Spring is almost sprung here in Western Pennsylvania. It's been a slow roll this year, with cold temps and snow showers well into late April. So it is with a happy heart that I'm finally seeing some familiar plants popping up around town! Dandelion, purple dead nettle, and speedwell make a riotous display of color and texture along roadsides and sidewalks, while mugwort is showing off delicate, silvery undersides of its fresh green leaves. Docks are taking up space with their massive leaves, and thistles are popping up, spiky and sharp. What spring plants are you noticing this year?
Today we'll talk about one of these happy spring plants that you'll see blooming now. It quiets down in the heat of summer, and returns with blooms again in the fall. Chickweed, Stellaria media, is a sweet little plant that packs a huge healing punch. Chickweed is low-growing plant with paired leaves and a line of hairs that grows on one side its stem, switching sides at each leaf pairing. It is identifiable by its 5 star-shaped petals, each with a deep cleft so it appears to have 10 tiny petals.
Chickweed offers a number of medicinal benefits. It is a highly nutritious plant, packed with vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron, and Vitamins A & C. Pick, wash, and eat the fresh plant in salads, stir-frys, and smoothies for a revitalizing spring treat!
Chickweed is an alterative herb, meaning it helps cleanse, purify, and balance blood and water in the body, i.e. it helps support the kidneys, liver, and lymphatic systems. It clears lymphatic congestion (especially useful after the stagnation of winter) and helps move toxins through the kidneys and liver. Saponins in chickweed are reported to help break down excesses in the body, whether that be excess mucus, fat cells, and even cysts. It is a lubricating herb, helping to soothe dry, irritated parts of the body, both internally and externally. Taken internally, this lubricating action may help to reduce the swelling and painfulness of arthritis.
Externally, chickweed is an incredible soother to inflamed, irritated, & itchy skin. Susun Weed recommends it as a cure for the bacterial infection of pink eye, applying fresh chickweed as a poultice (mashing up fresh herb until it is juicy) directly to the inflamed eye. Here at Una, we use Chickweed as one of our go-to herbs for itchy skin, everything from bug bites to eczema & psoriasis. Blended with other herbs like plantain, calendula, and chamomile, chickweed can be made into a wonderful healing salve for itchy skin issues.
Grow this sweet herb in your garden, or forage it from a location free of pesticides, toxins, and vehicle exhaust. Toss it into your salads, make an herbal oil, or prepare it as a tea and experience a range of health benefits from this tiny star of a plant! Here's a recipe from Mother Earth Living for a delicious Chickweed smoothie. Happy Spring, everyone!
• 2 large handfuls (about 2 oz.) chickweed
• 1 1/2 c. unsweetened coconut milk
• 1 c. carrot juice
• 1 banana
• 1 apple
• 1 avocado
• 4-5 oz. strawberries
• 3 oz. frozen raspberries (or berry blend)
1. In a blender, add coconut milk, banana, apple, and chickweed. Blend until combined.
2. Turn off the blender to add carrot juice and avocado; blend until combined.
3. Add strawberries and frozen raspberries and blend well, adding more liquids (coconut milk, carrot juice, or water) if needed. This recipe makes two 24-ounce smoothies.
"Chickweed". The Herbarium, The Herbal Academy. Web accessed 26 April 2018.
"Chickweed". A Modern Herbal. Maude Grieve. Web accessed 26 April 2018.
"Chickweed: The Delicious Medicinal Herb Hiding in Your Yard". Sarah Baldwin, Mother Earth Living. Web accessed 26 April 2018.
"Chickweed is a Star". Susun Weed. Web accessed 26 April 2018.
"Starting Your Medicinal Herb Cabinet". Jessica Graves. Powerpoint Presentation. June 2017.