Commonly found as an invasive plant, chickweed is well-known for its use as a medicinal herb. Here is a brief overview about the health benefits of this herb.
The common chickweed (Stellaria media) is also known as star weed, star chickweed, chicken wort, winter weed, etc. The plant, which is native to Europe, is now found in almost all places. However, it is considered as an invasive garden weed that can affect the yield of crops, like barley.
Chickweed is a soft plant with delicate stems that trail over the ground. These pale green, juicy stems have swollen joints. A unique feature of Stellaria media or common chickweed plant is the thin line of hair on one side of the stem.
This hairy line ends as it reaches a pair of leaves, and continues on the opposite side. The smooth leaves are juicy and grow on the stems in pairs. They are egg-shaped with pointed tips. These plants produce small, star-like white flowers; and the flowering season starts in March and extends all the way to Autumn.
Nutrition and Health Benefits
Chickweed leaves are nutritious, and are used in salads and soups, in the raw form. This herb contains saponins, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA is a type of omega-6 fatty acid), coumarin, flavonoids (rutin) and hydroxycoumarin, along with a host of minerals and vitamins.
It is a rich source of calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, iron, silicon, and zinc. Moderate amounts of vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin C, chlorophyll, potassium, and fiber are also found in this plant.
The history of chickweed use can be traced back to the sixteenth century, when people used this herb for soothing inflammation, skin problems and some other diseases. It is evident from the fact that, the seventeenth century herbalist, John Gerard had recommended chickweed as a remedy for mange in humans.
However, modern herbalists recommend this plant for treatment of various medical conditions, even though none of them is scientifically proven.
Owing to the popularity of this herb and its health benefits, chickweed is now available as capsules, liquid extracts, crude herb, oils, tea bags, ointment, and tincture; all of which are made of components extracted from the leaves, stems and flowers of this plant. However, the fresh form is considered the best.
► As chickweed is a rich source of nutrients that are necessary for balancing the metabolic functions of the body, its intake lessens mucus buildup. It is beneficial for treating respiratory diseases, like bronchitis, chronic cough, cold, asthma, and allergy symptoms.
► As a poultice, chickweed is used for reducing inflammation of the eyes, especially for those with pink eye or any other eye infection.
► Chickweed has long been used for treating bruises, cuts and wounds, skin irritation, eczema, pimples, first-degree burns, open sores, hemorrhoids, and inflammation.
► Chickweed tea is used for treating cough and strep throat. This herb has diuretic properties, which help the body to flush out toxins through urine; and to reduce fluid retention, weight gain and bloating.
► Maintaining a healthy urinary system is a major health benefit of chickweed. It's also used for treating urinary tract infections and cystitis as it purifies the blood and kidneys.
► Chickweed acts as a cooling agent, especially for those with digestive problems. It's also good for easing constipation and is used for treating stomach ulcers and hemorrhoids.
► Joint pain can be eased by adding chickweed infusion to the water, while bathing. This is also good for relieving the pain and discomfort associated with arthritis and stiff neck.
► Chickweed is also used for weight loss. It is said to be beneficial for treating cysts, ovarian cancer and thyroid disorders.
Consult a qualified herbalist, if you want to use chickweed for medicinal purposes. It may sometimes cause side effects, like headache. In case of side effects, stop its use and seek medical attention. Those with allergies must avoid this herb.
Mentioned all, consumption in large amounts is also not recommended. Always stick to the doses prescribed by your herbalist. It is also advisable to seek the opinion of your general practitioner, before resorting to such herbal treatment.
Disclaimer:This is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.