Chickweed (Stellaria media) is one of our most common, useful weeds in Pennsylvania. The plant is well known as a nutritious, delicious, tender salad green high in vitamins, minerals and protein; a smooth, soothing cooler of fevers, congestion, infection and inflammation; a tool for weight loss. And as Susun Weeds says, a medicinal “joint oiler” that restores mobility and elasticity to ligaments and tendons, and relieves burning, hot pain from arthritis, sore muscles and aches. That sounds like a lot, but it is all true. Watch my youtube video Edible Weed Walk: All about Chickweed.
Chickweed is a member of the Carnation or Pink family that thrives in cool, rich, fertile, moist habitats globally, in disturbed soil. It is most likely growing in your own yard. Growth is vigorous in spring but can over-winter in protected places. Leaves are most lush before flowering. In hot spots, it becomes matted and straggly. It grown is bright green, dense mats on the ground with stems up to 12” tall. It has smooth, opposite leaves, 5 deeply divided white petals and fine hair on stalks. It is lush and very juicy. Edible look alike is Speedwell with blue/white flowers and hairy, scalloped leaves. To harvest, clip stems of large leaves and rinse with water using both leaves and stem. If invasive in your garden, pull out by the roots. Discard root and wash the leaves.
- Fresh leaf salad green
- Fresh leaf tea for eye wash, or for soaking in hot baths
- Fresh leaf poultice for external wounds, abrasions, rashes, insect bites
- Fresh leaf alcohol tincture for internal use
- Infused oil or salve for externals use
- Chickweed Pesto: Substitute chickweed leaves for basil in your favorite Pesto recipe.
- Excellent chicken feed, especially for hens
As always, never take more than you need unless the plant is invasive. Don’t damage other plants in the process. Make positive Identification before eating: Most of the plants I write about are extremely common and easy to ID, and do not have poisonous look-alikes but ‘better be safe than sorry.’ Read about which parts are edible, when they’re edible, and how to prepare them. Make sure your location is safe and legal. Avoid harvest from places which may have toxins such as roadsides and conventional farm fields. For expert information find Susun Weed, Rosemary Gladstar, Richo Cech, Maude Grieve and Henriette’s Herbal.
Recipe for Chickweed Tincture
A tincture is a simple alcohol extract. Tinctures are concentrated, portable and remain active for 1-2 years. There are much more complicated methods of making them but this “Simpler’s” method is the best one for ordinary use. Fill any size mason jar 3/4 full with fresh, finely chopped Chickweed leaves and stems. Use the most vibrant, green, succulent patches you can find. Wash lightly with water if necessary. Allow to infuse 4-6 weeks at room temperature, out of direct sunlight. Then, strain through cheesecloth and bottle. Store in a cool dark place. Take 20-90 drops in water, per day.