This Tuesday I want to talk about the lowly Chickweed plant. Lowly, only in stature as this little spring green is highly valuable if you know how to use it.
You will see this delicate plant popping up in the early spring. It is the most tender and least bitter tasting then, before it blooms. The chickweed plant can be eaten fresh in salads or sauted with other garden weeds like dandelion greens, lambs quarters, stinging nettle and more.
Why would anyone want to eat this weed?
Who knew such a pesky weed would be so nutritious? Chickweed (stellaria media) contains trace minerals and vitamins A, B and C. Along with other beneficial constituents like saponins, mucilage, silica, iron, fatty acids and cumerins. These are all much needed nutrients, especially after a long winter.
Vitamin A is needed for development and growth, for supporting the immune system and to support healthy vision.
Vitamin B – there is a reason why most B supplements are called ‘B complex’. There are 8 types of B vitamins though they are chemically distinct from one another, they all play important roles in cell metabolism. I had to look this one up; “What is cellular metabolism? 1. The chemical processes occurring within a living cell or organism that are necessary for the maintenance of life. In metabolism some substances are broken down to yield energy for vital processes while other substances, necessary for life, are synthesized.” [definition source]
In other words, we all need some B vitamins cause they help processes ‘that are necessary for the maintenance of life’!! That seems pretty important.
Vitamin C: We all know and love this vitamin! But why do we need it? Well, it is considered an essential nutrient involved in the repair of tissue and the production of certain neurotransmitters. Say what? Neurotransmitters are things like norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, endorphin, etc. So, vitamin C helps create the enzymes needed to produce some of these neurotransmitters. Cool, huh?
Where does it grow?
Originating in Europe, it is said that this little plant came to North America with the Colonists. Thanks, Brits! This now naturalized plant is cataloged in the “Weeds of the U.S.” by the USDA and can be found in every state, and all of Canada. It can be ‘weedy’ or ‘invasive’. So use this herb, and use lots of it!
Sustainability Rant: It is always a good idea to use the plants that grow close to you, and that grow in abundance. There is no need to endanger the sustainability of a plant by over harvesting, because eventually you will no longer be able to benefit from it if you are harvesting so much that it cannot self-sustain. Rant Over.
Chickweed a self-seeding annual, so you will want to make sure you let some of your patch flower and go to seed to insure next years harvest. This also means it can spread easily, so if you don’t want it growing in other places in your property, you should deadhead the flower tops once they have started going to seed and leave them under the plant in the soil. This will discourage the seeds being blown to other areas, or wildlife carrying them off. It is commons in lawns, meadows, waste places and in some woods. It isn’t too picky on soil requirements.
How can I use it?
You can pick the fresh plant in the spring and add it to salads, soups and vegetable stir fry. You can juice it and add it to smoothies.
Pick the fresh plant and dry it in a dehydrator or just tie bundles and hang upside down in a warm, dry, clean place. Store in a clean, airtight container away from direct sunlight. You can use the dry herb in all the same dishes mentioned above, or in other herbal preparations like tinctures, or ointments.
Chickweed is most commonly used in the herbal world as a topical application to support the normal appearance of skin. It is most useful for calming mild irritation topically.
Internally it is considered soothing, moistening and calming to the entire digestive tract and respiratory tract. Consider a cup of fresh chickweed tea this spring! Throw in some peppermint leaves, or chamomile if you are not a fan of the ‘fresh green’ taste.
What Shawnee Moon products contain chickweed? Check it out here!
Make your own Chickweed salve
6 oz volume fresh chickweed (or 3 oz volume dried chickweed) (I use a 1 ounce blue scoop to measure)
6 oz carrier oil (coconut oil, olive oil, sweet almond oil, whatever is your favorite!)
2 oz beeswax (weight)
¼ teaspoon vit. E oil (optional)
10-40 drops essential oil (optional)
Place in your crock pot, or double boiler on low, for 2 about hours (uncovered, you want as much water from the fresh plant to evaporate as possible). Less time may be needed for dried chickweed. You just don’t want your herb getting overly crisp and burnt.
Allow to cool slightly and strain your warm herb infused oil with a strainer of your choice, nylon/cloth/other. (If it is too hot you risk damaging nylon/plastic filters. Avoid plastic in any case). Generally, crock pots do not get hot enough for the oil to melt but it can get much hotter on a stove top in a double boiler, so watch your chickweed salve carefully if you do not use a crockpot.
You can use your herb infused oil as is or, continue to make it into a salve. Consider adding a ¼ teaspoon of vitamin E oil to help preserve your salve, especially if you used fresh herb (it is nourishing to the skin as well). It is optional, but will extend the shelf life of your salve.
Add the strained oils back into your pot over the heat. Add:
2 oz. weight beeswax, stir until melted
As soon as it is melted remove from heat, depending on your room temperature it may begin setting up fast so have your containers already open and ready for filling. If you decided to add essential oils to your salve, before you pour it out, while it is still warm and melty is when you need to add your oils. Good ones might be, lavender, geranium, peppermint (not for sensitive areas, but the cooling can help some mild irritation), or frankincense.
Once you have your oils mixed in well while it is still melty, you will pour into your containers. Small 4 oz mason jars work well, or .5-2oz tins are nice too.
LABEL! Always make sure you label your handmade products!! I like to add the date and all the ingredients if possible. (If you’re like me, you will not remember in two months if you put the vit. E oil in or not!). If the ingredients don’t fit the label, then keep a journal just for all the items you make for yourself and your family. Then you always have a record to look back on and can refer to the dates and compare different formulas you try.
How will you use Chickweed?
Did you learn something new from this post? I hope so! Did I leave out your favorite way to use chickweed? Please share your experiences here in the comments below or over in our Shawnee Moon FB page! We can all learn from each others shared experiences! Happy Tuesday! (or what ever day it happens to be when you are reading this… I sure hope it’s a happy one)!