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Stellaria media


Stellaria media


No documentation

Vernacular Name

Starwort, Winterweed, Chickweed, Stellaria, Water chickweed


The ranging in height from 5-30cm, in conjunction with its relatively low stem strength, Stellaria media thrives more as a creeping plant as opposed to an erect, solitary herb.  The stems are green, occasionally purple, with slightly thickened nodes.  The stem also makes the plant easily identifiable with its singular longitudinal line of pubescence which runs along one side of the stem.  The leaves are mostly ovate, in shape occasionally truncate at the stem, and run opposite one another on the stem.  Roughly 1.25cm long and 0.7cm wide, the leaves are covered in a light pubescence. The typically flowering of S. media is in the fall, but as early as March, S. media produces solitary inflorescence roughly 0.5-1.0cm across.  The seed from S. media is concealed by a shell which is covered in teeth-like pubescence, which makes stick to animals or clothing.

Origin / Habitat

S. media is a flowering herbaceous plant thought to be Native to the Eurasian continent, but has flourished in North America, as it now occupies all states and territories in North America with the exception of Nunavut in Canada.

Chemical Constituents

Flavonoids, Carotenoids, Alkaloids, Fatty Acids (omega-3 and omega-6), Ascorbic acid, Tannins, Nitrates.(2),(3),(4),(5),(6)

Plant Part Used

Herb (fresh or dried) (1),(2)

Traditional Use

Though it is used for a wide variety of maladies, S. media is perhaps most commonly used externally to treat a plethora of skin ailments.  The Iroquois used a poultice of the whole raw plant in order to treat the pain associated with rheumatism as well as a general treatment for open wounds and sores.(7)  S. media has been used widely to treat boils, burns, hemorrhoids, and swelling and redness of the face.(8) It has also been used around the eyes to relieve discomfort,(8) and the Iroquois considered it a useful eyewash.(7) S. media has also been used by some Native American tribes as an external cancer treatment.(9)

Internally, S. media has often been used as a cleansing agent.  In Native American medicine, it has been used in order to cleanse the blood(10) and liver(11).  Some Native Americans viewed S. media as a tonic, promoting good health throughout all seasons.


The dosages of S. media vary by tribe, preparation and application.  There is insufficient evidence to support a common dosage or dosage range.



There is insufficient scientific evidence concerning the activity of S. media and its constituents available in the medical literature to guide any conclusions concerning therapeutic effectiveness.  However, laboratory studies employing in vitro assays for antioxidant activity have shown S. media extract to exhibit strong inhibition of xanthine oxidase; the resulting inhibition of xanthine oxidase produced by S. media extract was higher than the inhibition produced by the reference extract.(12) The antioxidant activity associated with S. media extracts may be beneficial in the treatment of certain disorders, such as rheumatism, gout, and disorders of the central nervous system.(12)

Several additional investigations employing alternate Stellaria species are available; these investigations have employed Stellaria dichotoma or Stellaria aquatica.  Enzymatic extracts of S. dichotoma, known in the vernacular as S. media and in Chinese as Yinchaihu, have been shown to possess strong antioxidant activity in 1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH), hydroxyl, and alkyl radical scavenging assays.(13),(14)  Moreover, the results indicated that enzymatic extracts of S. dichotoma are able to inhibit the radical-associated oxidative damage of DNA as evidenced through measurement of the supercoiled pBR322 plasmid DNA to the open circular form.(14) Thereby, the enzymatic extracts of S. dichotoma were dose-dependently shown to protect against hydroxyl-radical induced DNA damage and may indicate potential for therapeutic effectiveness in disorders where antioxidant therapy has shown promising results.(14) Furthermore, the vasodilatory cyclic peptides dichotomin J and K have been isolated from S. dichotoma and have demonstrated a vasorelaxant effect on rat aorta tissue.(15) Antiallergic effects have been documented following in vivo studies employing the murine model to examine the effect of S. dichotoma root extract on ear passive cutaneous anaphylaxis and in vitro studies showing inhibition of dinitrophenylated bovine serum albumin-induced beta-hexosaminidase release in RBL-2H3 cells previously sensitized with anti-dinitrophenylated IgE.(16) Dichotomoside D, a neolignan glycoside isolated from S. dichotoma, has shown antiallergic activity through its inhibition of beta-hexosaminidase release in RBL-2H3 cells; beta-hexosaminidase serves as a degranulation marker because it is released from immunologically-activated mast cells concomitantly with histamine.(17) Dichotomoside D also inhibited the antigen-induced release of tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-4 in RBL-2H3 cells; these cytokines have been shown to be mediators in the late-phase effects (e.g. edema and erythema) of a biphasic allergic reaction.(17)

S. aquatica, a species of Stellaria commonly used in Korean salads and known as giant S. media, has exhibited strong anticancer activity in MTT assays assessing extracts for cytotoxicity against human pulmonary and gastric carcinoma cell lines (Calu-6 and SNU-601, respectively).(18)


No documentation

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation

Interaction with Drugs

Since so much remains unknown about the pharmacology of this plant, it is not recommended for use when any prescription or over-the-counter medications are being taken.

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

Stellaria species supplements appear to be well tolerated when consumed in quantities consistent with a normal diet as there are few reports of toxicity associated with its use.(19) There have been insufficiently documented cases in the medical literature that associate onset of nitrate poisoning and paralysis secondary to consumption of high concentrations of tea made from S. media.(19) Whilst these cases must be considered, it is theorized from the isolated nature of these cases that the herb and/or the tea may have been adulterated with an unknown contaminant.(19)

Patients planning to become pregnant, who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use Stellaria species supplements without first consulting their medical practitioner; S. media contains nitrates which have been postulated to produce detrimental effects during human and rodent gestation.(20),(21),(22) Symptoms of nitrate toxicity include headache, syncope, vertigo and cutaneous discoloration that manifests in the fingers or lips.

S. media supplements are contraindicated in patients with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to members of the Stellaria species.  Allergic reactions (predominantly contact dermatitis) and irritant reactions following exposure to S. media have been documented in the literature and cross-sensitivity to members of the Asteraceae family may exist.(23) A case of erythema multiforme and recurrent erythema multiforme with photoaggravation following patch testing to fresh S. media leaves has been documented in medical literature; thin layer chromatography completed on S. media samples revealed the contact allergens borneol, linalool, 1,8-cineole, menthol and additional terpenes.(24) S. media supplements should be used with caution in atopic patients; as with all allergies, the incidence of allergic reactions is higher in patient populations where asthma or atopy are already present.(23),(25)


Not to be used by pregnant women, nursing women or children.

Age limitation

No documentation

Adverse reaction

No documentation

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  1)  Western Herbs


  1. Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C, eds. PDR for Herbal Medicines. 2nd ed. Montvale, New Jersey: Medical Economics Company; 2000: 180-181.
  2. Guarrera PM, Forti G, Marignoli S.  Ethnobotanical and ethnomedicinal uses of plants in the district of Acquapendente (Latium, Central Italy).  J Ethnopharmacol.  2005; 96(3): 429-444.
  3. Guil JL, Torija ME, Gimenez JJ, Rodriguez I.  Identification of fatty acids in edible wild plants by gas chromatography.  J Chromatogr A.  1996; 719(1): 229-235.
  4. Guil JL, Rodriguez-Garcia I, Torija E.  Nutritional and toxic factors in selected wild edible plants.  Plant Foods Hum Nutr.  1997; 51(2): 99-107.
  5. Budzianowski J, Pakulski G, Robak J.  Studies on the antioxidative activity of some C-glycosylflavones.  Pol J Pharmacol Pharm.  1991; 43(5): 395-401.
  6. Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C, eds. PDR for Herbal Medicines. 2nd ed. Montvale, New Jersey: Medical Economics Company; 2000: 180-181.
  7. Moerman DE.  Native American Ethnobotany. Portland OR: Timber Press; 2009.
  8. Hutchens, A.  Indian Herbalogy of North America. Boston, MA.  Shambala; 1991.
  9. Heatherly AN. Healing Plants: A Medicinal Guide to Native North American Plants and Herbs.  New York, NY: Lyons Press. 1998.
  10. Rain MS. Earthway: A Native American Visionary's Path to Total Mind, Body, and Spirit Health. New York, NY: Pocket Books.  1990.
  11. Hutchens, A.  Indian Herbalogy of North America. Boston, MA.  Shambala; 1991.
  12. Pieroni A, Janiak V, Durr CM, Ludeke S, Trachsel E, Heinrich M.  In vitro antioxidant activity of non-cultivated vegetables of ethnic Albanians in southern Italy.  Phytother Res.  2002; 16(5): 467-473.
  13. Han J, Cai S, Li J et al.  Studies on identification of yinchaihu by UV and IR.  Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi.  1999; 24(8): 454-456, 509.
  14. Lim BO, Choi SH, Kim EK et al.  Antioxidant activity of enzymatic extracts of Stellaria dichotoma.  J Med Food.  2008; 11(4): 723-732.
  15. Morita H, Iizuka T, Choo CY, Chan KL, Itokawa H, Takeya K.  Dichotomins J and K, vasodilator cyclic peptides from Stellaria dichotoma.  J Nat. Prod.  2005; 68(11): 1686-1688.
  16. Sun B, Morikawa T, Matsuda H et al.  Structures of new beta-carboline-type alkaloids with antiallergic effects from Stellaria dichotoma(1,2).  J Nat Prod.  2004; 67(9): 1464-1469.
  17. Morikawa T, Sun B, Matsuda H, Wu LJ, Harima S, Yoshikawa M.  Bioactive constituents from Chinese natural medicines. XIV.  New glycosides of beta-carboline-type alkaloid, neolignan, and phenylpropanoid from Stellaria dichotoma L. var. lanceolata and their antiallergic activities.  Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo).  2004; 52(10): 1194-1199.
  18. Chon SU, Heo BG, Park YS, Kim DK, Gorinstein S.  Total phenolics level, antioxidant activities and cytotoxicity of young sprouts of some traditional Korean salad plants.  Plant Foods Hum Nutr.  2009; 64(1): 25-31.
  19. McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A, eds.  American Herbal Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook: Guidelines for safe use and labeling for herbs in commerce.  Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press LLC; 1997.
  20. Ernst E.  Herbal medicinal products during pregnancy? Phytomedicine. 2002;9:352-354.
  21. Winchester PD, Huskins J, Ying J.  Agrichemicals in surface water and birth defects in the United States.  Acta Paediatr.  2009; 98(4): 664-669.
  22. Egorova VV, Iezuitova NN, Nikitina AA, Starchenkov SV, Timofeeva NM.  The effects of nitrates on rats during pregnancy on the development of the digestive system in ontogeny.  Fiziol Zh Im I M Sechenova.  1993; 79(6): 93-101.
  23. Jovanovic M, Poljacki M, Mimica-Dukic N et al.  Sesquiterpene lactone mix patch testing supplemented with dandelion extract in patients with allergic contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, and non-allergic chronic inflammatory skin diseases.  Contact Dermatitis.  2004; 51(3): 101-110.
  24. Jovanovic M, Mimica-Dukic N, Poljacki M, Boza P.  Erythema multiforme due to contact with weeds: A recurrence after patch testing.  Contact Dermatitis.  2003; 48(1): 17-25.
  25. Paulsen E, Otkjaer A, Andersen KE.  Sesquiterpene lactone dermatitis in the young: is atopy a risk factor?  Contact Dermatitis.  2008; 59(1): 1-6.


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