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Traditionally harvested as a vegetable, chickweed has earned a spot in the heart of many herbalists and self-healers. Chickweed is best known for its ability to cool inflammation and speed healing for internal or external flare-ups. Chickweed tea is enjoyed as one of the classic spring tonics to cleanse the blood.
Chickweed contains saponins which are soap-like. Saponins emulsify and increase the permeability of cellular membranes so when we consume chickweed those saponins increase the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. They also dissolve and break down unwanted matter, including disease-causing bacteria, cysts, benign tumors, thickened mucus in the respiratory and digestive systems, and excess fat cells.
Chickweed helps get rid of bacterial infections when applied as a poultice. Many years ago mothers would go to the garden to use chickweed to heal their child’s pink eye infection. If they managed to get the pink eye at the onset, generally one application would suffice. Using a fresh chickweed poultice every time was and still is critical in order to stop the bacteria from being reintroduced. Sometimes several applications were required for more severe cases.
Susan Weed says she has seen chickweed dissolve ovarian cysts that were as large as an orange. She says that using chickweed to dissolve a cyst or benign tumor is a slow process, and requires consistency. Susan says that chickweed tincture is required and it must be made from the fresh plant, not dried. If making your own, 100 proof vodka must be used. If you choose to purchase tincture be sure to ask if fresh plant matter was used. Susan says that a dropperful of the tincture taken 2 to 3 times a day for 2 to 16 months is what will achieve results.
Our eyes naturally like to be both cool and moist. The discomfort of irritation, redness, dryness, sties, and conjunctivitis can be soothed with chickweed. For best results you need to mash some of the fresh plant and apply the juicy pulp (as a poultice) to a closed eye. After 15 minutes, or when the poultice becomes warm, remove the poultice and apply a fresh poultice of chickweed. If need be, do this over the course of a few days.
Chickweed Eye Lotion (Susan Weed’s recipe)
7 tbsp distilled water
7 tbsp witch hazel (from the drugstore and unscented)
1 tbsp chickweed tincture
Combine all ingredients in a clean bottle. Shake well before every use. Wet a cotton ball with the lotion and apply to closed eyes for 3 minutes. If your eyes are sensitive then do not use.
Matthew Wood and Susun Weed are fervent believers that chickweed can reduce fat and help with weight loss. Susan Weed claims that the high saponin content is the reason for this, while Matthew Wood looks to its effects on metabolism and endocrine function. Wood says that chickweed regulates water levels and drives off excess fats. As a result it stimulates both sides of the metabolism, building and breaking down, not only through the liver but also through the endocrine system.
Chickweed is a diuretic therefore it induces a loss of fluid from the body. It inhibits the kidney’s ability to reabsorb sodium, which enhances the loss of sodium in the urine; when sodium is lost in the urine, water is also lost). So it can help with weight loss.
Be wary though, this does not mean this is the be-all answer to losing weight. Exercise and diet have a huge role in weight loss. There is no magic pill or plant. Yes, as chickweed has proven, it can help – but a lot of the work still has to come from the person wanting to lose weight. Eliminating sugar (manufactured glucose/fructose as well) has to happen in order to achieve great results.
Chickweed gently moves the lymph. When there are swollen lymph glands or when there is swelling and edema, this indicates a stagnant interstitial fluid or lymphatic system. Seek the advice of a qualified health professional as to how to use chickweed for this.
Skin and Wounds
For hundreds of years people around the world have sought relief from skin that is irritated as well as itchiness. Typically, a topical poultice of the fresh plant is the means to soothing. Chickweed poultices are useful for cooling and soothing minor burns, skin irritations, and rashes particularly when associated with dryness and itching. For many decades it was the go-to plant in order to draw out boils and splinters. Today, the aerial parts are commonly made into salves to help with skin issues such as eczema and psoriasis. Chickweed also can help with blisters, or minor scrapes.
Many herbalists will agree that chickweed, along with broadleaf plantain makes a powerful salve for skin issues. If you want to know how to make a salve, check out How to Make an Herbal Salve.
Dry and irritated lungs can result in spasmodic and dry coughs. Often, this means that the cough is a reaction to irritated lung tissue. Chickweed can be used as a tincture or tea to restore moisture and bring cooling relief to the lungs.
Chickweed is a mild expectorant and can help to expel mucus that is stuck in the lungs. This could be explained by the reflexive effects of saponin on the mucus membranes of the body.
Chickweed is a mild diuretic that helps to relieve signs of heat in the urinary tract, such as frequent and painful urination. While not generally used for urinary tract infections, it can be combined with other herbs such as Arctostaphylos uva-ursi and Achillea millefolium to address the irritation of bacterial infections in the urinary tract. It is best that you seek help from a qualified health professional.
Used as a febrifuge, chickweed can help to bring down a fever. It is really important to know the cause of a fever before attempted to bring down the body temperature. Fever is a natural response to infection or illness. Many illnesses thrive at normal body temperature, and a fever is a good indication that the immune system is functioning to ward off the infection. In fact, a fever is a good sign as it means that the body is responding to fight the infection. A fever can become dangerous when it reaches 105°F. Speak with a qualified health professional as to when you should seek medical help when fever strikes.
Other benefits include:
- May help minimize inflammation. People affected by rheumatoid arthritis can use this herb to help ease inflammation in their joints and relieve the pain caused by this condition.
- Aids in wound healing. Chickweed has been used to promote wound healing and ease infections through its antiseptic and anti-fungal properties.
Ways to Use Chickweed
- Poultice – Chickweed can be crushed and directly applied to bruises and aching body parts to help ease tension or lessen inflammation.
- Compress – apply aerial parts of the plant to aching joints and muscles to relieve pain.
- Infused oil – chickweed oil can be added to bathwater to help alleviate the symptoms of eczema. It can also be used topically for insect bites and other skin conditions to help minimize itchiness.
- Decoction – a decoction can be used to help with constipation.
It should be noted that using excessive amounts of chickweed may lead to nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Ideally, as is the case with many other herbs, use in moderation. If you are pregnant and/or breastfeeding, there is insufficient data that proves chickweed is safe for both you and your unborn child. It is best that you avoid using chickweed to eliminate any possible risks.