbed by the body and so tend to pass through without causing harm. They are also broken down by thorough cooking. Saponins are found in many plants, including several that are often used for food, such as certain beans. It is advisable not to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish. Report of paralysis attributed to excessive intake. Should not be used during pregnancy or during breastfeeding.

Habitat: A common weed, it grows everywhere in moist places and frequently in gardens.

Description of Chickweed:

Stellaria media is a ANNUAL growing to 0.1 m (0ft 4in) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in).
It is not frost tender. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Jan to December, and the seeds ripen from Jan to December. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies, self.The plant is self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

Stellaria_media, chickweedCultivation of Chickweed:

A very easily grown plant, it prefers a moist soil and a position in full sun or partial shade. It can be very lush and vigorous when grown in a fertile soil, but in infertile soils it will flower and set seed whilst still very small. A very common garden weed, chickweed grows, flowers and sets seed all year round. The flowers open around 9 o’clock in the morning and remain open for about 12 hours. They do not open in dull weather. The leaves fold up of a night time, enfolding and protecting the tender buds of new shoots. A food plant for the caterpillars of many butterfly species.

Propagation of Chickweed:

Seed – this species should not need any encouragement, you are much more likely to be trying to get rid of it than trying to introduce it (eating it is one way of doing that!)

Collection: This common `weed’ can be collected in spring, but may be found throughout the year. Chickweed is best harvested between May and July, it can be used fresh or be dried and stored for later use.

Culinary uses of Chickweed:

Edible Parts: Leaves;  Seed.
Edible Uses:

Young leaves – raw or cooked as a potherb. They can be available all year round if the winter is not too severe. Very nutritious, they can be added to salads whilst the cooked leaves can scarcely be distinguished from spring spinach. The leaves contain saponins so some caution is advised, see the note on toxicity at the top of the page. A nutritional analysis is available. Seed – ground into a powder and used in making bread or to thicken soups. It would be very fiddly to harvest any quantity of this seed since it is produced in small quantities throughout most of the year and is very small. The seed contains 17.8% protein and 5.9% fat.

Composition:

Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.

Leaves (Dry weight)

  • 0 Calories per 100g
  • Water : 0%
  • Protein: 14.5g; Fat: 2.4g; Carbohydrate: 63.9g; Fibre: 20.5g; Ash: 19.3g;
  • Minerals – Calcium: 0mg; Phosphorus: 0mg; Iron: 0mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 0mg; Potassium: 0mg; Zinc: 0mg;
  • Vitamins – A: 30mg; Thiamine (B1): 0.02mg; Riboflavin (B2): 0.14mg; Niacin: 0.51mg; B6: 0mg; C: 375mg;
  • Notes: The figure for vitamin A is in mg
Stellaria_media_BotanicalMedicinal uses of Chickweed:

Actions: Anti-rheumatic, vulnerary, emollient, astringent, demulcent,emmenagogue,

Part Used: Dried aerial parts.

Indications: Chickweed is commonly used as an external remedy for cuts, wounds and especially for itching and irritation. If eczema or psoriasis causes this sort of irritation, Chickweed may be used with benefit. Internally it has a reputation as a remedy for rheumatism.

Chickweed has a very long history of herbal use, being particularly beneficial in the external treatment of any kind of itching skin condition. It has been known to soothe severe itchiness even where all other remedies have failed. In excess doses chickweed can cause diarrhoea and vomiting. It should not be used medicinally by pregnant women. The whole plant is astringent, carminative, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, laxative, refrigerant, vulnerary.

Taken internally it is useful in the treatment of chest complaints and in small quantities it also aids digestion. It can be applied as a poultice and will relieve any kind of roseola and is effective wherever there are fragile superficial veins.

An infusion of the fresh or dried herb can be added to the bath water and its emollient property will help to reduce inflammation – in rheumatic joints for example – and encourage tissue repair.  The decoction is also used externally to treat rheumatic pains, wounds and ulcers.

A decoction of the whole plant is taken internally as a post-partum depurative, emmenagogue, galactogogue and circulatory tonic.

It is also believed to relieve constipation and be beneficial in the treatment of kidney complaints.

The expressed juice of the plant has been used as an eyewash.

King’s Dispensatory gives the following uses: “Chickweed appears to be a cooling demulcent. I have seen the fresh leaves bruised and applied as a poultice to indolent, intractable ulcers of the leg, of many years standing, with the most decided and immediately beneficial results; to be changed 2 or 3 times a day. In acute ophthalmia, the bruised leaves will likewise be found a valuable application. An ointment, made by bruising fresh leaves in fresh lard, may be used in many forms of cutaneous disease. A tincture of Stellariamedia has been extolled in some quarters as a remedy for rheumatic pains of a fugitive and shifting character.

Combinations: Chickweed makes an excellent ointment when combined with Marshmallow.

Preparations & Dosage of Chickweed:

Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 2 teaspoonfuls of dried herb and leave to infuse for 5 minutes. This may be drunk three times a day. Fresh Chickweed may be made into a Green Drink by placing a handful of the fresh plant into the blender with pineapple juice, blend and strain. To ease itching, a strong infusion of the fresh plant makes a useful addition to the bath water. Chickweed Uses are not restricted to above it can be used in tinctures etc; but just remember fresh is best!

Other uses:
centaury fairyEsoteric uses of Chickweed:

Fertility and love. Carry or use to attract a lover or maintain your current relationship. Useful for lunar and animal magick, especially the healing of birds.

The Chemistry:
Constituents:
  • Saponin glycosides
  • Coumarins and hydroxycoumarins
  • Flavonoids
  • Carboxylic acids
  • Triterpenoids
  • Vitamin C, about l50-350mg per l00g.