Itchy? Bring out the Chickweed
I haven’t done a HerbNerd for ages, and it only occurred to me yesterday while I was glooping some of our SwItchGel together for our MacAttack, King of the Sweet-Itchers, because he's now started scratching the inside of each hind with the other hind's hoof, and thought I really ought to let everyone know how awesome chickweed is for all-things-anti-itch.
Chickweed itself is one of the most inconspicuous, overlooked, tiny weeds around, but it's so important! It’s latin name, Stellaria, comes from the word ‘star’, thought to have been name by Linnaeus many moons ago when he was likely inspired by chickweed’s star-shaped flowers. They're tiny, less than ¼” in diameter, with 5 white, heart-shaped petals that are so deeply divided that it looks like there’s 10 of them.
Chickweed grows everywhere - in fields, on roadsides, and anywhere else that’s scrubby – anywhere other than my field, despite my best efforts to grow it for Mac to munch on 🙄 I first met chickweed on the 2nd weekend of my Medical Herbalism residential training when we were out on a foraging walk, and instantly fell in love with it as our teacher gushingly extolled its virtues as the greatest anti-itch plant out there.
It excels at calming itchy skin, whether used topically or internally, hence why we use it in both our SwItchTonic food blend and our topical SwItchGel for our sweet itchy horses. Mac knows when I’ve got it in my hand and holds his legs out for me to soothe his itch away. It’s energetically cooling and moistening, full of lovely demulcent, and also used as an anti-inflammatory and would healer (vulnerary).
Chickweed is also like a mega-multivit, jam-packed with high levels of calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, selenium and zinc. Pick the tender tips in spring and add to a salad or sandwich, or blend into a pesto, smoothie or juice. It can also be made as a tea or tincture.
Safety Note: Be warned - chickweed looks similar to the inedible and potentially poisonous scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis), which also has five-petaled, star-shaped flowers. However, the petals of scarlet pimpernel are usually peachy-red, pink, or blue.