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Chickweed

Yes, it’s another garden nuisance, growing like crazy at the moment, flowering and setting seed almost before you have time to blink. But like a lot of vigorous weeds, it has benefits to offer us.

As its name suggests, chickens like to eat it.

But it’s a good food for humans too, high in iron and a valuable addition to our diet before many fresh garden vegetables are available. You can add the leaves to salads, blitz them into pesto with garlic, pine nuts and olive oil, or make a delicate herb tea. But its real virtue in herbal terms is that it is high in saponins and plant sterols.

Made into a poultice or cream, it will soothe inflammation and help to heal eczema, burns and other skin problems. Traditionally, it was known as an instant remedy for itching, whatever the cause.

It’s useful for animals with mange or other skin disorders, too, and it won’t matter if they lick it off. The saponins are toxic in very large quantities, but you’d have to eat several kilos to do any harm. Chickweed (Stellaria media) is one of those opportunists that thrives in disturbed soil.

You might be annoyed at constantly having to weed it out of your flower garden, but our farming ancestors probably saw it as a blessing rather than a curse.

EDITOR: Su has an excellent Herb Handbook available to buy directly from her website or from Amazon.

Meet The Author...
Su Bristow
Who Am I?
I studied at the School of Herbal Medicine for four years, and qualified in 1989, becoming a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (www.nimh.org.uk.) The road to herbal medicine led from my early interest in organic gardening and healthy eating, through the study of social and physical anthropology at Cambridge, where I specialised in medical anthropology. What fascinated me was how people deal with their health problems when they have only the natural resources around them, and their own ingenuity. I went on to learn massage and reflexology, and worked at a residential naturopathic clinic, where I learned about the use of diet and other natural ways of healing. After qualifying as a herbalist, I set up practice in mid-Devon. Since then I have continued to expand my expertise, with counselling skills, first aid, and knowledge of the Chinese and Ayurvedic systems of herbal medicine. Besides one-to-one consultation, I have also taught evening classes, students of the Westcountry Massage Association, and various private courses.
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