Chickweed Is a Star
snowdrops and crocus flowers herald the spring. And if you look in between them, with luck you’ll see a bright green creeping plant, low to the ground with little white starry flowers: chickweed, a good friend of mine.
I say she’s a star, because her botanical name—Stellaria media— means “little stars.” She also really stars at helping us when we need to gently dissolve something or to cool off inflamed tissues. And not only does chickweed affect physical health, but she’s a psychic healer, too. She opens us up to cosmic energies and gives us the inner strength we need to handle those energies.
Chickweed contains soapy substances, called saponins. Like soap, saponins emulsify and increase the permeability of cellular membranes. When we consume chickweed, those saponins increase our ability to absorb nutrients, especially minerals. They also dissolve and break down unwanted matter, including disease-causing bacteria, cysts, benign tumors, thickened mucus in the respiratory and digestive systems, and excess fat cells. Yes, you heard me correctly: Drinking a chickweed infusion can eliminate fat cells.
I put 1 ounce of dried herb (I weigh it) in a quart jar and fill it to the top with boiling water. I cap it tightly and wait for at least four hours, then strain it and drink it, hot or cold, with honey or miso. What I don’t consume right away, I store in the refrigerator. A quart a day is not too much to drink, but even 2 cups a day can help you shed unwanted pounds. (Do remember, though, that subcutaneous fat—the kind you can pinch— is healthy for women, so don’t get too thin.)
Chickweed’s ability to break cells open helps it get rid of bacterial infections when applied as a poultice. It is every mother’s favorite for dealing with children’s eye infections, such as pinkeye. I crush a small handful of the fresh herb until it is juicy, then apply it directly to the troubled eye or infected wound, covering the chickweed with a small towel to keep it in place. I leave the poultice until the chickweed heats up, which indicates to me that bacteria are dying. Then I remove the poultice and throw the plant material away. It is critically important to use fresh chickweed for each application so bacteria are not reintroduced. Generally symptoms will at least start to go away after the first application, but using additional chickweed poultices, once or twice a day for several more days, will ensure full healing.
Our beautiful star is superb at dissolving cysts and benign tumors. She especially shines when it comes to getting rid of ovarian cysts. Since many doctors, frightened of ovarian cancer, are fast to suggest surgical remedies for ovarian cysts, having a safe and effective green ally can save us from major surgery. Using chickweed to dissolve a cyst or benign tumor is a slow process, and requires consistency. It also requires chickweed tincture made from fresh—not dried—plant material. You can buy the tincture already made, or make your own: Fill any jar, large or small, with fresh, chopped chickweed and 100-proof vodka. Wait six weeks and it’s ready to use. A dropperful of the tincture taken two to three times a day is the usual course, lasting anywhere from 2 to 16 months.
I have seen chickweed dissolve ovarian cysts as large as an orange. One woman used it to get rid of a dermoid cyst (which contains hair, bones, teeth and fingernails); for that, she combined the chickweed with motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) and cronewort (Artemisia vulgaris) tinctures in equal parts. These three plants together are an ancient Chinese remedy for many “women’s problems.”
Chickweed loves the cool weather of spring and autumn; she hides when summer’s sun is high. This gives her a great ability to cool things off for us when we are overheated. I believe that sub-clinical inflammations are responsible for many of the chronic problems we have, including joint pain, digestive upsets, blood vessel disease, memory problems, and even some cancers. Regular use of chickweed takes the heat out and allows optimum functioning.
Women with “hot” bladders—such as those with interstitial cystitis, chronic cystitis, or a bladder irritated by childbirth or abdominal surgery—adore chickweed. She soothes and cools, removes bacteria, and strengthens the bladder wall. What a star!
But don’t wait for a problem to get to know chickweed. She is delicious, and ever so happy to jump into your salad bowl and share her star qualities with you.
Chickweed is loaded with nutrition, being high in chlorophyll, minerals (especially calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, phosphorus and potassium), and vitamins (especially C, A—from carotenes—and B factors, such as folic acid, riboflavin, niacin and thiamine).
No wonder old-time herbalists recommend chickweed for “convalescents, weak children, the anemic and the old.” Chickweed infusion is also a blessing for those recovering from surgery. (Tinctures are not nutritious.)
I’m going to grab my scissors and my basket and go outside and pick a bunch of chickweed and make this yummy spring salad: 4 cups fresh chickweed, 2 cups fresh watercress or miner’s lettuce, 1 cup fresh flowers (such as violets), and 2 tablespoons of finely-chopped wild chives. I dress it with olive oil, tamari, and apple cider vinegar, or whichever herbal vinegar strikes my fancy.
There’s a lot more information on the little star-lady chickweed in my book, Healing Wise. (The cover is green, like chickweed and the other blessings the earth offers us so freely.) So grab your scissors and go harvest some chickweed for dinner tonight. You’ll make a new friend who can really help when times are tough.
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #41.
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