Herb to Know: Chickweed

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Photo by David Cavagnaro

Stellaria media
• Hardy to Zones 3-8

Chickweed (Stellaria media) is thought to aid weight loss because of its traditional use as a system cleanser and digestive aid.

Discovered in Europe and Asia, this vigorous creeping annual grows throughout most of North America and other parts of the world. Europeans appreciated the herb’s succulent, oval leaves for their tender, mild flavor. Chop leaves and add to salad greens, cook as a potherb, scramble with eggs or add to soups for a tasty meal. The silky, silvery foliage contains calcium, potassium, and vitamins A, B and C. Chickweed can be used fresh, dried, powdered or made into a salve.

In China, chickweed is purported to soothe and heal skin. Herbalists use juice from the leaves to treat acne, rashes and itchy skin.

Also known as snow-in-the-summer, chickweed’s small, starlike, white flowers bloom from early spring until autumn. Chickweed is easy to grow in any soil in any position, but prefers full sun to light shade in well-drained soil. Divide it in spring or fall and prune it back during heat. It grows 4 to 12 inches long, and blooms five-petaled flowers during the spring season. The seed ripens in July.

Chickweed is so determined to survive that one uprooted plant when tossed out of the garden will continue to mature and produce seeds. So be careful where you grow it and where you throw it.

To make a tea, steep 1 teaspoon chopped chickweed in a cup of boiling water. Drink an hour before each meal, sit back and enjoy the many benefits of this common plant.

Anita B. Stone is a certified master gardener, horticultural therapist and partners an herb business in North Carolina. She recently has implemented a horticultural program for healthcare professionals.

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