You probably already know this if you have attended one of my herbal classes, but I love weeds! Yes, I have a great fondness for the plants that everyone tries to get rid of and “keep under control” especially the tenacious ones that keep on growing where nothing else could…. the crack of a sidewalk, compacted and poor soil, the top of a bridge, along railroad tracks, etc.…
I love weeds because they are spunky and resourceful, and in some cases they are beneficial to the local ecosystem. These plants will hold down eroding soil, remove heavy metals, and/or provide greater soil fertility and organic matter. They grow in niches where more delicate plants cannot.
Additionally, many of these so-called weeds make for good foods and remedies for humans. So, before you decide to remove a weedy creature from your garden or lawn, please consider all of the above qualities and appreciate the vitality that is found in wild plants!
Now, onto Chickweed, one of our delightfully weedy plants that can be seen around town.
First and foremost, chickweed is an abundant wild edible. It makes for a refreshing salad green and is a traditional spring tonic. It is very nutritious, being high in chlorophyll, vitamins A & C, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Chickweed is a wonderful herb to help support the liver and the whole lymphatic system. Traditionally it is used to remove metabolic wastes and excess fats from the body.
If you make a tea of chickweed you might notice an interesting property that it has: when you pour hot water over the dried leaves you’ll see a foamy substance that rises to the top. This is because chickweed contains saponins, which are soap-like substances that increase the permeability of cells. This quality helps our human bodies to absorb more nutrients while also helping us to break down waste products, including excess mucous, toxins and fat cells. This makes it a perfect spring herb to turn to when our bodies need to wake up — and lighten up — after a long winter.
On the herbal spectrum of actions chickweed is considered to be a cooling and demulcent herb. It is soothing and moisturizing for the body’s tissues, both internally and externally. Chickweed can be used for any sort of hot, inflammatory condition such as colitis, sore throat, itchy or inflamed skin, or even stings, burns and sunburn. I think it is especially wonderful for irritated and red eyes. A simple poultice of fresh chickweed placed over the eyes will bring cooling relief.
Now in early spring is the time to scope out wild chickweed; before too long it will start to fade in the hot summer sun. Watch out for its dainty white, star-shaped flowers, and brilliant green leaves. It may be an over-looked plant but once you learn how to identify chickweed you will be surprised to see it growing abundantly, spreading like tiny stars across the city.
HOW TO USE CHICKWEED:
While we are still blanketed in snow and temperatures are frigid, this month is full of hope and renewal. With the arrival of the equinox on March 20th comes the official start to spring and longer, warmer, and greener days ahead.
In celebration of the equinox I formulated the following blend. This tea is a simple way to get lots of easily-assimilated minerals into your body, while also supporting the liver and your body's pathways of detoxification. It feels like a gentle spring cleaning for your whole system! Don't be surprised if you feel lighter and more energized after drinking this infusion over the course of several days. Your eyes will sparkle and your liver will thank you!
1 part Nettles
1 part Alfalfa
1/2 part Dandelion leaf
1/2 part Chickweed
1/4 part Spearmint
(This recipe is proportional. 1 "part" equals any sized bowl or measurement of your choice so that you can make as large or as small a batch as you'd like.)
Blend all herbs together. Place 5 heaping Tblsp. in a glass quart-sized jar, cover with boiled water and cap immediately. Let this steep overnight or for at least 7 hours at room temperature. In the morning, strain out the herbs. Gently re-heat the brew if you wish, or drink it as is. Store any extra tea in the fridge and drink within two days.
Happy soon-to-be Spring!