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Stellaria media — commonly known as chickweed, chickenwort or winterweed — is a creeping weedy annual that is widespread on farmlands and lawns across Europe and North America. While it has enjoyed a long history of use in eclectic, homeopathic, naturopathic and western folk medicine, as of 2011 there has been little research into the plant that substantiates its efficacy for those applications. As a moist and mildly mucilagenous herb, Stellaria media has often been employed as a treatment for dry, cracked, and inflamed tissue, such as cracked lips, nipples, scabs, sores and rashes. In addition, the leaves, stems and young shoots of the plant have been used to treat rheumatic pains, arthritis, bronchitis, psoriasis, asthma, conjunctivitis, constipation, upset stomach, obesity and blood disorders. A frequent component of spring cleansing tonics and salad greens, Stellaria media is generally considered to be quite safe.
While the herb may be employed as a diuretic, laxative, liver tonic, or blood cleanser when more effective herbs cannot be found, Stellaria media is not considered to be a particularly effective herb for most of the uses it is indicated. Its gentle action can be of benefit when treating elderly, frail, debilitated or highly sensitive patients who may respond negatively to harsher medicines. Some clinicians have reported success with chickweed when using strong infusions of the plant as a gentle treatment for constipation in geriatric patients who have not responded to other therapies. Debilitated patients suffering from water retention may benefit from the use of Stellaria media for the same reason.
While the whole plant should be avoided in patients with inflammatory bowel disease or Crohn's disease during active flare-ups, a strained aqueous extract may be useful in reducing intestinal inflammation. Low doses should be used initially and increased slowly if well-tolerated. Patients suffering from stomach or duodenal ulcers may also benefit from the incorporation of chickweed into their treatment regimen.
Concentrated extracts of Stellaria media have historically been incorporated into black salves and other ointments used for the treatment of sores and malignant tumors. While the herb may provide some synergistic benefits when combined with other, more potent alterative herbs, chickweed is not well-known as a treatment for malignant growths. It is likely that historically the inclusion of Stellaria media in these formulas was as a buffer to exploit its moisturizing and skin health-promoting properties to offset the harsher herbs in the mix.
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