As the sunlight slowly lengthens & the weather gets warmer, herb-y eyes are attentive for the spotting of this juicy, verdant little herb. As the freezing temperatures fade & the birdsong intensifies, the lovely maiden of spring starts offering herself in lawns, garden beds, city sidewalks, fields & forests all over.
After a cold, sleepy winter, likely full of heavy foods, our bodies crave the nourishing freshness of Mama Earth’s reawakening greenery. The first spring taste of wild edibles straight from the soil is an ineffable feeling & gift of sustenance for body & soul. Reminding us the Earth is ever cycling through death & rebirth, as are us human beings, and never ceases to provide just what we need in selfless offering.
Stellaria media is probably my favorite springtime wild edible. Stellaria, meaning star-like for its star shaped flowers, & media meaning average or middle; though it is far from “average” in my eyes. While a humble little ground cover indeed, it is a deeply nourishing food & medicine, adored by centuries of generations before us. It is a superb lymphatic mover, another testament to Mama Nature’s divine timing in offering just what we need at just the right time. After heavy winter meals often lacking in fresh-from-the-Earth nutrients & our typically slow, stagnant lifestyles, Stellaria is a most welcome mover of the body’s fluids & soul’s energy, preparing us for the upsurging season of regrowth, creative energy, & inspiring movement.
Stellaria media is a mat-forming perennial ground cover. It blooms from early to mid spring with teeny white flowers at the ends of the plant’s stems. The flowers appear to have 10 petals, but are really 5-petals that are deeply divided. The leaves are opposite, toothless & stalkless (no petiole). The stems can be erect but typically sprawl along the ground, rooting at nodes.
Chickweed Stellaria media has a very similar lookalike, Cerastium fontanum mouse-eared or hairy chickweed, pictured below. Cerastium is also edible albeit more fuzzy textured, which can be off-putting to some eaten raw. Chickweed has hairless leaves & just a single row of fine hairs along the stems, whereas mouse-eared chickweed has very fuzzy leaves and stems. The flower petals of Cerastium also typically don’t seem to be as deeply divided as the petals of Stellaria.
Chickweed is tastiest eaten fresh in salads, sandwiches, & smoothies, and can also be cooked as any other vegetable in various dishes. It is also made into a lovely green-fresh tea, from the fresh or dried whole plant. Chickweed is rich in antioxidants, saponins, vitamins A, C & B (such as thiamine, riboflavin & niacin), as well as magnesium, iron, calcium, fiber & protein.
Medicinally, Stellaria media has been worked with for centuries as poultices, oils & salves to help with skin irritations including rashes & eczema. Chickweed aids in clearing bacterial infections when applied as a fresh poultice. It is also made into a tincture from the whole, fresh plant. It cools inflammations both internally & externally.
Stellaria contains saponins, which are known to be extremely effective in dissolving cysts, particularly ovarian cysts, when a dropperfull of the tincture is taken 2-3 times a day in conjunction with the infused oil applied topically. It is also amazing for eye health with its cooling & moistening properties which can soothe discomfort, irritation, dryness, styes, & conjunctivitis.
Susun Weed & Matthew Wood are fervent believers in Stellaria’s ability to help with weight loss by dissolving fat due its high saponin content & it’s effect on metabolism & endocrine function. They state it regulates water levels & drives off excess fats, resulting in stimulating both sides of the metabolism’s building & breaking down through the liver & endocrine system.
Chickweed is a diuretic inducing a loss of fluids from the body inhibiting the kidney’s ability to reabsorb sodium which enhances loss of sodium & water through urine. Thus it is also an excellent kidney tonic, as well as helpful for specific kidney related issues.
**While we hope we inspire an interest in all things wild or cultivated herbal medicine, this post is not intended to be the only source used to prepare you for eating wild food or self-treating. It’s always best to learn from another human, in person, and to follow up with multiple sources. Please research any new herb and consult your health care providers for possible drug/herb contraindications and precautions before ingesting. Be sure of your identification before ingesting any plant or mushroom. The information we share is for educational purposes and not intended to be used to treat or diagnose any diseases or conditions.
**sources: ediblewildfood.com & https://draxe.com/nutrition/chickweed/