Also see Hool, 1918: Chickweed.
This herb is one of the commonest plants that is grown, I believe, in the vegetable kingdom, and yet one of the most useful remedial agents that God ever sent for the use of man: but it is one of the most despised and trampled under foot of plants.
There are a many different species of Stellaries, but only one common Chickweed, and it is known by almost everyone, man, woman, and child. However, to those who are not fortunate enough to claim its acquaintance, the following description will be beneficial in enabling them to tell or find it:—Roots fibrous; stem fine at the beginning, but growing thicker as it ascends towards the top; it is procumbent, smooth, cylindrical, and branched; the leaves are opposite, the lower ones on leaf stalks, the upper ones sitting on the stem, and varying from heart to heart's spear-shaped, and tapering to a point; they are smooth, but sometimes found hairy at the edges; the leaf stalks are generally broad and hollow on the upper surface and convex underneath; the flowers also grow on flower stalks of from one to one-and-a-half inches long; the calyx is in five parts, each part is concave, between egg and egg spear-shaped; sometimes found smooth and sometimes hairy; the petals are five, deeply divided into segments, which are flat and rather shrivelling; the flowers are a beautiful white, with a silvery grey tint which adds lustre and beauty to it, and makes it one of the grandest flowers that grow. It stands quite erect. The stamens are ten, the five outer shorter than the five inner, and they are glandular at the base or bottom; the anthers are small, oblong and double, the pistil, the germen, or bottom, is roundish, with three blunt corners and three flat sides; styles three, hair-like expanding, but after flowering reflected; the stigma or summit is simple and blunt; the seed vessel is a capsule roundish and covered by the calyx closing upon it; it is of one cell and six valves; the seeds are many, roundish, and of a brown or yellowish colour; they are compressed and rough, with tubercles fixed to the receptacles. It belongs to the tenth class in the Linnaean system of classification, called Decandria, and the third order termed Trigynia, in what is called the natural system to the order Caryophyllaceae. It Is an annual plant and flowers from March to December. One of the peculiarities of this plant by which it may be specially known is that, beginning at the bottom of the stem, between the first and second pairs of leaves will be found a number of small fine hairs on the one side of the stem; between the third and fourth pairs similar; and between the fourth and fifth pairs on the fourth side of the stem. Chickweed forms also a wonderful instance of the sleep of plants. It is a dicotyledon, dichotomous, dichlamydeous. From observation made by different eminent botanists it has been found to open its flowers at 8 or 9 o'clock in the morning and remain open until 2 or 3 in the afternoon; but if it rains in a morning they remain closed, becoming pendant and keeping so for two or three days, after which they lift up their heads and become erect again.
Chickweed is a most wonderful remedy, for it is both strengthening and healing. The principles of Chickweed are two, viz.: an oil and an acid. Its properties are emollient, demulcent, soothing, resolvent, diuretic, and pectoral. It may be used in the crude herb, either eaten as a salad, along with other food, or boiled and eaten in the same way as cabbage. It may also be used in powder, infusion, decoction, fluid extract, solid extract, in pills, tincture, fomentations, ointment, and poultices, and may be used in all cases of weakness, inflammation of the stomach, lungs, bowels, or bronchial tubes, for bleeding of the lungs and bowels, bronchitis, asthma, consumption, &c. In cases of tuberculosis, either in the lungs, spleen, liver, or adipose substance. For peritonitis, or all or any form of internal inflammation it has a wonderful soothing and healing action on all the parts it comes in contact with, and in addition possesses as much nutriment as is contained in many articles used as food. While in all cases of weak constitutions, especially the asthmatic and consumptive, it will be found both strengthening and healing.
As an outward application for all kinds of wounds, inflamed surfaces, boils, scalds, burns, skin diseases, piles, fistulas, old wounds, bad legs, inflamed or sore eyes, tumours, erysipelas, deafness, swelled testes, ulcerated throat or mouth, there is not its equal as a remedial agent in the Botanic practice.
In all cases of blood poisoning it is, in the writer's opinion, the finest remedy that can be applied.
In cases of erysipelas, where the pain and swelling are very-great, and the skin almost as red as if it had been painted with vermilion, and the heat of the part can be felt with the extended hand 12 inches away, a cure will be effected by applying anointment made with Chickweed and bathing the parts with warm water every 30 or 60 minutes. The pain and swelling, together with the heat and colour, will be gone in a few hours, and the part recover its normal size.
I may quote a particular case of skin disease which came under my notice, viz, that of a boy just turned four years of age. He had suffered since he was four months old, and from head to foot was one mass of sores. The doctors stated there was no cure by medicinal remedies—the boy would have to grow out of it. By advising them to make an ointment from Chickweed and use a strong decoction from the leaves, first washing the child's body from head to foot in the liquid (wiping dry) and afterwards applying the ointment all over—and doing this night and morning for five months—the child's skin became as clear as a piece of white marble. Only a fortnight ago the parents told me there wasn't such a remedy known for skin diseases, although it is now thirteen years since their child was cured.
Another case was that of a young lady living in the same district, viz., Swinton, near Manchester, who had suffered to a great extent with skin disease on her arms and legs. She had been under several doctors, gone to the Manchester Infirmary, and to two specialists, all of whom failed to eradicate the disease and said there was no cure. After eleven weeks' treatment with Chickweed Ointment, and bathing the parts in liquid boiled from Chickweed, a complete cure was effected. In twelve months' time I called to see if the cure was permanent, when the father told me he had to thank me from the bottom of his heart for the grand work done for them and their daughter.
Lecturing on "Chickweed and Its Uses," on May 15th, 1897, to 300 members of the Wigan and District Amalgamated Association of Botanists (after telling them what effects it had as a remedial agent), they thought I was speaking from imagination or romancing about the benefits derived from the use of it; but since then most of those who were at the meeting have put my statements to the test and have found them correct in every instance. Lecturing in the Spinners' Hall, Bolton, on July 6 th,. 1901, on the occasion of the Annual Meeting of the Lancashire Working Men Botanists, and speaking on "Chickweed and Its Uses," there was one person in the audience who, hearing my remarks in regard to such a common plant and its use, made up his mind to try it. Four months later that man called in order to thank me, although I had done nothing for him. He said that at the time he heard me lecture he could not take his breath properly, could not follow his employment, and could not walk fifty or sixty yards without gasping for breath. He was suffering from Bronchial Asthma, but after three months' continual use of Chickweed, sometimes eaten as a salad and sometimes boiled and eaten as cabbage, and the liquid in which it had been cooked taken in doses of from one to two wineglassfuls three to four times a day, and the ointment rubbed well round the chest and between the shoulders and bottom end of the neck in front, he was not only able to go to his work, but on the day he came to me he had walked fourteen or fifteen miles over moorland roads.
We could give hundreds of such instances, which can be certified by members of the Bolton Linnean Medical Botanists' Society, members of the Westhoughton, Hindley, Ince, Wigan, Pemberton, Goose Green, Orrell, and Upholland Botanists' Societies; also by scores of people in Farnworth, Walkden, Worsley, Swinton, Pendlebury, Monton Green, Salford, Little Lever, and Horwich.
These statements, I think, entitle Chickweed to be placed in the foremost rank of Botanic remedies.
It is only its commonness that has hitherto caused it to be despised.
Did it come from America, as Slippery Elm, for instance, about which many eulogistic articles have appeared of late—and which Chickweed resembles in many of its properties, though in the writer's opinion to a superior degree—it would perhaps have been made much of; but it would be well for Botanists to get well implanted in their minds the fact that an all-wise Creator has caused His commonest agents to be generally the most useful.
I think I may say that after forty years' use of this so-called "weed" I may claim to know what it is able to do, and the foregoing are some of the uses to which it can be put.
I only ask the sceptical to delay their criticism, get a case upon which they can try it, and then without prejudice give it a fair trial, and I doubt not we shall have acquired another testimonial for this wonderful little plant.
1 lb. Fresh Leaf Lard, rendered down.
1/2 lb. Fresh Chickweed (clean).
Put the two together in a stone jar, place in a hot oven, and stew the two together for two or three Hours. Then strain through a clean cloth into another jar, pressing all out that can be got from it, and when cold it will be ready for use.
Some Herbalists put a little Comfrey or Nitbone to it, others Heart's tongue, but I prefer it in its simple state.
Common Plants and their Uses in Medicine was written by Richard Lawrence Hool, F.N.A.M.H., in 1922.