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 several varieties of chickweed,1 Stellaria media, or the common chickweed, is easier to control and does not pose that much of a threat to your plants as they only grow in patches. However, chickweed may still become a problem if you’re growing plants from seedlings as the thick shrubbery may overpower them.2
But what does chickweed look like and where does it grow? It is believed to originate from Europe and Asia, but now grows in North America, Australia 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 spring and last until autumn.3,4
This herb has oval and mildly succulent leaves, which exude a fresh and grassy taste when eaten.5 Chickweed 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.6 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.
Health Benefits You May Get From Chickweed
Chickweed contains various chemical components that may assist the body in different ways. Here are some benefits you can get from it:
• Aids in digestion and weight management. Chickweed functions as both a mild laxative and a diuretic, helping rid the body of toxic substances.7 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.8
• Functions as an expectorant. Chickweed may soothe the bronchial tubes and the lungs to help expel mucus or phlegm.9 This is due to its saponin content, which is noted to facilitate the breakup of the secretions from the membranes.10
• 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 poultices can also be used in relieving eye inflammation and conjunctivitis.11
• Aids in wound healing. This herb has been used to promote wound healing and ease infections through its antiseptic and antifungal properties.12
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 arthritis and joint pain. It can also be used to relieve skin conditions, such as eczema and nettle rash.It can also be added to pet food to assist in the expulsion of hair balls and to help soothe the digestive tract.18 Here’s a list that can help you determine how you can use chickweed, depending on your needs:
• As a poultice. Chickweeds can be crushed and directly applied to bruises and aching body parts to help ease tension or lessen inflammation.13
• As a compress. You can apply it to aching joints and muscles to relieve pain.14
• As an infused oil. Infused chickweed oil can be added to bathwater to help alleviate the symptoms of eczema.15 It can also be used as a topical medication for insect bites and other skin conditions to help minimize itchiness.16
• 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.17
How to Grow and Control Your Own Chickweed Supply
While this herb can grow in open areas even when it's 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 spreads easily and can dominate a large area of your garden. Here is a step-by-step guide for planting and growing your own chickweed:19
• 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.
• In the spring, remove sticks, stones and other materials that may interfere with the chickweed’s growth.
• If compost is available, add a 2-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 three 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, functioning as a mild laxative, aiding in weight management and relieving mild respiratory problems.20,21 Here is a guide on how you can make your own chickweed tea:22
• 1 ounce of chickweed leaves
• 1 1/2 pints of water
1. Put the chickweed leaves in the water.
2. Simmer the mixture down until you have about a pint of the mixture left.
3. Filter the leaves out. 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 bathwater, which is ideal for individuals who are allergic to other essential oils.23 The website Learning Herbs gives you a step-by step-guide in making infused chickweed oil:24
Infused Chickweed Oil
• 2 handfuls of fresh chickweed leaves
• 1 1/4 cups coconut oil
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Place the mixture on top of a double boiler or improvise by placing a bowl on top of a pan that has 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.
5. Allow the mixture to sit for a few hours. Repeat step 4 for about four 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 becoming “crispy.” You’ll know that the oil is ready when it has taken a green hue.
6. 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.
Excessive Chickweed Use May Lead to Side Effects and Complications
It should be noted that using excessive amounts of chickweed may lead to nausea, vomiting and diarrhea,25 so ideally, as is the case with many other herbs, use chickweed in moderation. If you’re pregnant and/or breastfeeding, take note that there’s insufficient data proving that chickweed is safe for both you and your unborn child.26 It would be best that you avoid using this herb to eliminate the possible risks.