Botanical Name : Stellaria media (L.) Vill.

Family : Caryophyllaceae

Introduction :

Stellaria media, chickweed, is an annual and perennial flowering plant in the family Caryophyllaceae. It is native to Eurasia and naturalized throughout the world. This species is used as a cooling herbal remedy, and grown as a vegetable crop and ground cover for both human and poultry consumption. It is sometimes called common chickweed to distinguish it from other plants called chickweed. Other common names include chickenwort, craches, maruns, and winterweed. The plant germinates in autumn or late winter, then forms large mats of foliage.

Names in different Indian languages :

English : Tongue Grass, Common Chickweed, Starweed, White Birds Eye

Hindi : Buch-bucha, Safed Phulke, Badyalu

Synonyms :

Alsine media, Alsine apetala, Arenaria vulgaris, Stellaria vulgaris

Morphology :

Annual herbs, about 10-60 cm long, caespitose or tufted. Stem decumbent or ascending, diffusely branched from the base, slightly quadrangular or terete, glabrous or pubescent with line of hairs, rooting at nodes, rootstock slender. Leaves simple, opposite, lanceolate-ovate to elliptic, about 3-30 x 2-20 mm across, base cuneate to rounded, margin entire or ciliate, apex acute or shallow acuminate, obscurely 3-5 veined, impressed above and slightly prominent beneath, glabrous above and slightly pubescent beneath, bright green, petiole up to 1.5 cm near the base, becoming shorter towards the shoot, stipules absent. Inflorescence usually dichasial cymes of few to many flowered terminal leafy cymes. Flowers bisexual, hypogynous or weaky perigynous, pedicel erect, glabrous or pubescent, sometimes deflexed in fruit at the base, up to 15 mm long, bracts paired, foliaceous, lanceolate-ovate, margins scarious, apex acute to shallow acuminate, sepals 5, lanceolate-ovate, with obscure midrib, herbaceous, margins scarious, apex acute to obtuse, persistent, glandular hairy outside, about 4-5 mm long, petals 5, oblanceolate to obovate, white, usually shorter than sepals, creamish, limb bi-fid from the base, margins entire, apex emarginated, sometimes absent. Stamens 3-5, filaments distinct, anther reddish brown or reddish violet, curled when mature. Ovary superior, unilocular rarely trilocular, ovules many, style 3, glabrous, stigma 3. Fruit capsule, obovoid-globose, shorter than sepals, dehiscing with 6 valves or splitting into 6-8 equal teeth, or opening by twice the number of styles present. Seeds reniform or planoconvex, compressed laterally, tuberculated, brown, marginal wings absent, embryo annular.

Habitat & Distribution :

Stellaria media is common in lawns, meadows, waste places and open areas.

Chemical Constituents :

The anthraquinones emodin, parietin (physcion) and questin, the flavonoid kaempferol- 3,7- O- α- L- dirhamnoside, the phytosterols β-sitosterol and daucosterol, and the fatty alcohol 1-hexacosanol can be found in S. media. Other flavonoid constituents are apigenin 6- C- beta- D- galactopyranosyl- 8- C- alpha- L- arabinopyranoside, apigenin 6- C- alpha- L- arabinopyranosyl- 8- C- beta- D- galactopyranoside, apigenin 6- C- beta- D- galactopyranosyl- 8- C- beta- L- arabinopyranoside, apigenin 6- C- beta- D- glucopyranosyl- 8- C- beta- D- galactopyranoside, apigenin 6, 8- di- C- alpha- L- arabinopyranoside. The plant also contains triterpenoid saponins of the hydroxylated oleanolic acid type. Proanthocyanidins are present in the testa of seeds.

Uses :

Chickweed has a very long history of herbal use, being particularly beneficial in the external treatment of any kind of itching skin condition. It has been known to soothe severe itchiness even where all other remedies have failed. In excess doses chickweed can cause diarrhoea and vomiting. It should not be used medicinally by pregnant women. The whole plant is astringent, carminative, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, laxative, refrigerant, vulnerary. Taken internally it is useful in the treatment of chest complaints and in small quantities it also aids digestion. It can be applied as a poultice and will relieve any kind of roseola and is effective wherever there are fragile superficial veins. An infusion of the fresh or dried herb can be added to the bath water and its emollient property will help to reduce inflammation – in rheumatic joints for example – and encourage tissue repair. Chickweed is best harvested between May and July, it can be used fresh or be dried and stored for later use. A decoction of the whole plant is taken internally as a post-partum depurative, emmenagogue, galactogogue and circulatory tonic. It is also believed to relieve constipation and be beneficial in the treatment of kidney complaints. The decoction is also used externally to treat rheumatic pains, wounds and ulcers. The expressed juice of the plant has been used as an eyewash.

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