chickweed identification

Chickweed Identification: Wild Edible Weed For Culinary and Medicinal Uses

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chickweed identification


Stellaria media (Caryophyllaceae)

Parts Used: aerial parts

Common names: Adder’s Mouth, Passerina, Satin Flower, Starweed, Star Chickweed, Starwort, Stitchwort, Tongue-grass, Winterweed

Chickweed is one of those early spring “weeds” that many gardeners complain about. I think that’s because they just don’t realize its value as a wild edible plant

This highly nutritious edible grows nearly everywhere, and often with wild abandon, making it a wonderful plant for foragers.  There are usually no limits to how much you can harvest as it’s often considered invasive. 

You’ve most likely got some growing in your own backyard.  Read more to learn chickweed identification, health benefits, poisonous look-alikes, and more!

Key Constituents

  • triterpenoid saponins
  • coumarins
  • flavanoids
  • carboxylic acids
  • mucilage
  • vitamin C, potassium, iron, zinc

Key Actions

  • astringent
  • antirheumatic
  • demulcent
  • heals wounds
chickweed identification

Chickweed Identification

Proper chickweed identification is important because it does have a poisonous look-alike. More on this later.

That said, chickweed is easy to identify for even the beginner wildcrafter once you know exactly what to look for. 

Chickweed is an extremely hardy, low-growing, spreading annual, but often does not completely die off over winter. It is tender with stringy and hairy stems, bears small oval leaves and small, delicate star-shaped flowers.

Forager John Kallas points out a defining characteristic for chickweed identification – a “Mohawk” – a single line of hairs running the length of each stem. 

chickweed flower

Culinary Uses for Chickweed

Once you have mastered chickweed identification, you can enjoy the fun part…foraging!

You will be hard-pressed to find a more delicious springtime treat than chickweed. It has a delicate, fresh taste that is pleasing to most everyone.  The trick is to harvest it appropriately.  

Chickweed has four edible parts: the tender leafy stem tips (the top 1-2 inches of the plant), flowers, buds, and leaves.  

You want to skip the fibrous, stringy, and hairy stems and only harvest from the tender new growing tips. I don’t know about you, but I don’t enjoy chewing on hairy plants! 

Chickweed can be consumed raw or cooked like spinach.  I like them either way, often adding them to a spring salad of other foraged greens or as you would sprouts on a sandwich.  I also like to cook them into quiche or frittata…yummy! 

Keep in mind that they will cook down significantly like spinach.  You’ll need around 7 cups to yeild 1 cup of cooked chickweed. 

They can also be blended into smoothies for an extra vitamin boost.  

I find chickweed to be a versatile herb that goes well with many dishes. 

Health Benefits of Chickweed

Aside from its culinary uses, chickweed has various traditional applications, especially for the skin.

Chickweed leaves have been used externally in forms such as juice, poultice, or ointment to soothe irritated skin. They have been traditionally applied to conditions like eczema, psoriasis, ulcers, and boils. The leaves contain steroid saponins, which are believed to help with itchy skin and rashes.

Native Americans traditionally made a decoction of chickweed leaves for sore eyes.

Chickweed Remedies

  • Tea made from the fresh herb is traditionally used as a cooling demulcent and expectorant to soothe coughs.
  • Tinctures are often added to traditional remedies for discomfort associated with rheumatism.
  • Poultices made from the fresh plant have been traditionally applied to boils, abscesses, and painful rheumatic joints.
  • Compresses soaked in hot decoctions or diluted tinctures are used traditionally for soothing painful rheumatic joints.
  • Creams made from the herb are commonly used in traditional practices for managing eczema and other skin irritations, including psoriasis, ulcers, and boils.
  • The infused oil, made by the hot infusion method, is traditionally applied as an alternative to creams for skin rashes or added to bath water for eczema.
  • Juice from the fresh plant has been traditionally used both internally and externally for various skin issues.
  • Decoctions from the root are traditionally used to help manage fevers.
chickweed identification - look alikes scarlet pimpernel

Poisonous Look Alikes

Chickweed really only has one dangerous look alike, and that is Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis).

Scarlet pimpernel grows just like chickweed.  It is considered poisonous so it’s important to distinguish between the two plants. Scarlet pimpernel has squarish stems, a lack of prominent hairs, and reddish flowers rather than the white star-like flowers of chickweed. Beware, these plants often grow intertwined, so careful harvesting is often required. 

How Do You Make Chickweed Tea?

Chickweed is best when consumed right away as it tends to wilt quickly.  It can also be dried for future use. 

Whether fresh or dry, chickweed can be used in herbal tea and tea blends. 

Chickweed is known as a diuretic and was traditionally used for weight loss. It is said to also help with inflammation. Use in moderation.

To make chickweed tea, simply steep about 2-3 tablespoons in one cup of boiling water for 5 minutes, then strain out the chickweed and serve.


Foster, Steven, and James A. Duke. Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America, Third Edition (Peterson Field Guides). Third ed., Boston, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014.

Kallas, John. Edible Wild Plants – Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate. Layton, UT, Gibbs Smith, 2010. 


The Outdoor Apothecary website is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. The information provided is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, it is the reader’s responsibility to ensure proper plant identification and usage.

Please be aware that some plants are poisonous or can have serious adverse health effects. We are not health professionals, medical doctors, or nutritionists. It is essential to consult with qualified professionals for verification of nutritional information, health benefits, and any potential risks associated with edible and medicinal plants mentioned on this website.

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2 thoughts on “Chickweed Identification: Wild Edible Weed For Culinary and Medicinal Uses”

  1. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge.Appreciate reading it.And increaseing my awareness to the plant world.

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