One way I have learned to be pro-active when making our famous Grandma’s Magic Healing Salve is to make oil extracts when the plants are thriving, and making the actual salve when you have the time. Case in point is the lovely Chickweed, Stellaria media, which is taking over some of our garden beds as we speak.
Chickweed is cooling and soothing, and very good medicine when used in healing salves.
It’s action is demulcent, which means it is mucilaginous and it helps protect inflamed mucous membranes as well as common scrapes and bruises. It can be used as a poultice on bites and stings (think: gloppy weedy mush), and in my experience takes the immediate ouch right outta them. This poultice is also useful on infected splinters. As you can see in the next photo, chickweed is accompanied by Plantain, Plantago major, another demulcent “weed”. Chickweed poultice can also be used on cysts to reduce inflammation and heat, and a compress (the poultice is placed on cheesecloth) can be place over the eyelids to reduce redness and other inflammatory conditions. Did I mention that Chickweed is very useful for cooling all types of inflammations?
Chickweed is also good food.
I use this mild-tasting “weed” in salads, in omelets, in whatever I want to enjoy juicy spring greens. I like it on cheese sandwiches with toasted bread and grainy mustard! If you eat quantities of it, or take it as an infusion or tincture, Chickweed is diuretic, and soothing to the urinary tract.
When I make our salve, Chickweed is one of the most important ingredients, along with the above mentioned Plantain. I learned from my friend Sue about making the oils ahead of time, especially when we’re so busy in the summer.
To make this oil, I stuffed my slow-cooker with cut-up chickweed – leaves, flowers and stems – and used 2 quarts of pure olive oil to cover, more or less. I set the heat to high just for a little while, an hour or two, to get all that plant mass warming, then I turn it down to low and keep an eye on it. I shut the slow-cooker off every now and then for a few hours so it doesn’t get hot… we want to warm it, not cook it. If we don’t use any heat at all, the herb will mold in an anaerobic environment (airless) and the oil will be spoiled. It needs heat to push the moisture out of the plant and eventually evaporate. The photo below is what’s left from 2 quarts of chickweed herb, after a couple days of this process. It looks burnt but I guarantee it is not.
The oil turned out nicely, deep and dark with the green of the plant. I will be making more oils this week, from herbs including plantain, heal-all, yarrow, St. John’s wort, and others.
I know the final results will be a wonderful amalgam of plants that bring relief to all sorts of skin conditions. Something your Grandma would make for you. Something you can trust.