Edible Parts: Leaves; Seed.
Young leaves - raw or cooked as a potherb. They can be available all year round if the winter is not too severe. Very nutritious, they can be added to salads whilst the cooked leaves can scarcely be distinguished from spring spinach. The leaves contain saponins so some caution is advised, see the note on toxicity at the top of the page. A nutritional analysis is available. Seed - ground into a powder and used in making bread or to thicken soups. It would be very fiddly to harvest any quantity of this seed since it is produced in small quantities throughout most of the year and is very small. The seed contains 17.8% protein and 5.9% fat.
Astringent; Carminative; Demulcent; Depurative; Diuretic; Emmenagogue; Expectorant; Galactogogue; Kidney; Laxative; Ophthalmic; Poultice; Refrigerant; Vulnerary.
Chickweed has a very long history of herbal use, being particularly beneficial in the external treatment of any kind of itching skin condition. It has been known to soothe severe itchiness even where all other remedies have failed. In excess doses chickweed can cause diarrhoea and vomiting. It should not be used medicinally by pregnant women. The whole plant is astringent, carminative, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, laxative, refrigerant, vulnerary. Taken internally it is useful in the treatment of chest complaints and in small quantities it also aids digestion. It can be applied as a poultice and will relieve any kind of roseola and is effective wherever there are fragile superficial veins. An infusion of the fresh or dried herb can be added to the bath water and its emollient property will help to reduce inflammation - in rheumatic joints for example - and encourage tissue repair. Chickweed is best harvested between May and July, it can be used fresh or be dried and stored for later use. A decoction of the whole plant is taken internally as a post-partum depurative, emmenagogue, galactogogue and circulatory tonic. It is also believed to relieve constipation and be beneficial in the treatment of kidney complaints. The decoction is also used externally to treat rheumatic pains, wounds and ulcers. The expressed juice of the plant has been used as an eyewash.
A very easily grown plant, it prefers a moist soil and a position in full sun or partial shade. It can be very lush and vigorous when grown in a fertile soil, but in infertile soils it will flower and set seed whilst still very small. A very common garden weed, chickweed grows, flowers and sets seed all year round. The flowers open around 9 o'clock in the morning and remain open for about 12 hours. They do not open in dull weather. The leaves fold up in the night time, enfolding and protecting the tender buds of new shoots.
Seed - this species should not need any encouragement, you are much more likely to be trying to get rid of it than trying to introduce it (eating it is one way of doing that!).