It is nice to end with a plant that defines itself, in its very own name, as a weed. Yet, like all the other plants we have seen in this series, it is anything but. Its commonness does not suggest a lowly position but, like so many other abundant plants we have discovered, reflects its ability to meet our demand once we wake to its power to heal.
Although sprawling and fragile, Chickweed (Stelleria media) has a cooling lushness to it, with its leaves and stems bordering on being succulent. The high content of saponins give the plant a slimy soapiness when crushed that suggests its ability to cleanse.
I have found great patches of Chickweed growing in amongst Nettles and Clivers, although the bond is not as frequent, or as strong, as the one between the latter two plants. It does, however, suggest the part Chickweed has to play in cleaning the system. Although I prescribe it internally quite often in skin conditions, the balance of its domain tips heavily in favour of external applications for such conditions and can be applied as an adjunct to deeper constitutional treatment.
It comes as no surprise that Chickweed favours moist places. It has evolved to absorb the dominant element in its environment, which it then imparts as part of its healing function. Thus Chickweed is well indicated in hot and itchy skin conditions, as well as other inflammed conditions such as gout and rheumatism.
For external conditions, I prefer to use a compress or poultice over ointments and creams, allowing the skin a better chance to breath and clear itself. This method is also greatly indicated in chronic skin conditions whereby there will be repeated phases of outbreak, followed by healing (as is in keeping with the natural pattern of healing), before the condition finally resolves itself. However, as this cycle draws to a close, such application might be introduced to support the final healing of the skin.
On the other hand, although a bath can be prepared to cover larger areas of skin, there is something fast and practical about the application of a cream or ointment in acute outbreaks of such magnitude.
I can remember the cause for just such an application on one occasion when a friend was visiting with her daughter. During the midday meal the young girl experienced an outbreak of itchy Urticaria. Some Chickweed cream, that I had made, was at hand and quickly applied. The result was miraculous as the rash cleared up before our eyes.
In its character, Chickweed is in a similar category to Spurge. It is low and humble, and seldom valued in the gardens that it often takes over. Though, unlike Spurge, Chickweed has its delicate and attractive, star-like, flower that gives it its botanical name of Stelleria.
Another observation of interest, with respect to Chickweed, concerns the stem. If you hold a portion of stem between two fingers of each hand, and then gently pull it apart, it will break and slide away like a sheath, exposing a sinewy strand that is present in the middle of the stem. For me, this is another one of Chickweed's signatures. It indicates the ability of the plant to bring cooling moisture to the inner joints and sinews. It can impart moisture and suppleness here where there is dryness and shrinkage.
Likewise, this signature can also represent the passages of the bowels, and works to bring moisture and coolness where there is inflammation and dryness. In this sense, the energetics are similar to those of Marshmallow, as I mentioned in a previous posting. The mild laxative effect of Chickweed, combined with the anit-inflammatory influence on the bowels may explain why some sources suggest it as a possible source to prevent colon cancer.
The cooling power of Chickweed is best felt when used in its fresh form. However, to get you through the winter months, quantities of fresh material can be dried and then reconstituted both for external and internal use.
I hope you have enjoyed this series thus far and will carry on reading as we move on to the Natural First Aid series. If you have any questions about the plants that have been included in this series, please write to me on my E-mail address that is found on my website.
Health and Happiness
The Green Man