Photo by Maxal Tamor
The bane of many a gardener, Stellaria media, or chickweed, is in fact, a weed—or at least an unwanted plant in many areas. An invasive plant (non-native), it’s been found in every American state, so you’ll probably have good luck finding it growing wild in your area. It has rather distinct flowers in the blooming season of early spring.
Chickweed is pretty awesome stuff. Chickens like it (hence the name), and it was once a frequent addition to fancy sandwiches. Be careful though, as it has a look-alike in Mouse-eared chickweed, that while edible, must be cooked to become safe to eat.
Medicinally, chickweed is most commonly used for skin ailments in which there is inflammation that must be cooled—abrasions, non-serious burns, even acne and psoriasis. It’s mild astringent properties are even considered useful for drawing out splinters. The entire plant—leaves, herbs, and stems—are used in the preparation.
The most common way to apply herbs topically is via a salve. You can certainly purchase salves, but they’re inexpensive and easy to make, so why not do it yourself?
A salve is made of beeswax, oil, and herbs steeped together. Once complete, the herbs are usually strained out, though they don’t have to be. Salves are used topically only.
To make one, gather:
*I actually add a little extra beeswax—like an ounce and a half to two ounces—because I like my salve very thick, closer to lip balm consistency. Play around to get the consistency you prefer.
Fill the pot with water, high enough to cover your jar or Pyrex container about three quarters of the way up.
Fill the jar with one cup of oil and chickweed. Coconut oil is a good option, as it heats at a low temperature and doesn’t go rancid as easily as some oils.
Place the oil-filled jar in your pot filled with water. Turn the heat on low-medium. The water should not boil, but it should get quite warm, just less than simmering. Allow to heat through for about twenty minutes.
Once the mixture is warmed through and the herbs have been allowed to steep, you should notice a change in the oil color. At this point, remove the jar from the heat. Pour mixture through the cheesecloth and into your second jar or Pyrex to strain the herbs out. Squeeze the cheesecloth over the jar to retain as much of the infused oil as possible.
Place the jar of strained oil in the pot of water. Add beeswax. Allow to melt.
Once the mixture is melted through, it’s ready to be prepped for storage. Some folks leave it in the jar in which it was heated, which is fine. Just add a lid and store in a cool, dark location. Alternatively, it can be put in smaller containers for distribution or to keep in multiple locations. Either way, once the salve is placed in its storage container, set it in the fridge for about twenty minutes to help it set up.
And that’s it! The steps above can be combined with most any medicinal plant that’s applied topically. Try lavender for a soothing headache and stress-relief balm.
Photo by enriscapes