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Chickweed Materia Medica

Chickweed Materia Medica

The name chickweed originated from its use as a feed to birds especially young chickens. It has been used for centuries as a feed, but also as a tonic to cleanse the liver and kidneys. It was introduced in Eurasia and is now wide spread throughout North America including the alpine strain of chickweed. The alpine strain is called field chickweed and grows from Alaska to Colorado.

Chickweed grows well in shady and moist areas. It has a weak stem with tiny white flowers that bloom in late winter and leaves that grow all along the stem. It makes a great ground cover because of its tendency to grow outward instead of upward. Chickweed is a sign of fertile soil; the plant helps the soil to retain nitrogen.

While doing my own experiments with the herb I found it to be very supportive in helping to relieve skin issues. Its ability to help to cleanse the liver helped to reduce my skin’s irritation and acne breakouts. I also had a test subject apply the herb topically in the form of infused oil. They applied the oil about 5 times a day directly to the psoriasis affected area and reported the use of the oil relieving the itching, drying and making it less scaly.

(from Foraging & Feasting by Dina Falconi)


Latin nameStellaria Media

Family: Caryophyllaceae (Pink Family)

TCM Name: Yin chai hu

Parts used: Above ground plant

Geographic Distribution: Grows throughout most of the northern hemisphere.
Botanical Description: Chickweed is covered in soft hairs on the stem, leaves and flower buds. The soft hairs on the stem are found in a line on one side of the stem. At each pair of leaves, the line of hairs switches to the other side of the stem. The small, ½-inch long oval leaves are arranged in opposite pairs along the stem. The flower has five white petals, which have very deep clefts so it looks like there are 10 petals. The flower has ten stamens with dark anthers that surround three white styles growing from the center. The flower opens in the mornings and closes in the evening. Roots are close to the ground surface and easy to pull up except for the one tap root, which is thin but has little rootlets growing from it.
Key Constituents: Triterpenoid saponins, phytosterols, coumarins, mucilage, vitamins A, C, E, B-complex, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, silicon, sodium, zinc, rutin, gamma-linolenic acid, and bioflavonoids.
Taste: slightly grassy, Mild
EnergyMoistening, Cooling, Diffusive
Actions: Chickweed is known to help with skin issues. Taken internally it helps to cleanse the liver, reduce fevers, clears toxins, dissolves plaque in the blood, gout and stiffness of the joints.

Preparation and dosage

  • Tea: Use 1 tbsp in just boiled water to make an infusion.
  • The leaves and stems can be chopped and added to a salad.
  • An infused oil or salve can be made and applied topically.
  • Add to a bath to calm dry or irritated skin.


According to The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine it is used to treat appendicitis, asthma, bladder irritation, bronchitis, constipation, cough, cysts, hoarseness, obesity, pleurisy, rheumatism, thyroid irregularities, tuberculosis and ulcers.

If used topically it soothes irritated skin and promotes healing. It helps to relieve psoriasis, eczema, itchy skin, varicose veins and inflammation of the eyes.

According to Planetary Herbology an infused oil of chickweed has similar properties to a cortisone cream (without the side effects!)

Chickweed is also highly nutritive, and makes an excellent addition to any daily tea blend you may enjoy.


Excess use may cause diarrhea.


Written by apothecary intern Suzy Ringdahl


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