5-Minute Health Tip: Heal with Rosebay Willow

Rosebay willow (Epilobium angustifolium) is an astringent healing herb that works as an anti-inflammatory to soothe gastrointestinal upset, strengthen immunity, and provide antioxidant defense against free radicals, infections, and viruses. Native to regions of Europe and southern Asia, rosebay willow also grows abundantly in North America. It’s more commonly known as fireweed, because it’s among the first of the plants to re-emerge after forest fires scorch the earth. It’s traditionally been used to help treat:

  • Prostate issues, such as enlarged prostate and inflamed prostate
  • Kidney and bladder issues, such as urinary incontinence
  • Gastrointestinal troubles, such as IBS and diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Pain associated with inflammation and swelling
  • Tumors
  • Wounds

Traditional Medicinal Uses of Rosebay Willow 

willow-herb, Chamaenerion angustifolium, Epilobium angustifolium, Rosebay Willowherb
willow-herb, Chamaenerion angustifolium, Epilobium angustifolium, Rosebay Willowherb

Rosebay willow grows to about 5 feet tall and sprouts pink and purple leaves from June to September. Its roots, shoots, leaves, and flowers are edible, and used for varying medicinal purposes.

In Russia, the leaves are steeped as an alternative to tea, a beverage called Kapor tea. Many Native American tribes cooked the shoots and pith of the stems for healing soups. They harvested syrup from its flowers and stems to produce berry-cakes, and to this day it’s made into “fireweed jelly.” The Blackfoot Indians would grind the internal cortex of the plant into a powder to cover their hands and feet and protect them from the cold during the winter months. They also used the root of rosebay willow to make a gentle herbal tea for infants and children suffering from constipation. French settlers in Canada cooked up the stems and shoots of the plant to make what they called “asparagus.”

Using Rosebay Willow

Full of tannins, phenolic compounds, and flavonoids, rosebay willow can be consumed internally as a tea or infusion…or applied topically to treat skin disorders. The leaves and tips of the shoot can be eaten raw or cooked. Steam them to make a soup, or sauté them as an alternative to asparagus. You can also eat the leaves just as you would spinach.