What is Chickweed?
Chickweed or Stellaria media is a very common weed seen in gardens all over the world. Believed to have originated in Europe, it is now a common sight in many other parts of the world including North America and Asia.
Despite being known as a largely unwanted weed, chickweed offers a surprising variety of excellent health benefits from reducing inflammation to speeding up the healing of wounds and aiding in weight loss.
Chickweed is also commonly referred to as ‘snow in the summer’ owing to its little white flowers which bloom from the spring through to fall. The succulent leaves of the plant can also be eaten and have a pleasing grassy flavor. If you would like to find out more about chickweed and how exactly it can benefit your health, please read on.
Why Chickweed is Good for You?
If you are familiar with chickweed as a menace or if you have it growing in your garden, think twice before disposing of it too quickly. Chickweed can actually do wonders for your health In a variety of different ways.
The fresh leaves can be used to make a nutritious salad while it is also available in the form of infused oils and tinctures.
Composition and Nutrition
Chickweed contains a number of useful compound that confer various therapeutic benefits. It contains saponins, flavonoids, coumarins, triterponoids and carboxyl acids.
The herb is a rich source of vitamins including vitamins C and D and the B family of vitamins including vitamin B12. Chickweed also contains various important minerals including calcium, copper, iron, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, zinc and silica.
Chickweed has a number of medicinal properties including anti-inflammatory,antibacterial, anti-fungal, antirheumatic, demulcent, refrigerant, expectorant and antiscorbutic actions. When applied externally, it has emollient, vulnerary and antipruritic actions.
So, that is a whole lot of compounds and medicinal properties but what exactly does it all mean for your health?
To sum it all up, chickweed is highly nutritious and a great source of vitamins and minerals. The saponins it contains help increase the way our bodies absorb nutrient. Chickweed can also help soothe the entire digestive tract while helping to nourish the lymphatic and glandular systems. This means the herb is useful for people with thyroid troubles, swollen glands or cysts.
Chickweed can also be applied externally to the skin as part of a poultice, a salve or an oil to help relieve itching, treat wounds, abscesses, ulcers or pimples. It can also be used in a poultice or a hot bath to help relieve painful joints caused by arthritis or rheumatism or simply to help deal with aching muscles at the end of a hard day.
Specific Benefits of Chickweed
Chickweed has very powerful, natural anti-inflammatory properties which give the plant a wide range of uses when it comes to diseases linked to inflammation. Inflammation is at the heart of a wide range of severe conditions including heart disease, cancer, arthritis and diabetes and many more.
According to research, chickweed helps to strengthen the stomach lining and treat stomach ulcers. Studies have also found that chickweed not only helped relieve inflammation but also helps induce an analgesic effects meaning that it helped to reduce pain.
Rheumatism and Arthritis
Chickweed stimulates the production of certain mucosal fluids meaning that it cools the inflammation, speeds up healing and reduces the pain and swelling in inflamed muscles and joints. Because of this, chickweed is an excellent, natural remedy for people suffering from painful arthritis and rheumatism.
To treat arthritis or even muscle pain, crush up the chickweed leaves and stems and apply them directly to the affected area in a poultice. This should help to reduce inflammation and ease your pain.
Chickweed has earned a reputation in folk medicine for helping people to lose weight and treating obesity. A number of products that make weight loss claims actually use chickweed as one of the ingredients.
Oh, great. Another natural weight loss product. I am sure you have heard it all before and I would not blame you for being skeptical of these claims. However, recent research suggest there may actually be a lot more to these claims than simple old wives’ tales.
According to Indian research, chickweed can help people to lose weight because it has both diuretic and mild laxative actions. A natural diuretic can help the body to expel toxins by promoting the production of urine and increasing the frequency and volume of urination.
The study published in 2011 looked at the effects of consuming chickweed on obese mice. The researchers found that consuming chickweed had several beneficial effects. These included improved food consumption behavior, a reduction in circulating lipids and ultimately weight loss in the mice. (1)
While the signs are good, there is no doubt that more studies need to be done before any firm conclusions are made.
Chickweed also has natural expectorant properties meaning it can help overcome a range of respiratory issues like coughs, colds, sinus congestion and bronchitis. It helps to soothe the bronchial passages and helps you to expel phlegm and mucus.
It is believed to be effective because of its high saponin content. Herbs containing saponins can help promote the break up of membrane secretions making them easier to expel from the respiratory passages and helping you to breathe much more comfortably. (2)
Chickweed can also be applied topically to help treat the skin. It is especially useful when it comes to soothing irritation caused by rashes and inflammatory conditions like eczema or psoriasis. It can also be applied to burns and grazes because its soothing anti-inflammatory properties help relieve irritation, itching and swelling.
Because of its ability to help detox the system, it may also help rid the body of toxins and purify the blood helping the skin look and feel much healthier.
Applying chickweed to damaged skin can also help speed up healing and because of its excellent antiseptic properties, it may also help keep infection at bay. You can apply it directly to a minor wound, burn, cut or graze to help reduce irritation and prevent bacteria from taking hold.
Chickweed contains coumarin – a compund currently being researched for its potential to treat both asthma and lymphatic obstruction or lymphedema. The lymph system plays a crucial role in immune health. A healthy lymphatic system helps improve the function of the immune system and helps it to stave off harmful pathogens that make us sick.
The lymph nodes found throughout the human body contain immune cells like lymphocites and lymph fluid which help to filter toxic substances and waste from the system. Unfortunately, when your lymph system gets congested, you are more at risk of toxins and wastes accumulating. This can result in enlarged lymph nodes, regular sore throats as well as difficulties recovering from illnesses of any kind.
Staying active can help keep lymph fluids flowing freely throughout the body but certain foods like chickweed also help stimulate and clear the lymph system.
How to use it
Chickweed can be used In a variety of different ways depending on the condition you are trying to treat. The leaves are highly nutritious and make a great addition to a salad or stew. It can also be applied topically in a poultice to help relieve joint and muscle pain while it can also be applied to the skin to help relieve inflammation or to treat wounds.
In the Form of a Poultice : You can crush up fresh chickweeds and add them directly to aching joints and muscles. Applying a poultice made with chickweed can help relieve inflammation and reduce pain.
In a Compress : Add the crushed chickweed to a warm compress and apply it to your muscles and joints to relieve aches, pain and swelling.
A Decoction : You can take chickweed in the form of a decoction to help improve lymphatic health or to boost your digestive system. It is sometimes used to help treat constipation because of its mild laxative properties.
To make you own chickweed decoction, boil up 3 heaped tablespoons of fresh chickweed leaves in a liter of water. Take a little of the decoction every 4 hours to help overcome constipation.
An Infused oil : You can use infused oil of chickweed to help treat a rash, eczema or other inflammatory skin conditions. You can add it to your bath water to help relieve irritation and reduce swelling. You can also apply a little of the infused oil to bites, scrapes and burns to reduce irritation
Precautions and Side Effects
Before using chickweed, there are certain precautions that you should be aware of. As is the case with most herbal remedies, it is always best to speak to your doctor in advance but also remember to use them in moderation.
Taking excessive amounts of chickweed could lead to side effects including diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. However, there are no precise dosage recommendations.
There is no safety data regarding the safety of chickweed on infants and unborn children. Women who are either pregnant or breastfeeding should err on the side of caution and avoid using the herb.