Out my back door there is a carpet of bright green right at the foot of the porch steps. This herb tastes like everything I love about the color green and growing things. It also happens to be a nutrition-packed super medicinal weed. It is lovely chickweed. Today I am harvesting some to make pesto and also a healing oil. After all that stuffing on Thanksgiving, I need some wild greens in my system!
Chickweed is most lush (and medicinal, I believe) when it is very cool outside. It doesn’t like the heat at all and will die back during the summer months. It likes cool, shady, damp soil. Very early in my herbal studies, before I attempted to bring her into my kitchen, I spent a whole year observing the growth patterns of chickweed. I had been so excited to find this much acclaimed weed in my yard, and the first time I saw it die back I was very worried that I would never see it again, but chickweed is a prolific reproducer (as any gardner who hates it will tell you). She leaves many many seeds during every growing season and as soon as the weather cools she comes right back, even greener than before.
She is also a wonderful healing ally. Susun Weed describes chickweed as a weed that makes available to your body “…the energy of the cosmos.”
Eating fresh chickweed is a wonderful, low calorie way to get your vitamin C, a health dose of minerals (including high levels of calcium), chlorophyll, potassium, protein, and a host of other essential nutrients. You can eat it raw right out of the yard, add it to fresh salads, or pile it on sandwiches. You can also make pesto (see below). The following recipe is partially from Susun Weed’s Healing Wise and partially from the recipe posted at LearningHerbs.com, but an internet search will yield many other variations.
- 1 C fresh chickweed (packed) & 1 C fresh basil –OR–
- 2 C fresh chickweed (packed)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 C olive oil
Some also like to add cheese (parmesan) or nuts (pine nuts, walnuts). These make it taste really good, but they don’t keep as long as the other ingredients so adding them reduces the shelf life of your pesto, which is fine if you plan to consume it fairly soon.
Put all ingredients in a blender and turn it on. Blend until it looks like pesto. If it is too thick and gets the blender stuck, add a little more oil until you get the right consistency.
I’m using the pesto I’m making today, along with some lemon juice, as a dressing for a pasta salad made with orzo. Mmmmh, I can’t wait for dinner!
Chickweed Oil/ Salve
Chickweed is well known as a cooling, anti-infective drawing agent. A poultice of crushed and/or heated fresh chickweed applied to a hot, infected wound will cool it and draw out the infection. It is often used to draw out splinters. It seems to have a particular affinity for the eyes and has been known to completely heal pink eye in a very short time. An oil extract of chickweed retains these healing properties, and the oil can be made into a salve that is very effective against diaper rash and as a wound dressing.
To make an oil extract, pack a clean dry jar with fresh chickweed, pour olive oil over to completely fill the jar. Stir it to remove air bubbles and then pour more oil to cover again. Cover with a tight fitting lid and let sit for six weeks or more. Strain out the herb and enjoy the oil!
To make salve, gently heat some of the oil on very low heat (high heat will damage the oil). Add about 1/4 cup grated beeswax to every cup of oil. Continue to heat gently until beeswax is completely melted. To test the consistency, dip a spoon in the mixture and then put the spoon in the freezer for a couple of minutes to harden the salve. If it is too hard, add some more oil to your mixture; if it is too soft, add some more beeswax. When it is the right consistency, pour into clean dry jars and let cool before capping. Store in a cool dry place.
Used for Chickweed Tincture
I have not begun to use the tincture regularly, but it is said that a dropperful 3-4 times per day will aid with weight loss. Chickweed is full of saponins that help dissolve fat cells, and also cleans metabolic waste from the other cells, boosting metabolism. It thins cell walls and the mucous lining in the intestines, making your food more digestible and delivering instantly higher levels of nutrition to every part of your body. A more nourished body tends not to desire binging on junk food, which greatly helps weight loss efforts.
It also weakens the cells of bacteria in the body making them highly susceptible to destruction by the white blood cells, boosting your immune system. It thins the mucous lining in the lungs to aid in clearing up lung ailments such as bronchitis. Used regularly it has been known to dissolve cysts and cancers in the body, especially of the ovaries.
I made my first chickweed tincture last January. At that time the chickweed was so very green and inviting, even though the temperatures were frequently below freezing. I harvested a bunch of it for the very first medicinal tincture I ever made. I was shocked to find when I got my harvest in the house and began chopping that those bright green leaves actually had ice crystals in them. They were frozen! I went ahead with the tincture anyway, not really knowing if I should or not. I have to say that this is the absolute best tasting tincture I have ever made. It tastes like you might imagine the smell of a freshly mown yard or field of hay in the summer would taste – you know that wonderful aroma. It is springy and green and full of buzzing zing zing energy. You can barely taste the alcohol at all in this medicine.
I think the cool, freezing weather is just how chickweed likes it best, and she makes her most powerful medicine during that season. I’m going to try another tincture next year during the warmer weather to test my theory. I’ll keep you posted on how/if they are different.
So, go sample some chickweed… it’s probably right outside your door. Enjoy!
Sources: Almost everything I know about chickweed I learned from Susun Weed and my own hands-on experiments. Check out her book Healing Wise