The Centocchio, whose scientific name is Stellaria media, is a small spontaneous herbaceous plant up to 40-50 cm high, generally biennial, belonging to the Caryophyllaceae family, very widespread in Italy. In fact its origins are probably Mediterranean, even though it has become a common herb in almost all over the world.
We can find it everywhere, in cultivated fields, in gardens, in rural areas, on the edge of paths and roads, but also in urban centers, in fact it is a nitrophilous plant, indifferent to the type of soil.
It spreads over the plains and up to 1600 meters, rarely found in greater latitudes.
The genus Stellaria includes about 200 species with slightly different characteristics, and the Centocchio belongs to the subfamily of the Alsinoideae, because it presents the dialisepalo calyx, or with the sepals completely separated from each other.
The name "Stellaria" has Latin origins and refers to the star-shaped shape of the flower, which is normally located on top of the branches, but sometimes also on the green bracts. The floral peduncles are 1 to 3 cm long. The lime is formed by 5 free sepals between them with an oval shape and obtuse apex, of white color.
Flowering generally takes place from April to June, but in the more temperate areas, where the plant grows mainly in winter as the soil is more constantly moist, flowering can occur from January to December.
Centocchio has a reddish, creeping stem, which can extend up to 80 centimeters in width, is very branchy and has thin roots. The leaves are oval or heart-shaped, with the entire margin, the fruits are oval capsules containing some flattened brownish seeds with four small bumps.
The Centocchio reproduces by seed and in one year a plant can produce more than ten thousand seeds, which seems to remain at rest in the ground even 80 years. In fact its development is so easy and rapid that in some areas it is considered a weed, above all because it absorbs a large amount of nitrogen from the soil and therefore impoverishes it.
But it is equally true that it is a plant rich in beneficial properties, used in pharmacies, in herbal medicine and in the kitchen, and can also be grown without any particular problems.
Centocchio can be grown in the garden or in pots, the important thing is that it is placed in an area sheltered from the wind and, in winter, possibly in a closed place because it does not tolerate temperatures below zero.
In summer instead it is advisable to fix it not in full sun but in a semi-shaded area, where the sun reaches it only in the cooler hours.
As for irrigation, the Centocchio needs a lot of water, therefore it must be watered frequently and the soil where it is located must always remain moist.
Composition and property
In the Centocchio plant we can find different active ingredients, including saponisides, alkaline salts, tannins, resins, B and C vitamins.
The plant has numerous properties, among which the main ones are astringent, expectorant, diuretic and soothing, so its beneficial effects mainly concern the skin, lungs and stomach.
In herbal medicine this plant is used, for external use, for its refreshing and soothing properties, therefore mainly against eczema, psoriasis, vaginitis and in general for cases of itching. It can perform an anti-inflammatory and effective action against cracking and skin ulcers, making it also excellent in the treatment of acne and couperose, red and swollen eyelids and insect bites. It seems that its action is also beneficial for scalp problems.
At "home" level you can easily prepare a Centocchio decoction by putting 4 gr. of fresh plant in a cup of water and letting it boil 15 minutes, very useful for anemia problems. The external part of the soil and not the roots should always be used.
For coughs, sore throats, bronchitis and phlegm, the Centocchio infusion can be effective, prepared by placing two teaspoons of dried plant in a quarter of a liter of water and boiling it for 10 minutes. The content must then be filtered like the tи.
With Centocchio you can also make a cool and refreshing drink, just mix a bit of fresh grass with pineapple juice, and filter everything: it will be useful against skin irritations and rheumatism.
For rheumatic pains you can also bathe Centocchio, this too with the dried plant, adding 5 or 6 tablespoons to 100 ml. of boiling water, to then pour the infusion into the water prepared for the bath.
If you want to use compresses against the swellings of the skin, just crush the fresh plant, better if flowered, and make a sort of mush to be applied on the affected parts.
Do not forget the use that del Centocchio can be made in the kitchen, both raw and cooked. In fact you can use the most tender twigs to prepare salads or to flavor salads made with other vegetables. It is also good cooked along with other herbs and you can make excellent omelettes. In the areas of Liguria and Tuscany, it is also used to add it to vegetable soups, in fact among the specialties of Lunigiana there is the "zerba di erbi" which is composed of about thirty plants and among which also Centocchio appears.
The use of Centocchio in the kitchen does not entail particular contraindications, on the contrary it constitutes a good vitamin supplement and can be eaten at will.