I love to wildcraft. My partner Crystal and I will take long walks in the woods or out in fields and spend hours looking for medicine as if we were in an Indiana Jones movie searching for the holy grail. I think in some way we are. While the warmer months are busy harvesting so many things the cooler months depending on where you are can be just as fruitful. So we decided to start a set of weekly post describing some of those herbs that can be found even in the dead of winter. Each week we will focus on a specific herb that we have found where we live around Chapel Hill, North Carolina. So if you live on the east coast or in a similar region have fun finding these herbs around you.
Chickweed is an amazing herb that can be found all over the world. It prefers shady moist places and I can walk outside in my backyard and spot it everywhere. It trails on the ground with a juicy pale green stem. Te leaves are opposite and shaped like a spade from a deck of cards. There is a row of hairs traveling on one side of the stem until it reaches leaves and then travel’s on the opposite side. A really cool thing about this plant is that the leaves fold inward at night to protect the tip of the shoot.
Medicinally, it is a nutritive powerhouse, with Vitamin C, D, B complex, along with most trace minerals. It also is demulcent in action with anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and vulnerary properties. Herbalist use this internally to treat inflammation of mucosal membranes; skin, gastrointestinal system, genital-urinary system. It is also an excellent external poultice for any type of red, inflamed, itchy skin issue. Specifically, it would be an excellent alternative to Aloe for burns when mixed with egg whites.
Chickweed loses its medicinal power when dried, so one must use this herb fresh. An alternative is to freeze it, but it is not likely to be as effective. You could juice it and then freeze the juice which can also be used as an eye wash.
According to folklore, you can use chickweed to predict weather. If the flowers are blooming robustly, it won’t rain for at least four hours. Otherwise, bring an umbrella.
An important note: Do not gather this herb where nitrate fertilizer is used.
Here is an interesting recipe for a salad dressing:
2 Cups water, 1-2 cups Chickweed, 1 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 3-4 cloves of garlic, 1 large potato, baked or boiled, 1 handful of parsley or dill, salt and pepper to taste. Blend everything together until smooth.
Bill, S. Edible and Medicinal Plants, (1994)
Grieve, M. A Modern Herbal (1971)
Winston, D. Materia Medica Chickweed (2011)