Chickweed Identification, Benefits and Uses
Chickweed is often referred to as the “star” because of its tiny bright white flowers. There is always large patches growing from early spring until late fall that I add raw to my smoothies and salads. I don’t like to cook it and prefer to add on top of my cooked recipes when already in the bowl or on a plate. Learn the identification benefits and uses of this nutritious chickweed plant.
Other Names: Common chickweed, Star plant
Botanical, Scientific or Latin Name: Stellaria Media
Plant Family: Caryophyllacea
All of the above ground parts of the plant are edible; stem, leaves, flowers, seeds
Chickweed can be used to treat skin issues (eczema, burns, acne, rashes), fight respiratory infections (coughs, asthma, bronchitis) and help with insomnia.
- Alterative – helps to gradually restore body functions and increase health
- Demulcent – relieves inflammation and irritation
- Discutient – break up morbid matter such as tumors
- Refrigerant – cools the body, reduces body heat
- Resolvent – helps remove abnormal growth in the body
- Make tea to treat skin sores, burns, acne, eczema and rashes
- Tea may help insomnia and calm nerves
- Kidney and liver support
- Helps lung issues – asthma, coughs, bronchitis
- High in calcium, vitamin C and B vitamins
- High in potassium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, iron and copper
How to Identify
This is a low-growing annual plant that grows 1-2 feet tall in large patches. Look for the bright green leaves and lots of tiny white flowers. See below for a non-edible look-alike.
- The bright green oval-shaped leaves grow opposite each other with pointed tips.
- The tiny white star-shaped flowers have 5 two-parted petals (looks like 10 petals).
- The stems grow tangled up to two feet with a single line of hairs.
- Mouse-ear chickweed (edible) has white flowers.
- Scarlet Pimpernel (not edible) has orange, red or blue flowers, dark spots under the leaves and no hairs on the stems. It is not edible because it contains a toxic compound called saponins which may cause an allergic reaction.
Don’t let the non-edible look-alike plant scare you from learning how to identify and enjoying this highly nutritious and flavorful plant. You can do what I do and wait for the white flowers to appear before foraging the plant 🙂
Where To Find In The Wild
This highly nutritional herb grows throughout North America from March until September in your backyard, local park, walking trails, country roads and fields. You should always check to make sure the area has not been sprayed with chemicals before harvesting and you should never eat a wild plant unless you are 100% positive of the identification.
Where To Find Online
How to Use
All parts of the upper plant can be eaten but the upper 2″ are the most common because they are more tender and also allows the plant to regrow. I don’t recommend cooking because it is such a delicate plant and heat will greatly reduce the size. Furthermore, the flavor is too good not to eat fresh. Drying the plant and storing it in your pantry is a great way to add nutrition to your diet during the winter months.
- The leaves, flowers, seeds and stem can be added to a salads, sandwiches and smoothies.
- I recommend adding a handful of chickweed on top of your soup bowl instead of cooking inside the pot.
- Tea can be made from the fresh or dried leaves, flowers, seeds and stem.
How To Make Tea (Infusion)
An infusion is made from fresh or dried leaves, flowers, seeds and stem (whole, cut or powdered). Do not boil the herbs because the leaves are delicate. The nutrients are easily extracted.
- 1 tsp dried herbs or 1 tablespoon fresh herbs
- 1 cup gently boiling water
Put herbs in a mug or into a tea strainer, pour hot water over herbs, cover and steep 15 minutes for a light tea or longer for a strong tea. Strain and sweeten with honey, if desired. You can find mesh tea balls, strainers, squeezers and infusers at Starwest Botanicals.
How To Make Tincture
A tincture is more concentrated than a tea. Is more convenient to use and has a long shelf life. The alcohol extracts the medicinal qualities from the plant and preserves it. I like to store my tinctures in glass amber bottles (with dropper) but any clean glass jar will be good. Store in a cool dark place and they will keep indefinitely.
- Fresh or dried chickweed
- 80 proof vodka
- Quart jar with lid
Fill a quart glass canning jar halfway with fresh or dried herbs. Pour 80 proof vodka over the herbs filling almost to the top of the jar. Stir well, seal lid tightly and label with herb and date. Keep in a dark place (cabinet) and shake once every day for 2 – 4 weeks. Strain and transfer liquid to glass amber bottles or any clean jar. Sore in a cool dry place.
Wild Chickweed Pesto
You can use just about any wild edible green plant for making pesto such as cleavers, dandelion greens, garlic mustard, lamb’s quarters, plantain, red clover leaves and wood sorrel. This is a basic recipe that can be made to your taste.
- 2 cups packed fresh chickweed
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds or pine nuts
- Dash of sea salt
Process the seeds or nuts in a blender or food processor. Add remaining ingredients and blend smooth. Great on top of pasta, zucchini noodles or veggie sticks.
Look-alike Scarlet Pimpernel (not edible) has orange, red or blue flowers, dark spots under the leaves and no hairs on the stems. It is not edible because it contains a toxic compound called saponins which may cause an allergic reaction. Don’t let this plant scare you from learning how to identify and enjoying chickweed. You can do what I do and wait for the white flowers to appear before foraging the plant 🙂