The small, white, star-like flowers are said to open regularly at nine o’clock in the morning on fine days and close at nine in the evening. This has been used to predict the weather – if it opens fully, there will be no rain for 4 hours, but if they stay shut, it will rain.
Chickweed is so called because birds and chickens are very fond of the plant and the seed is also used to feed tame birds. The Latin name Stellaria, meaning star, comes from the star like flowers.
The whole plant is highly nutritious and rich in Vitamin A and C and several minerals. The plant is regarded as a delicacy in Europe and eaten in salads or cooked like spinach. It has a mild, fruity taste. In Europe it is given as a blood tonic in the spring and the Swiss eat it to strengthen the heart. It used to be given to those with consumption and to malnourished children to build them up.
The plant has long been used as a cooling, demulcent herb. Culpeper recommends using the plant juice for ‘all heats and redness of the eye’. It is still used in this way by herbalists today – as a cooling emollient it is perfect for hot, itchy skin or other inflammatory conditions such as boils. It can be used in creams or applied directly to the skin as a cooled poultice. An infusion of chickweed can be mixed with witch hazel to apply to chicken pox to relieve itching and the cream is perfect for insect bites, drawing splinters, scalds, stings and eczema – in fact any hot, itchy condition.
Use externally for:
- Hot itchy skin
- Dry skin
- Urticaria – nettle rash/hives
- Chicken pox