Herb of the Month | Chickweed

chickweed

[Chickweed. Highfield Hollow. Pennsylvania. 2013.]

Let us speak plainly: the lovely, lowly Chickweed with its cool blue floral jewels is a feminine herb that simply could not survive the assault of this masculine phase of heroic traditional Greek medicine in its decadent phase.

Significantly, today when we are increasingly seeking a balance between the masculine and the feminine, supposedly “inactive” herbs like Chickweed are once again speaking to us. We can imagine the “little star lady” being used by past lineages of wise women… (Holmes, 461)

Imbolc (usually falling between January 31st and February 1st) is soon to arrive: the feast marks the beginning of the Celtic springtime. From my American standpoint, I remain deeply confused about the borders of the seasons here; it is only February! And the Daffodils are spearing upwards!

I had noticed Chickweed growing in the park this week — in the midst of an athletic field — an herb that I associate in the States with early spring. Last season, in Pennsylvania, I had gone and gathered some Chickweed from my friends’ lovely garden. I was rejoicing in the little star-like flowers as I laced them into our dinner salads.

Not an hour afterwards, my dear friend B., whilst taking care of various yard duties, sprayed the very same patch of Chickweed with a weed killer. This means that I get to tease him ad infinitum for murdering the Chickweed, but it is also a good illustration: wait and learn before you spray anything in your yard. And Chickweed has been treated as a weed much like Dandelion — yet the two of them are powerful medicines.

Chickweed not only offers its pretty white flowers but also its cooling relief.  In simple terms, Chickweed is used internally and externally. For internal health, Chickweed contains a remarkable range of minerals for restoring depletion (zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, silicon, molybdenum, and manganese) and it is also known for its Vitamin C content. The herb is especially tasty in early spring salads (see recipe below).

Externally, Chickweed is generally used for relieving a range of skin irritations (among them poison ivy and hemorrhoids).

In light of Holmes’s rather passionate words (as quoted above), you might want to explore Susun Weed’s essay, “Chickweed is a Star”; of particular interest is her observation of Chickweed’s ability to help with ovarian cysts.

Julian Barker has written, rather more briefly, of Chickweed:

For all its worth, it has never been a classical medicine (104).

Perhaps that is changing.

For more details on Chickweed, see the Materia Medica.

RECIPE | CHICKWEED AND DANDELION SALAD

irish_dandelion

Dandelion growing in a bed of Chickweed. Dublin. 2014.

This is an early Spring foraging* treat that is detoxifying and tonifying at the same time, helping one to cross over into a new season. The faintly salty-sweet taste of Chickweed mingles with the bitterness of Dandelion. Simply combine the Chickweed with the Dandelion leaves and dress as desired. (If you only have Chickweed and want something more substantial, mix her up with your regular greens.)

If you want a dressing that is slightly sweet, I’m particularly fond of a blend that I learned from one of my teachers, Maia Toll: balsamic vinegar blended with a bit of maple syrup.

* Remember to gather your herbs from places that you know are not treated with pollutants (or near a busy road, as plants pick up exhaust in the air).

SOURCES

Barker, Julian. The Medicinal Flora of Britain and Northwestern Europe. Kent: Winter Press, 2001.

Holmes, Peter. The Energetics of Western Herbs. A Materia Medica Integrating Western & Chinese Herbal Therapeutics. 2 vol. 4th ed. Cotati: Snow Lotus Press, 2007.

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