Herb of the Season: Chickweed
Stellaria media

I’m still enjoying the cross country ski trails so I haven’t really thought about my garden as these first days of spring roll around. But over the March break I had a glimpse of full-blown spring in California where fruit trees are in full blossom, the rosemary hedges are covered with blue flowers and the lavender is on the verge of exploding. Wonderful scents and sights that are still a couple months away from Montreal!  The herb that attracted my attention the most as I wandered through spring in San Francisco was chickweed, stellaria media... sometimes referred to as starweed or starwort.  Loaded with antioxidants, protein, vitamins B & C and a long list of minerals, chickweed strengthens all of our systems and increases vitality! Exactly what we need at this time of year!  I imagine the Natives feasting on this abundant green ally after a long winter, satisfying their cravings for the nutrients that these spring plants provide. This free food is a nutritional powerhouse that you can easily harvest from your wild garden, wherever you live. It grows abundantly around the world! I often see chickweed growing around the base of contained trees, or in abandoned garden beds or unoccupied green spaces along the sidewalk. Chickweed loves rich soil in damp, cool, mostly shady areas.

Medicinally, chickweed’s cooling qualities make it an excellent remedy for all “hot” conditions.. fevers, hot flashes, inflammation, bladder infection. I dilute 10-30 drops of tincture in water and gargle it between classes. It provides instant relief for hoarseness, dry cough or my hot, stinging throat. Chickweed also takes the heat out of mosquito bites and stings, either as a fresh poultice, an herbal bath, an infused oil or as a salve.  Hot chickweed baths help to relieve burning pain experienced from arthritis, back ache, stiff neck, or tendinitis. Its anti-inflammatory, emollient properties make chickweed salve an excellent addition to your first-aid kit for cuts, cold sores, rashes, bruises, blisters and hives.  Please consult the Herbal Health Root if you’d like to make your own high quality chickweed products.

Chickweed is the most effective remedy I know for conjunctivitis, also known as pink-eye. When my children were young and their eyes were inflamed or oozing (gooped-closed is how I best remember it) I would always turn to stellaria. To prepare a poultice, gather a large handful of fresh chickweed and rinse it under cold water. Shake dry. Apply a quarter or a third of the bundle over the infected eye and cover with a cotton cloth (or if preferred, chop the herb and wrap in a thin bandana). When the poultice feels hot, discard it and replace it with another third of the bundle, continuing the process for about 20 minutes. A few hours later I’d repeat this entire procedure, rarely having to do it a third time.  I was always amazed at the quick results!

Add a refreshing taste of summer to your meals by adding a handful (or more) of fresh chopped chickweed to salads or sandwiches. It also makes a delicious pesto. As the snow thaws, look in the corners of your garden for enough chickweed to make this nourishing spring treat, adapted from Mollie Katzen’s Pesto recipe in The Moosewood Cookbook, (Ten Speed Press, 1977).
 
CHICKWEED PESTO
In a food processor, blend 2 cloves of garlic, 1/2 cup of pine nuts, almonds or sunflower seeds, 2 packed cups fresh chickweed, 1 cup basil (optional) 1/2 cup parsley, 1/2 cup olive oil, 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese and salt to taste. Process everything into a smooth paste. Serve over hot pasta, gnocchi, polenta or pizza crust and enjoy!

Wishing that chickweed graces your neighbourhood this spring, and nourishes your body, mind and soul,

Monica

Over the years I have been blessed with many inspirational teachers. I thank them for sharing their wisdom through their lectures, workshops, websites and books. For more information about CHICKWEED and many other herbs, enjoy these insightful and informative resources.

Opening our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs
by Gail Faith Edwards

(Ash Tree Publishing, 2000) Click for website

Family Herbal by Rosemary Gladstar

(Storey Books, 2001) Click for website

Medical Herbalism by David Hoffman
(Healing Arts Press, 2003) Click for website
Wise Woman Herbal: Healing Wise by Susun S. Weed

(Ash Tree Publishing, 1989) Click for website

Most of my notes on Chickweed come from a Workshop I attended at the Wise Woman Center (thanks Susun!). Several herbal workshops are being offered this spring. They're always an intense educational experience that inspire life-long learning!

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