Chickweed: The Delicious Medicinal Hiding in Your Yard

| 3/13/2018 10:32:00 AM

Right below our feet grows a green treasure that often goes unnoticed: chickweed. This so-called “weed” is common in temperate climates, but its short stature and humble flowers make it easy to overlook. Chickweed grows abundantly in nutrient-rich areas like garden beds, greenhouses, compost piles, and other nooks and crannies across the yard. This small, earth-hugging plant has tiny, white flowers that resemble stars, hence the plant’s Latin name, Stellaria media, which means “in the midst of stars.” It's a fitting moniker for such a stellar plant medicine.

chickweed flower blossom
Photo by Sarah Baldwin

When it comes to herbs, the line between food and medicine can be blurry, and chickweed definitely qualifies as both. It’s a tasty, wild green that is slightly salty without a trace of bitterness. The plant makes a delicious addition to salads and often volunteers alongside cultivated greens like kale and lettuce. A versatile food, chickweed can also be used as a cooked green in stir-fries, soups, omelets, and more. While most modern folks consider this plant a pesky weed, during World War II it was encouraged in American victory gardens as an easy-to-grow green that survives cool temperatures.

This green goody is deeply nutritive, providing abundant vitamins and minerals. According to Mark Pederson in Nutritional Herbology, chickweed is high in calcium, chlorophyll, cobalt, zinc, copper, iron, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, manganese, silica, and vitamins A and C. Chickweed also contains over 20 percent protein, and it's a nice plant to munch on while working in the garden to help stave off hunger. What’s more, chickweed increases the permeability of mucous membranes, promoting better absorption of nutrients from the digestive tract. This makes it a good food for those who tend toward anemia or malnourishment as well as folks recovering from illness.

As a medicinal plant, chickweed’s cooling effects help soothe fever, infection, and inflammation. A poultice of the fresh plant is useful for inflammatory conditions like insect stings, wounds, acne, cysts, blisters, rashes, and inflamed eyes. In her book Healing Wise, Susun Weed recommends eating chickweed regularly to improve thyroid function, dissolve reproductive cysts, soothe a chronically inflamed urinary tract, and ease myriad digestive issues from constipation and hemorrhoids to ulcers and stomach cancer.

chickweed plant
Photo by Sarah Baldwin