My description of chickweed: The leaves are typically about the size of a pinky fingernail, although in the lushness of spring before they bloom, I've seen them up to an inch long and nearly as wide. Leaves are emerald green and smooth. They grow in sets, across from each other on the stem, and they almost hug the stem at the base of each leaf - not having leaf stems. There are spaces along the stem of about 1 - 1/2" between leaf sets. Shooting out from where the leaves hug the stem, are tiny stems which hold the flowers. These flower stems are almost as thin as horsehair. The flowers are white, about 1/4" across, and each appears to have 10 petals. There are really only 5 though, because each petal is deeply divided. The sepals are longer than the petals. The stem is round, mostly green with a purplish blush sometimes. When you crush it, you can feel the crunchiness of it, but it isn't hollow. Sometimes the stems are a little hairy. The one I am looking at is not. They have a single row of tiny hairs. At each leaf axis, the hair will grow on a different side of the stem, like a spiral. After reaching a height of about 3", the stems grow along the ground, and can be several feet long.
A selection from Wild Foods for Every Table
by Tina Sams of The Essential Herbal
Chickweed Stellaria mediaCaryophyllaceae
by Gail Faith Edwards
Chickweed, bright electric green with those pretty little white star shapedflowers, is one of my all time favorites of the wild edible herbs. Also known as stitchwort or starweed, chickweed is a storehouse of vitamins and minerals including iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, silicon, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, protein, sodium, copper, carotenes, and vitamins B and C! Frequent consumption of fresh chickweed helps strengthen all systems and rebuild vitality. Some people steam it, like spinach, but I prefer it raw. Chickweed is an excellent nourisher for those recovering from an illness or surgery, those dealing with AIDS or a wasting disease, the anemic and the elderly. Chickweed has great healing, cooling, drawing, and dissolving abilities. Try it when you want to bring a boil or pimple to a head, dry up herpes blisters, clean up an infected wound, or extract a splinter. Applied as a poultice, chickweed stops infection by weakening bacteria cell walls.
To use fresh chickweed as a poultice, simply apply the bruised leaves directly, covering the plant matter with a thin layer of gauze or a cabbage leaf. When the plant material gets warm, remove and discard it. Poultice again with fresh chickweed as necessary.
When stung by a bee one summer, my son's lower arm swelled to an alarming size and became very hot to the touch. We poulticed with fresh chickweed and within 20 minutes the swelling and heat were considerably diminished, and by morning, completely gone. Infused oil of chickweed helps heal minor skin irritations, diaper rash, fever blisters, and bug bites. Chickweed also has an excellent reputation for aiding those dealing with eye problems including infections, sties, conjunctivitis (pink eye), and tired, sore, inflamed, irritated eyes.
Chickweed tincture (25-40 drops, 4 times daily), dependably dissolves ovarian cysts and reduces swollen glands. Many American Indians used it as a remedy against cancer. Chickweed's ability to weaken bacteria, combined with its cooling and expectorant actions, makes an awesome ally for those dealing with bronchial problems, chest colds, pneumonia, or asthma. I cook fresh chickweed in boiling water and use a cup of this broth, or 20-40 drops of tincture, at least twice a day. Chickweed's alkalinizing properties benefit those with chronic infections of the bladder and urinary tract, including chronic cystitis. But it may take20-40 drops of tincture daily for at least three months to correct such problems.
Chickweed has been called nature's diet herb. It contains soapy-like substances called saponins which break down fat cells, sometimes with phenomenal results. Chickweed also nourishes and regulates thyroid function and balances the metabolism. Chickweed is a joint-oiler and an excellent choice for those dealing with arthritis, rheumatism, and gout. I find consistent use of the tincture, 20-30 drops three times daily, reduces pain and swelling, inflammation, and itching. Chickweed in the daily diet, eaten fresh by the handful or in salads, helps soothe and heal these conditions, as does the infusion, the tincture, and frequent poultices on the affected area.
You don't have to be ill to benefit from chickweed! Nutritive chickweed is a friend to the healthy that want to stay that way. Chickweed is an abundant weed in some gardens. Around our place, it likes shady damp areas with rich soil. You may find it growing in the pot with your houseplants! Chickweed has small, light green leaves and sprawling stems. It can be gathered anytime it is green and vibrant, before, during, or after the little, white, star-like flowers show. In the winter you can dig it up from under the snow! Chickweed is an annual, so it makes a lot of seeds -enough to feed the songbirds and self-seed readily.I gather fresh chickweed for salads and use only fresh chickweed for poultices, tinctures, vinegars, or infused oils. Dry chickweed has lost most of its medicinal value.