Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Medicinal uses of chickweed

Chickweed (Stellaria media), a common annual weed on dampish fertile soils,  was, perhaps surprisingly, valued as a medicinal herb.  Among material collected during the ongoing Plant-lore Archive project we have:

Chickweed can be made into an ointment for chilblains, rashes, stiff joints.  Wash half a pound of chickweed and simmer in half a pound of lard for two hours, strain through muslin and put in jars (1).

[Worcestershire, mid 1930s]  a gypsy who came round about once a year recommended boiled chickweed a for constipation (2).

Older uses include being applied fresh ‘to allay the swelling caused by the sting of a bee’ in nineteenth-century Berwickshire (3), applying the bruised leaves as a poultice ‘in cases of inflammation‘ in Orkney (4), and County Dublin, in the 1930s, chickweed was boiled and the resulting juice rubbed on  painful legs and arms (5)

1. Boat-of-Garten, Inverness-shire, November 1991.

2. Storrington, West Sussex, 2015.

3.  G. Johnston, Botany of the Eastern Borders, London, 1853: 43

4.  M. Spence, Flora Orcadensis, Kirkwall, 1914: 100.

5.  Irish Folklore Commission Schools Survey, 790: 161.

Images: main, pavement weed, Preston, Lancashire, October 2017; inset, weed in municipal flowerbed, Gloucester, September 2017.