Chickweed: Benefits, Side Effects, Precautions, and Dosage
Chickweed (Stellaria media (Linn.) Villars) — also called starweed, satin flower, or mouse-ear — is a common weed in the carnation family.
It grows low to the ground, has a hairy stem, and produces small, star-shaped, white flowers. It’s primarily found in North America and Europe.
Chickweed has many culinary and folk remedy uses that date back centuries.
This article reviews the benefits, uses, potential side effects, and recommended dosages for chickweed, as well as ways you can enjoy it.
Benefits of chickweed
Chickweed contains many plant compounds — including phytosterols, tocopherols, triterpene saponins, flavonoids, and vitamin C — that may be responsible for its benefits.
May support digestion and weight loss
One study found that orally administered chickweed extract suppressed progesterone-induced obesity in mice.
All of the mice with progesterone-induced obesity experienced significant increases in body weight, body fat, and liver fat.
However, those that were also given 90–180 mg of chickweed extract per pound (200–400 mg per kg) of body weight experienced significant decreases in these measurements, compared with the control and progesterone-treated groups.
What’s more, a 6-week study in mice fed a high fat diet found that consuming freeze-dried chickweed juice prevented weight gain and increases in body fat and total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, compared with a control group.
These anti-obesity effects were attributed to the delayed absorption of dietary fats and carbs in the intestines as a result of the digestive-inhibiting enzymes in the chickweed juice.
May be beneficial when you’re sick
If you’re feeling crummy and experience phlegm buildup, chickweed may be helpful.
Some animal and test-tube studies indicate that chickweed is a good expectorant, meaning it may help loosen mucus, thus helping you cough.
May reduce inflammation
One review found that applying whole chickweed as a plaster to swollen areas or even broken bones could provide anti-inflammatory, anti-irritation, and soothing effects.
Another review observed that the whole plant can fight inflammation when used for inflamed skin, joints, and respiratory tract illnesses like bronchitis.
May fight germs and promote wound healing
Chickweed may fight germs and help heal wounds and infections. It has been used for these purposes in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, primarily for skin diseases and dermatitis.
In Ireland and Britain, chickweed is a common remedy for alleviating skin problems, speeding wound healing, and reducing irritation and itchiness.
One test-tube study found that applying fresh chickweed juice could fight the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Applying the juice to an HBV-infected liver cell line for 6 days reduced HBV growth and production by over 25%.
Chickweed has long been used for healing and soothing purposes, such as reducing inflammation and fighting germs. It may also promote weight maintenance and act as an expectorant when you’re sick.
Downsides and precautions
Consuming excessive amounts of chickweed can cause nausea, upset stomach, diarrhea, and vomiting. Plus, the plant is high in saponins, which are compounds that may cause an upset stomach in some people.
It has also been reported that using chickweed directly on the skin can cause a rash, though this may be due to an allergy.
Furthermore, there’s not enough evidence that using chickweed is safe for children or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, so these populations should avoid the plant to prevent adverse outcomes.
Chickweed may cause an upset stomach or irritated skin in some people. It should be avoided by children and pregnant and breastfeeding women due to a lack of evidence on its safety in these populations.
Uses and doses for chickweed
Chickweed can be used in a number of ways, though there’s no clinical evidence to suggest a suitable dosage. Keep in mind that it’s best to speak with your healthcare provider before using it.
Apply directly to your skin
The whole chickweed plant may be applied directly to irritated skin to reduce inflammation.
You can also find chickweed salves or ointments that can be used to soothe bug bites, burns, cuts, and itchiness, as they’re said to have a cooling and drying effect on the skin.
Make an infused oil
Chickweed-infused oil can be added to a bath or applied to your skin.
To make infused chickweed oil, chop 2 cups (100 grams) of fresh chickweed leaves and leave them on your countertop to wilt for about 24 hours.
Then, combine the leaves with 1 1/4 cups (270 grams) of coconut oil in a blender until smooth. Heat this mixture in a double boiler until it’s warmed through. Turn off the heat and let the mixture sit for 3 hours. Repeat the warming and sitting step 4 more times.
The oil is ready to use when it takes on a green hue. At this point, strain it to remove any large pieces of leaves.
Note that essential oils should be diluted with a carrier oil, and they should never be ingested, as they’re for topical use only.
Also, before topical application of the oil, a skin allergist can perform a patch test for you. This includes applying the substance to a patch, which is then applied to your skin to determine if you may have an adverse reaction.
While essential oils have a varying shelf life, most types last for at least 1 year if stored properly in a cool, dark place in a sterile container with an airtight lid.
Consume as a hot tea
Chickweed leaves can be steeped in hot water to make a tea that potentially relieves pain, reduces inflammation, and provides calming, soothing effects.
To make your own chickweed tea, add 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) of chickweed leaves to 3 cups (710 mL) of water and simmer over medium heat for approximately 10 minutes. Filter out the leaves and enjoy.
Old herbal folklore suggests enjoying a cup of this tea every 2–3 hours, though there’s no research to suggest how often you should drink it to reap its potential benefits.
Eat raw leaves
You can add chopped chickweed leaves to dishes like soups, egg recipes, pastas, or pizzas.
It can also be blended into dips and sauces like pesto or hummus.
Chickweed may be infused into an oil, made into tea, applied directly to the skin, or eaten raw. It’s important to note that essential oils are for topical use only and should not be consumed.
The bottom line
Chickweed is a common weed that offers a number of potential benefits.
Many people find that the plant helps reduce inflammation and soothe irritated skin. What’s more, animal and test-tube studies suggest that it may have applications in disease treatment and obesity prevention.
Chickweed can be applied directly to your skin, made into tea, eaten raw, or infused into an oil for topical use.
However, like other herbs, it should not be used without approval from your healthcare provider. Also, children and pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid using it due to a lack of evidence on its safety in these populations.
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