With the warmer weather, chickweed (Stellaria media) is starting to grow away in the garden. Its botanical name stellaria means ‘little stars, a description of its tiny white flowers.
It is a common weed, but a useful one. Not only do my chickens love it (it is not called ‘chick’ weed for nothing, it has many healing abilities. You can add the fresh leaves to salad, and it is highly nutritious, rich in calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, phosphorus, potassium, A, B and C vitamins.
Chickweed is useful for cooling inflammations, whether these are internal or external. Use a poultice of chickweed (mash up the fresh herb and apply to the skin under a clean cotton cloth) to sooth minor burns, skin irritations and rashes. Every spring I make the chickweed salve (recipe below). Chickweed is used by herbalists for skin diseases for its anti-inflammatory and anti-viral activity. You can also apply this to treat rheumatic pains and ulcers. Make a tea with 2 tablespoons of fresh herb to half a pint of boiling water, steep for 10 minutes, strain and drink for colds and flu. Chickweed is a gentle laxative, so don’t over consume.
Handful of chickweed (Stellaria media) aerial parts
Few drops calendula (Calendula officinalis) essential oil (optional)
Pack the plant material into a clear glass jar and top up with oil so that they are fully covered. Put a lid on the jar and put on a sunny windowsill for two weeks, shaking daily. Strain the oil into a double boiler and heat gently until warm – do not boil. Add some grated beeswax (the more you add, the harder the set) and when the wax has melted, pour into small jars, add a few drops of calendula oil, stir, put on the lids and label. This salve will keep indefinitely, and does not need to be refrigerated. As well as the benefits of chickweed, the added calendula oil in this recipe reduces inflammation, eliminates bacteria, and helps the skin heal.