Chickweed, scientifically named Stellaria media, is a weed that usually grows in North America, Europe, and parts of Asia. It is also known as “chicken grass”, “chickenwort” and “winterweed” and it is characterized by its particular hairy stem and its small white star-shaped flowers that are used for medicinal purposes.
Until a few years ago it was prepared in the form of tea, decoctions and extracts to alleviate some health problems. However, it is currently used mainly as a topical ointment, since its oral consumption carries some risks. Do you want to know more about it? Continue reading!
Chickweed Uses and Benefits
Due to its properties, chickweed has been used as a natural remedy for hundreds of years. A study published in the journal Heliyon states that the plant concentrates the following compounds with pharmacological potential:
- Stellar oligosaccharides.
- Derivatives of anthraquinones.
- Fatty acids.
- Saponin steroids.
- Phenolic compounds.
These, in particular, give it antifungal, antibacterial, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic and anxiolytic properties. Still, caution must be exercised when using it, since it is not without possible interactions and side effects. What are the principal uses?
Chickweed’s anti-inflammatory properties are used to mitigate symptoms of skin, joint, or respiratory disorders. A review shared in Integrative Medicine Research found that topical application of this plant helps reduce inflammation and irritation. In addition, it has calming effects.
Another publication in the journal Molecules found that all parts of the plant reduce inflammation when applied to inflamed skin and joints. However, it is not a first-line treatment and more research is needed.
2. Skin health
In traditional Chinese medicine, chickweed has been used to combat skin conditions such as dermatitis. It is also believed to promote dermal regeneration and wound healing. An article shared in Pharmacognosy Research also highlights its emollient properties, ideal for reducing irritation and itching.
Other topical uses of the plant include the following:
3. Weight loss
Chickweed has been investigated as a possible treatment for obesity. However, studies have been done in animals and the findings are not enough to make claims. One of the studies was published in the journal Ayu and reported that obese mice fed an extract of Stellaria media for four weeks experienced weight loss.
Meanwhile, research in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine made similar findings. In this, the mice were fed a high-fat diet and freeze-dried chickweed juice. After 6 weeks, no weight gain or body fat or bad cholesterol was observed.
Researchers believe this occurs from a delayed absorption of fats and carbohydrates that occurs due to the digestion-inhibiting enzymes in chickweed juice. In any case, its use for this purpose is discouraged, since the saponin content of the plant can be counterproductive in humans.
Chickweed precautions and possible side effects
Topical chickweed is safe and well tolerated for most people. However, there are those who experience a mild rash. Avoid it if you have a history of allergy to plants in the daisy family.
On the other hand, it is essential to prevent excessive intake. Its saponin content can cause an upset stomach and other symptoms, such as nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. It can also be potentially toxic, with risks of muscle paralysis, seizures, and coma (in rare cases).
Given the lack of evidence, its consumption is not recommended in the following cases:
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- People who are taking medication or undergoing medical treatment.
Dosage and method of use
For now, there is no clinical evidence on what is the appropriate dose of chickweed. Supplements with the plant should be used as directed by the manufacturer.
In addition, the ideal thing is to speak with the doctor before using it. Some ways are as follows:
- Cream or ointment: ideal for skin irritations or eczema. Calms itching and helps relieve minor burns. It should not be applied on open wounds.
- Infused oil: to make it, fill a jar with fresh chickweed and sunflower oil. Then, in a cool, dry place, let it infuse for a couple of weeks. After this time, strain and apply to the skin.
- Infusion: to prepare a cup, add a teaspoon of the plant in boiling water. Eye! Its consumption should not be exceeded because it can be counterproductive.
- Plaster: the fresh plant is crushed and placed on a gauze. Then, it is applied on rashes, local inflammations or boils.
What is there to remember about chickweed?
In natural medicine, chickweed has been used to soothe skin conditions, joint disorders, and being overweight. However, there is a discussion about its safe use orally. Therefore, today it is usually used only topically.
Studies on the plant are still limited and have been done in animals and in test tubes. Because of this, derived remedies should not be considered a first choice when treating illnesses. It is important to consult your doctor before using it as a supplement.