Chickweed – A Mid-winter Hero

Stellaria media in flower

  You can notice the 10 tiny white petals, often looking like 5 pairs, on their delicate tiny flower, or maybe its 5 pairs looking like 10 tiny white petals (we will leave it to the botanists).  If you have a magnifying glass, this is a beautiful plant to observe close up.  You can also notice that it has a thin row of hairs on the stem alternating at each pair of leaves.  This is to help it climb and reach for nourishing sunlight without expending more energy than it needs to.

        Most of us think that once winter hits there is no plant growth and all of nature goes dormant and hibernates like a bear.  This perception is due to us closing our eyes to the sacred winter wonders and closing down our own awareness of what can be seen.  If we take the time to look there are so many continual treasures abound, even foods and medicines under the snow!  There are many wild edibles growing all winter; one of them being one of my favorites; Chickweed!  Chickweed or Latin (Stellaria media) is a plant that defies all odds medicinally, nutritionally, and seasonally.

In my observation, I perceive this plants nutrition and healing are so appropriately tuned into the winter season while most plants prefer otherwise.  From this perspective, I feel that this plant being stepped up to fulfill a sacred purpose that took incredible courage, when most of us think we will melt if we get rained on.  Chickweed contains several B vitamins potentially including B12.  Vitamin B deficiencies are linked to depression and lethargy.  A definite factor with winter blues.  It also contains vitamin C to keep us healthy and free of flus and colds all throughout the winter months.  Vitamin C is unable to be stored in the body and was a big factor in so many people of the past having died over the winter.  Surely chickweed is one of the heroes of our time which have helped and cared for us and brought us to this point in evolution.  Let us remember and give thanks that our ancestors have eaten tons of chickweed and right now we all have chickweed DNA inside of us!  (Much more so than fast food!)

Moving snow away to reveal chickweed treasures!

Chickweed Growth

Chickweed has a unique 3 seasons of harvesting, which gives it a great niche in the plant world.  This is the advantage of going to seed in the summer while most everything is going to flower.  It begins to sprout in the fall, when everything else is starting to get bitter, small, and hard to chew (she likes to do her own thing). Chickweed is a rare breed eager to play in the snow and it grows new, tender, succulent greens at the perfect and unique time for foragers to get a healthy dose of wild food all year long. It is at its best for picking in the fall and the spring and you can go out and dig snow off of your patch at any time, or wait for the snow to periodically melt to reveal a beautiful abundance of fresh chickweed.  There is something extra tasty about finding it in the snow, so cold and full of fresh water, juicy and succulent, and when you munch on it you will feel like [foraging] Hercules!

Chickweed is in its full glory in the spring and during the summer it will die back as the temperature heats up, but once it starts cooling down again you will find it starting to grow. Notice how it likes the cool weather, and that’s its medicinal offering. It’s a great idea to look for chickweed patches during their optimal seasons of growth; fall and spring.  Once you successfully identify them you can cultivate and tend to them all year long.  If you give care to it this is surely one plant that will really care for you.  Since you do get 2-3 “seasons” you will have many chances at harvesting as long as you let it go to seed and don’t over harvest.  You can also collect the seeds or purchase them and grow chickweed sprouts for a nutritious and delicious addition to salads.  The benefit of purchasing them is that sprouts don’t get the chance to mature and make the next generations seeds, so you will reduce your wild areas by taking their seeds.

Chickweed Healing

It’s amazing how such a delicate little plant is so full of vigor; a great indicator of its medicine it offers to us.  This little plant is fully packed with vitamins C, rutin, PABA (para amino benzoic acid), GLA (gamma linoleic acid) which is a derivative of omega 6 fatty acid, niacin, B 12, riboflavin (B2), thiamin (B1), beta carotene (A), magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, sodium, selenium, and silicon.

The medicinal properties of chickweed are cooling and soothing; indicative of its signature of winter growth. According to the herbal traditions, this plant is seen as diuretic, tonic, demulcent, expectorant, and mildly laxative. It is often recommended for congestion issues like bronchitis and asthma, and it even helps with losing weight.  It is also helpful with PMS symptoms because of its incredible nutrient content and also helps to relieve people of many arthritic conditions, thanks to silicon and the other minerals chickweed contains as well as its ability to soothe pain.

I love a salad using chickweed as a replacement for lettuce.  It is tender, delicious, nutrient packed, and the taste has been likened to corn silk.  You can also experiment with making your own chickweed pesto, and gently steam chickweed for a yummy cooked side dish, or an addition to stir fries like you would bean sprouts.

Chickweed Poultice

Get ½ to 1 cup full of chickweed (or a handful)

It’s always good to say a prayer and leave an offering when you take from Nature, especially if your intent is to make medicine. Let it know why you came, and what you wish to do, and surely it will increase those chemicals within itself and want to help.

Put it in your blender or grind it up with a mortar and pestle until you have a mush consistency, you can even add olive oil, honey, or coconut oil to help it stay on the skin and thicken.  Honey will also be anti-septic and soothe a burn.  Olive oil and coconut oil will retain moisture and help with dry skin.  You can also wrap the plant material with a gauze or ace bandage.  Or use an old t-shirt to tie it on.

This poultice is really good for cooling the skin; minor heat burns, sunburn, rashes, eczema, pimples, itching, and all other skin conditions that we don’t know what to do about.  It’s also really helpful for inflammation and sore areas; sprains, and tired muscles.

 

          You can find chickweed growing in fields, lawns, and it’s probably growing in your very own garden without you realizing it.  I found a huge patch in my neighbor’s garden right between his tomatoes.  I asked him if I could eat them around it and he of course thought I was crazy. Upon seeing me the next day, and the next day after that he was rest assured that I didn’t die.  Eventually I even got him to taste some and now he knows how great these little beautiful “weeds” can be.

Chickweed is a nutrient power Mama and is a great way to beat those lethargic “snack and cookie” winter hibernating blues.  To harvest it you will have a great excuse to go play in the snow and breathe in the cool fresh air, get some exercise, and discover that the wonders of nature are in full effect over the winter.

          Remember to take time to put on your boots and move some snow aside, look at all the wild greens that are still there, just like if you froze greens from the store, and harvest yourself up some chickweed salad in the middle of winter.  Enjoy!  IN-JOY!

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About Dan

Dan De Lion is an earth herbalist, forager, musician, and teacher. He teaches through Return to Nature, providing classes, lectures, and seminars on wild food foraging, mushroom identification, herbal medicine making, as well as primitive and survival skills with a focus on wild foods and forest medicines. He also incorporates the philosophies of yoga, alchemy, meditation, and mysticism into his classes, lectures, and seminars and brings a deep rooted indigenous medicine perspective of practicing intuition with plants, in a systematic and earth-based way – Check out more at www.returntonature.us.
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4 Responses to Chickweed – A Mid-winter Hero

  1. Patricia Liverman says:

    Thank you so much Dan , for this most informative and cheerful article about chickweed. I look forward to gaining more fun and interesting information from your site.
    many blessings
    patricia

  2. Saralin says:

    awww! Giving thanks for this abundance of love and shared experience of this lovely being called Stellaria Media!

  3. Agnes Simon says:

    Hi Dan! Thanks for this fabuolus “hands on” info.I have been fascinated with chickweed since my childhood.But anyone I asked regarded it Just as a useles weed.Eventualy I started to researche it ,and found good info,but nothing like your “everyday wisdom” Knowledge!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you and Bless you!!-Agnes

    • Dan says:

      there is surely no such thing as a useless weed! all plants have a special and sacred purpose, its only due to our ignorance of not knowing that purpose!

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