Family: Caryophyllaceae, the Pink or Carnation Family
Description: Non-native annual herb up to 80cm tall. Small white flowers with 5 petals split so deeply there appear to be 10; egg-shaped leaves; stems with few fuzzy lines
Habitat: Gardens, disturbed areas, lawns, woods, roadsides
Plant Parts Used: Leaves, flowers
Food: Salad, raw nibble
Medicine: Soothing, skin problems, immune booster, arthritis, kidney and urinary tract support, wounds, sore eyes, ovarian cysts, healing the mucosal lining
People already familiar with wild edibles will recognize chickweed—a very popular wild spring green, delicious in salads and as a snack. Deb enjoys chickweed as food in the spring. She finds it moistening and cooling. She dry wilts chickweed and adds it to a salve for eczema. A poultice of the plant is good for red, irritated, inflamed skin, boils, burns, and abscesses. She told me a story of a woman whose dog had a raw belly. Deb suggested applying a chickweed poultice to this wound, so they plastered the dog’s belly with this poultice and kept replacing the leaves when they turned black. After three days of this treatment, new skin was starting to grow and the redness had greatly decreased. Deb also said that chickweed is healing to the mucosal lining—the digestive and gastric tract—so it can help with leaky gut and irritable bowel syndrome, for example. She also said chickweed is included in formulas for ovarian cysts in order to help decrease their size.
John likes chickweed in salads, praising its use for arthritis and the kidneys. Terry-Anya “eats it when she finds it.” She told me chickweed is a soothing plant used externally or internally, especially used internally to soothe the urinary tract. Patti used a chickweed salve on her son when he had poison ivy rash. She also told me that this plant is an immune booster, found primarily in capsule form for that use. Ray and Nancy even once used chickweed for their itchy dog. According to Moerman’s research, Native Americans have primarily used chickweed externally to treat swellings, wounds, and sore eyes.
Note: This post is part of my Plants and People series. See my Plants and People page for more information about the project and the people referenced in this post.
- Brooks, John. Personal Interview. 28 Nov. 2010.
- Chilton, Patti. Telephone interview. 31 Oct. 2010.
- Hayes, Terry-Anya. Personal interview. 27 Oct. 2010.
- Michener, Martin C. Botany Everywhere: Woods, Field, Home, and Garden Plants of NE USA, Third Edition. Hollis, NH: MIST Software Associates, Inc., 2009. PDF.
- Mittelhauser, Glen H., Linda L. Gregory, Sally C. Rooney, and Jill E. Weber. The Plants of Acadia National Park. Orono, Me.: University of Maine, 2010. Print.
- Moerman, Daniel E. Native American Medicinal Plants: an Ethnobotanical Dictionary. Portland, Or.: Timber, 2009. Print.
- Reitze, Raymond and Nancy. Personal interview. 8, 15 Oct. 2010.
- Soule, Deb. Personal interview. 4 Feb. 2011.