Chickweed (Stellaria media) is often overlooked and ignored in the gardening world because of its notoriety as a weed. One of the first things that people think about when they find chickweed growing is how they can prevent it from spreading. Some opt to remove these plants from their gardens entirely because they think it's nothing more than a nuisance.
While there are two varieties of chickweed, the Stellaria media variety, or the common chickweed, is easier to control and does not pose that much of a threat to your plants.1 But what does chickweed look like and where does it grow? The chickweed herb can grow in any position and in any soil type, but it has been observed to better thrive in areas that are exposed to sunlight.
It was first discovered in Europe and Asia, but now grows in North America and other countries. This plant is commonly called the "snow in the summer" because of its small white star-shaped flowers that usually bloom in the spring and last until autumn.2 This herb also has oval and mildly succulent leaves, which exude a mild floral and salty taste when eaten.3
Instead of removing it from your garden and wasting all of its potential, there are plenty of ways that you can utilize this herb. It contains a handful of nutritional components that may even prove to be beneficial for you.
Get These Health Benefits From Chickweed
Chickweed contains various chemical components that may assist the body in different ways. Here are a few of the benefits you can get from it:
- Aids in digestion and weight loss. Chickweed functions as both a mild laxative and a diuretic, helping rid the body of toxic substances. In traditional Indian medicine, it is used as a preventive measure for obesity. Studies show that the intake of chickweed had positive effects on food consumption behavior, adiposity index and body weight in mice.4
- Functions as an expectorant. Chickweed may help ease respiratory conditions, such as tuberculosis, whooping cough and the flu. It soothes the bronchial tubes and the lungs to help expel mucus or phlegm. This is due to its saponins, which help increase the permeability of the mucous membranes.5
- May help minimize inflammation. People affected by rheumatoid arthritis can use this herb to help ease inflammation in their joints and relieve the pain caused by this condition. Chickweed poultice can also be used in relieving eye inflammation and conjunctivitis.6
- Aids in wound healing. This herb has been used to promote wound healing and prevent infections through its antiseptic and antifungal properties.7
Here's How You Can Use the Chickweed Plant
Chickweed has been used around the world for different purposes. The stems and leaves of this herb are commonly used as a poultice to ease the onset of arthritis and joint pain. It can also be used to relieve skin conditions, such as eczema and nettle rash. Here's a list that can help you determine how you can use chickweed, depending on your needs:8
- As a poultice. Chickweeds can be crushed and directly applied to bruises and aching body parts to help remove tension or lessen inflammation.
- As a compress. You can soak a pad with chickweed decoction and apply it to aching joints to relieve pain.
- As an infused oil. Infused chickweed oil can be added to bathwater to help alleviate the symptoms of eczema. It can also be used as a topical medication for insect bites and other skin conditions to help minimize itchiness.
- As a decoction. Chickweed decoction can be used to help with constipation. To make a decoction, boil 3 heaping tablespoons of chickweed leaves in 1 quart of water. Take this decoction every three hours or until your constipation disappears.9
It can also be added to pet food to assist in the expulsion of hair balls and to help soothe the digestive tract.10
How to Grow and Control Your Own Chickweed Supply
While this herb can grow in open areas even when they're not planted, you can also plant your own chickweed to ensure that you have enough supply. However, you have to control its growth because it's easy for the herb to spread and dominate a large area of your garden. Here is a step-by-step guide for planting and growing your own chickweed:11
- Choose a well-lighted open area of your garden. Chickweed usually grows outward and easily takes up any large areas where it can take root. While this herb can grow on any type of soil, it grows best in slightly moist soil.
- Rake up the area in the early spring, removing sticks, stones and other materials that may interfere with the chickweed's growth.
- If compost is available, add a two-inch layer of compost to the plant bed to help the chickweed grow better. Create planting troughs with 5-inch divisions between each trough. Water the bed thoroughly and wait for it to drain.
- Scatter 3 chickweed seeds for every inch in the planting troughs. Cover the seeds with 1/4 inch of soil and mist with water.
- Wait for the seeds to develop and grow.
Try This Chickweed Tea Recipe
As an herbal tea, chickweed can help alleviate body pains and certain conditions. Some of chickweed tea's benefits include flushing out excess water, toxins and harmful chemicals from the body, aiding in weight loss, functioning as a mild laxative and relieving mild respiratory problems. Here is a guide on how you can make your own chickweed tea:12
- 2 teaspoons of dried chickweed herb
- 1 cup of water
- Boil water in a saucepan and pour into a cup.
- Add 2 tablespoons of chickweed and let it steep for about 5 minutes.
- Remove the chickweed leaves by straining it. Serve.
Make Your Own Infused Chickweed Oil for Everyday Use
Chickweed is also available in essential oil form. It's usually mixed with other herbs, but is also available as pure chickweed oil. While people typically buy the pure oil variety, you can make your own infused chickweed oil. This infused oil can be used topically to help relieve inflamed areas. It may also be added to bath water, which is ideal for individuals who are allergic to other essential oils.13 The website Learning Herbs gives you a step-by step-guide in making infused chickweed oil:14
Infused Chickweed Oil
- 2 handfuls of fresh chickweed leaves
- 1 1/4 cups coconut oil
- Finely chop the fresh chickweed and arrange on a cutting board or cookie sheet. Allow the chopped chickweed to wilt for 12 to 24 hours.
- Measure out 1 1/4 cups of coconut oil. Add the wilted chickweed to the oil. To acquire the best quality of oil, there should be an equal amount of chickweed and oil in the mixture.
- Use a blender to mix the chickweed and the coconut oil together. It typically takes 15 to 20 seconds before the two ingredients are fully blended together. You can also use a food processor for this step.
- Place the mixture on top of a double boiler or improvise by placing a bowl on top of a pan and putting about 2 inches of water in it. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Stir the oil occasionally until the oil is warm to the touch.
- Allow the mixture to sit for a few hours. Repeat step 4 for about 4 times to ensure that the plant material fully seeps into the coconut oil. Be sure that you don't get the oil too hot to avoid the leaves from getting "crispy." You'll know that the oil is ready when it has taken a green hue.
- Strain the mixture after 24 or 48 hours to remove the leaves from the oil.
You can also make your own chickweed salve by adding a few grams of beeswax. The amount generally depends on the consistency and the firmness you're aiming for. This salve can be used to provide relief for insect bites, hot rashes, diaper rash and other skin conditions.
However, it should be noted that using excessive amounts of chickweed may lead to nausea, vomiting and diarrhea,15 so ideally, as is the case with many other herbs, use chickweed in moderation. Chickweed should also be avoided if you're pregnant and/or breastfeeding because there's a possibility that it will cause adverse effects on both you and your child.