The humble chickweed plant is highly appreciated by birds and poultry and by those knowing the nature and the gifts it offers human beings. When the pastures become green in the early spring, chickweed grows small leaves from its young stems. This is the right time to gather the plant and prepare tasty salads with it. Some people cook it like spinach. Raw or cooked, chickweed does not have a sour or hot flavor, being quite similar to cultivated vegetables in taste.
Chickweed was mentioned by the great Greek physician, pharmacologist, botanist, and author Pedanius Dioscorides in the 1st century A.D., though its properties were not well-known until the last century. Sebastian Kneipp, the renowned master of German natural medicine, used this plant successfully in afflictions of the respiratory airways.
Chickweed Plant Scientific Facts
- Other names: Adder’s mouth, Indian chickweed, satin flower, starwort, stitchwort, tongue-grass, winterweed.
- French: Stellaire.
- Spanish: Alsine.
- Environment: Spread worldwide. It usually grows in humid soils. Farmers consider this plant a weed in cultivated lands.
- Description: Plant of the Cariofilaceae family, with weak stems, oval-shaped, peak-tipped leaves, and small star-shaped white flowers which open at noon.
- Parts of the plant used medicinally: The whole plant.
Healing Properties and Indications
The whole plant is rich in mineral salts and trace elements (especially magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, potassium, iron, and copper), as well as in B vitamins and vitamin C. Chickweed also contains a certain amount of saponins (from the Greek saponem, soap), which are substances that decrease the surface tension of water, producing foam-like soap. In the mucous membranes of the body, the saponins cause the formation of a fine, long-lasting foam.
The saponins are the most important active components of chickweed. Most of the properties of this plant are due to these substances.
- Expectorant: It is used for all kinds of bronchitis and for simple bronchial catarrh to eliminate dry or thick secretions.
- Emollient: Used with gastritis to protect the stomach mucous membrane and alleviate the heavy sensation associated with this disorder. With colitis (inflammation of the large intestine), it is used to favor a regular, painless evacuation since it has a mild laxative effect.
- In external applications, chickweed eliminates the skin inflammation caused by bruises, irritations caused by physical reasons (sunburns, etc.), or chemical ones (toxic substances, etc.).
- Invigorating: Due to its content in mineral salts and vitamins, chickweed naturally stimulates the whole body, producing a sense of well-being and vitality. It is beneficial for fatigue or exhaustion.
How to use Chickweed
- Raw in salads or cooked like spinach.
- Decoction with 30 g of plant per liter of water. Boil for 15 minutes, strain, and drink a cup before each meal.
- Poultices: Boil 100 g of plant in half a liter of water until forming a homogeneous paste. Apply on the irritated skin area.
George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Ed. Francesc X. Gelabert. Vols. 1 San Fernando de Henares: Editorial Safeliz, 2000. 334, 335. Print. [chickweed plant]