March 2013
The Herb Lady

Chickweed and Bed Bugs

I have never had the pleasure of seeing a mattress filled with chickweed; though my husband did. By now, most of you have met Richard, my husband, and know he was a railroad man. Well, one day he and a co-worker happened to be tending to railroad business in the vicinity of Greenville. They also happened to see an interesting rural scene.

An older farm house had a sign out front – ESTATE SALE. They stopped to check this out. As it turned out, a lovely older lady was liquidating her large store of treasures in preparation for moving to a less demanding lifestyle.

She entertained these two men with a complete tour. She even took them to her bedroom. She turned back the covers to expose her mattress filled with chickweed. Of course, Richard came straight home to tell me of this experience.

According to legend, this was a common practice at one time. It seems chickweed is covered with many tiny barbs. Bed bugs would get trapped in these barbs and die.

Recently, an exterminator told me he has been in this business for over 30 years. He saw his first bed bug 4 years ago. Since that time, bed bugs have become such a problem until he cannot take care of all the requests he receives for their eradication. He also told me a victim can never be sure how he or she got them. He also said people from all walks of life are subject to becoming victims.

In the herb world, chickweed (Stellaria media) is considered a mild-mannered mystery. It is one of the most common weeds. It can be found almost any place in the world. It is an annual which grows best in the cold months. In pulling the weeds, I discovered it had the feel of Velcro.

This herb is said to be a mild diuretic. Some say it helps to dissolve body fat. It has been used to treat respiratory problems such as bronchitis, cough, colds and, possibly, tuberculosis. There are other ailments this herb might control.

Chickweed is also a healthy addition to salads. It is very high in vitamin C. Its cousin cleavers (Galium aparine) can be used in the same manner. It would take quite a while to gather enough chickweed to fill a mattress. We might have to do so if the bed bug plague continues.

Bed bugs were a problem through the WW II era. Then along came insecticides such as DDT (which, of course, is now banned) and we thought we had eliminated bed bugs forever. Not so. They have returned with a vengeance. We humans can be thankful the little devils are not as large as German shepherds.

Nadine Johnson can be reached at PO Box 7425, Spanish Fort, AL 36577 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..