Monday, September 9, 2013
Also known as: Roseburg Willowherb, Great Bay Willowherb, Bombweed, Pilewort, Various leaved Fleabane, Wickup, American Burnweed
Parts used: Entire plant
Meridians/Organs affected: urinary, renal, prostate, mucous linings
Properties: astringent, tonic, emetic, alterative, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, laxative
This plant is a member of the Evening Primrose family. In Britain around the 18th century, this herb was considered to be rare, found only in damp, gravelly soil. It managed to find its way across the ocean and colonize here about the same time as the railroad began to expand. It got its name fromt he fact that it grows wherever fire or disturbed earth has been-it is what is termed as a 'pioneer' species. This means that it seems to appear out of nowhere after fires or war (also called bombweed as it seemed to grow in bombed locations in England after WWII). It can also lay dormant for years and then spring to life after the earth has been charred.
Fireweed is a perennial with reddish stems, lance like narrow leaves and magenta colored flowers. The seed capsules from the flowers open up to be dispersed (kind of like a spider web so they can be caught by the wind) and there are approximately 80,000 seeds per plant. The leaves of fireweed are very distinctive which make it easier to identify. Instead of the veins of the leaf going all the way to the edge of the leaf, they stop along the outer rim in a distinctive scalloping. It can get up to 8 feet tall and on rare occasion you might find a white flowered variety. It blooms from April to August and can be found in burned, recently timbered, disturbed areas, open fields, pastures and areas with wet, slightly acidic soils. The root is gathered before flowering in the early spring.
The King's American Dispensatory (1898) records that fireweed was a favorite of some early physicians for cholera, diarrhea, enteritis and dysentery related to typhoid. The eclectics would use an infusion of the leaves for uterine bleeding and heavy periods. It also states, "That it has not attained prominence as a remedy is not the fault of the plant, for in certain cases of summer bowel troubles it is without equal."
We have lovely patches of fireweed growing where I am located. They bring a smile to my face whenever I pass them as I know how wonderful they are as a plant. Both a food and a medicine and a practical textural herb makes fireweed an amazing thing to have around.
As is customary with all of my posts I am including links regarding fireweed below for your benefit. Use them as you see fit to. Healthy and happy living!