Herb of the Month – Fireweed
July 13, 2014
CHAMERION/EPILOBIUM ANGUSTIFOLIUM (fireweed)
The name “wild asparagus” is used because the young shoots of Fireweed can be safely eaten much like asparagus. The “willow” in different variations of the name refer to the slender, willow-like shape of the leaves. And of course, the name “purple rocket” refers to the bright pink-purple flowers that grow in spikes – very similar to that of a rocket.
Fireweed is truly a lovely plant with many benefits, to both humans and wild critters. It is a favoured by honey bees for its nectar, and numerous wild animals and birds find it to be a tasty and nutritious plant to supplement their general diet.
Humans have also discovered the usefulness of fireweed and the whole upper plant can be used for medicine, the young shoots (stems) can be lightly steamed and eaten like asparagus (add butter and seasoning!), the leaves are made into a tea, and the flowers can be made into jelly, and the roots can be mashed and used as a soothing anti-inflammatory poultice. The Dena’ina People of the Upper Inlet (Alaska) use the raw stem, applied directing to boils or cuts to help facilitate removal of any pus (infection), and to promote healing.
The seeds of fireweed can be used as a fire-starter and as a cotton-like stuffing. Salish People of the Pacific Northwest Coast wove fireweed with the down of mountain goat wool for making blankets.
- Flowers (make a colourful addition to salads)
- Young shoots (stalks)
- The fresh juice of fireweed was used by Native Americans and Europeans to soothe skin irritations and burns. It can also be utilized in a variety of topical products including creams, lotions, after-sun products, after-shave products, and baby-care products. According to the manufacturer Fytokem Product Inc. (Saskatoon, Canada), “Canadian willow-herb extract has been shown to be an effective anti-irritant and a mild suns-screen, as well as inhibiting microbial growth.”
- Eases digestive upset (including constipation and diarrhea).
- An effective anti-fungal thereby making it a useful herb to balance Candida overgrowth in the gut, and to generally help normalize gut flora.
- For respiratory conditions, including sore throat and lung congestion.
- For benign prostate conditions and difficult urination (often associated with this condition); some preliminary studies have shown fireweed to have great potential in treating prostate cancer.
- It is an anti-inflammatory thereby making it especially helpful (internally and topically) for conditions such as gout, sciatica, and rheumatism. It can also be used for fever management.
- Helps reduce oedematous swelling (i.e. fluid build-up in the body).
- Tea: 1-3 cups daily.
- Tincture: 50-100 drops, 1-3 times daily