Chikweed is an edible flowering plant that comes from the Caryophyllaceae family. The term chickweed is often used to refer to the Common Chickweed, scientifically known as Stellaria media, however there are other types of chickweed in the Stellaria genus. The word Stellaria is taken from the shape of the chickweed flower, which is shaped like a star and resembles a carnation flower. Other names for chickweed are chickenwort, craches, maruns, and winterweed.
Chickweed is an edible weed that can be used raw or cooked. It is often likened to sprouts. Chickweed is a great addition to salads, sandwiches, and wraps, and can also be used as a spinach substitute. As well as being used in cooking, chickweed is also used for its medicinal benefits.
How to use chickweed in cooking
The young leaves and shoots of chickweed are often used in cooking. They can be used both raw or cooked and are extremely nutritious. One popular way to use chickweed is to add raw chickweed leaves to salads, sandwiches, and wraps. Chickweed seeds can be ground into a powder and used to thicken soups or when making bread. You can also use raw chickweed leaves and flowers as a garnish, or serve the cooked leaves as a side dish. When cooked, chickweed leaves are not much different from spring spinach. It’s just as nutritious too: chickweed is high in vitamins C, B, and A, as well as several minerals.
Note: when chickweed plants age, they tend to get more fibrous and stringy. This makes the older plants less pleasant to eat!
Is chickweed toxic?
Chickweed plant contains saponin. While this isn’t a poisonous substance in itself, when consumed in high amounts it can cause diarrhoea and vomiting. Because of the saponin content, it is not recommended that pregnant women consume chickweed medicinally.
Health benefits of chickweed
Chickweed is used both internally and externally in folk and herbal medicines. It is a very nutritious herb and has numerous health benefits. It is often used externally to treat skin issues such as itchiness or rashes. Internally, chickweed can be taken for chest issues or as a digestive aid.
- Weight loss: A 6-week study on mice consuming a high fat diet showed that consuming freeze-dried chickweed juice prevented an increase in body fat, weight gain, and LDL cholesterol when compared to a control group.
- Anti-inflammatory: Chickweed is often used as a remedy for rheumatism, arthritis, and menstrual cramps. It has been shown to help relieve swelling with anti-inflammatory, soothing, and anti-irritation effects. It can be used for inflamed skin, joints, and respiratory issues such as bronchitis.
- Skin disorders & Wound healing: In Chinese medicine, chickweed has been used for hundreds of years for its ability to heal wounds and infections. It is especially useful for skin diseases and dermatitis, helping to reduce itching and irritation. It is also useful in psoriasis, eczema, and acne thanks to its cooling and drying nature.
- Digestive: Chickweed is high in fibre and helps the body to better absorb nutrients.
A chickweed plant has a sleek slender sparsely hairy stem that reach up to 40 centimetres. The flowers are small and white with five deeply lobed petals and the leaves are oval. The flowers are quickly followed by seed pods. The leaves are edible and often used raw in salads. The chickweed plant contains a chemical known as saponins which can be toxic if consumed in large quantity and may lead to paralysis.
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