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What Is Chickweed?
Chickweed is a very common herb, sprouting in winter gardens, along roadsides, and in the shady areas of your lawn. It grows all year long, although the ideal times to harvest chickweed are early spring, late fall, and during winter thaws. This plant only grows to be a few inches in height, with bright green leaves, small, white, star-shaped flowers, and tiny hairs along the stem. It is also known as starweed, winterweed, and satinflower.
Although chickweed is prolific in the great outdoors, it is not often found in the marketplace. This herb is much more potent when fresh; chickweed loses some of its beneficial properties when it is dried. The fresh leaves make a wonderful addition to salads. The leaves have a clean, slightly salty, slightly bitter flavor. The nutritional value of chickweed is reason enough to enjoy this herb.
It can be eaten or taken medicinally over a prolonged period of time with no adverse effects. Chickweed is a demulcent, a vulnerary, an alternative, a carminative, and an emollient. It is a useful remedy for respiratory infections, digestive issues, arthritis, and an array of skin problems — chickweed is even used as a weight-loss herb.
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Benefits of Chickweed Greens
It may seem counter-intuitive to toss a garden weed into a salad, but chickweed is a delicious and healthy whole food. Wonderful raw, this herb is a rich source of nutrients, slippery, soothing saponins, protein, fiber, and even essential fatty acids. It is a direct source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a derivative fatty acid of omega-6 fatty acid, which is rarely found in food sources.
Chickweed greens are a powerful source of minerals, with high amounts of magnesium, manganese, iron, copper, aluminum, silicon, and zinc. It also boasts moderate amounts of calcium, chlorophyll, potassium, chromium, B vitamins, vitamin A,C, and fiber. The saponin content of chickweed thins cell membranes, increasing the body's ability to absorb nutrients. Saponins work as emulsifiers in the body, picking up useful vitamins and minerals, while also helping to dissolve harmful plaque build-up in arteries, fatty material, and toxins, thereby working to cleanse and rejuvenate the body while at the same time nourishing. Chickweed is a positive herb for weight loss as it helps the body dissolve and rid itself of excess fat cells.
The beneficial chickweed properties can be utilized simply from ingesting the leaves. Eat the fresh greens to strengthen and heal the glandular system, relieving cysts, thyroid problems, and ovarian cancer and also for all respiratory and digestive illnesses. Chickweed cools and soothes, reducing inflammation and healing tissue, whether taken as a whole food, used externally as a poultice, or made into a tea or tincture.
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Uses of a Chickweed Poultice
The most traditional way to make an herbal poultice is to boil the plant, allow it to cool, and then cover the herb with a thin cloth or muslin, and apply directly to the skin. With chickweed, the fresh herb itself can also be used, again with a thin cloth. Apply the poultice for several minutes, or up to three hours. Chickweed itself is a cooling plant; it will become warm after it has completed its task. Remove once the poultice becomes warm and discard. Allow it to draw out any infection, dissolving and consuming bacteria and toxins. It soothes irritation and inflammation, and then works to protect damaged tissue from more damage. It has a direct nourishing effect on cells, supplying them with vitamins A and C.
Use a chickweed herbal poultice for bug bites, minor wounds, pimples, rashes, and eczema. Externally, it can also be effective in treating any eye inflammation or infection. Chickweed helps to heal pinkeye, conjunctivitis, sties, or even sore eyes from wearing contact lenses.
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Drinking Chickweed Tea
Drinking an infusion of this herb, or simply taking tincture doses on a regular basis can be a nutritious way to maintain optimum health or to help the body overcome disease. As a tea, the fresh herb is always more effective than dried chickweed. Use two to three tablespoons of the fresh herb, or two teaspoons dried, for every cup of boiling water. Allow the infusion to steep for five minutes. Drink two to three cups daily for at least six weeks. For a tincture, take twenty to thirty drops up to two times a day.
An herbal treatment can have an enormous effect on asthma and allergy symptoms, bronchial infections, even smoker's cough by moisturizing and soothing. The saponins in the herb will gently dissolve thickened membranes of the throat and lungs, while at the same time disarming toxins and bacteria. The vulnerary chickweed properties will then help to heal damaged tissue.
Taking chickweed in this way can also assist in urinary infections, by purifying the blood and kidneys. It will as well calm and cool a troubled digestive stomach, easing constipation, hemorrhoids, or stomach ulcers.
For painful joints, a strong chickweed infusion can also be added to a bath. Chickweed baths will relieve arthritis, a stiff neck, joints, and back. This is also an effective treatment for eczema or psoriasis. For serious cases, soak twice a day.
As a medicinal herb, chickweed has many life-giving, healing properties. Like other common herbs, such as dandelion, it is perhaps overlooked only because it is often right under our nose.
Hoffmann, David. "The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal: A Safe and Practical Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies" (Element Books, 1996).
Weed, Susan. "Healing Wise" (Ash Tree Publishing, 1989).
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