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Epilobium.

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Problems:

It's easy to pick great willowherb in quantity.

It's an abundant forest-edge, new-clearing, old-meadow plant, spreading as much using underground root runners as using the extraordinary amounts of fluffy seed that the wind blows away, in autumn.

So I'm all out of great willowherb, Epilobium angustifolium. I use it a lot, not only for most any gut upset (including suspected candida), but also as a filler herb, where the taste of a tea blend might be just too much if not diluted a teensy bit.

It's also called fireweed, but that name belongs more properly to an Erechtites, so just forget I mentioned that bit, okay? Especially as an Erigeron (well, Conyza, these days) is also called fireweed ...

It's extremely easy to pick: just get a good grip of the stem, and gently yank it upwards. If you do things right you have the whole stem, without roots, in your hand. As it's a horde plant (never alone), you'll have oodles more closeby. I pick them here and there, thinning the crop, and end up with an armful or more in less than ten minutes.

There's two ways to dry the willowherb:

  • bundle the stems and hang the lot up to dry; my drying setup involves two nails, two walls and a strongish line. This works very nicely if you
    1: used strong enough nails
    2: used a strong enough line
    3: made sure the nails are solidly in the wall instead of in the wall decorations (like multiple layers of wallpaper on thinnish boards).

    If you didn't use a strong enough line, didn't use long enough nails, didn't make sure they're solidly in wood or similar, your take will end up on the floor faster than you can say "oh #¤%(&!". I know, cos I've been there, done that, on all three counts.
    This happens because stems of willowherb are far longer (and therefore far heavier) than the usual herbs that get hung up to dry: your setup isn't, well, set up to handle a burden quite this heavy.
  • Or grab the stems, one at a time, at the top, and remove the leaves in a more or less fluid downward motion. After you've pulled up those stems, not while they're still in the ground.

If they're not in flower or flowerbud yet (and they shouldn't be: dried flowering willowherbs means one thing, and that's so much fluff in the air that you can't breathe) the tops of the stems are bound to be tender and are quite likely to break. Be gentle. Once you get down to the stronger parts of the stems you should be able to get a good grip.

A client who's likely to need willowherb is coming in on Thursday, so I'm putting this lot of stripped-off leaf into a dehydrator. If I didn't need dried herb in a hurry I'd hang the stems up to dry.

Drying willowherb in hanging bundles takes about 10 days. The herb is completely dry once the thickest stems break instead of bending. Removing the leaf from dried willowherb stems is easier than removing it from fresh stems, but you do need gloves to avoid splinters in fingers and hands.

Comments

Karyn Sanders says a strong infusion of Firewee... err, Epilobium is incredibly effective for systemic candida... you tried it?

Strong and strong, all my teas are "1 teaspoon dried herb (or 2 teaspoons fresh) to 2 dl boiling water, let steep 5-10 minutes, drink 2-3 cups a day".

Of course, it's not all that easy to tell when somebody has or does not have systemic candida, but I use Epilobium in all gut upsets, with fairly good results.

I usually also include gut soothers (mallow leaf, meadowsweet, ...), anti-inflammatories (licorice root, hyssop, thyme, chamomile, ...), simple astringents (agrimonia, potentilla, red raspberry leaf, ...) and others as needed.

Henriette -
Because I haven't been able to find a good source for willowherb in the past few years, this year I grew my own from seed, and have 8 plants growing in a very large pot. They're starting to flower now, and I am hoping to dry them for making decoctions later in the year.

But i have a few questions...
1. should I be pinching off the flowers to increase leaf development?
2. When is the best time to pick and dry them?
3. I'm going to transplant them from pot to garden for next year. Do you think this should be done in fall or spring? Can i transplant the root system after clipping the stems/leaves and drying, or...
3. Growing the willowherb from seed was hard this year, such tiny seeds! Will an entact root/rhizome system produce more flowering plants naturally next year, ala peppermint, for example?
4. (I love your blog! and am surprised how often your posts come up in the herb newsgroups when I'm researching an herb)

1) dunno, it's abundant over here, and I just pick it while it's young and fresh.
2) over here, before mid-July, that is, after the leaf is fully grown but before it gets too much bug and disease damage.
3) dunno, it's wild over here. Great willowherb, Epilobium angustifolium, is a perennial, so yes, putting the root into the ground would give you more flowers.
4) aww, blush.

Henriette -

thanks for the quick reply!

two other questions about epilobium... I'm going to use the decoction topically for anti-inflamatory purposes. Do you think I could just use russian "Kaporie tea" for the same purposes, although its from a different epilobium plant (hirsutum, as far as I can tell). Alternatively, I've found a company in the american mid-west which sells a wildcrafted "small willowherb"...do you suppose it will have similiar properties to angustifolium? Hope I'm not pestering you with these willowherb inquiries, they'll be the last, promise!

Alex

AFAIK kaporie is fermented willowherb, dunno how the fermenting affects its medicinal qualities.

All epilobiums work pretty much the same. I go with great willowherb as it's easy pickings.

well... I'm a little afraid of asking after reading your July rant ... ok, I'll risk it...

the good news is my friend found a ton of willowherb while camping in Montana. I followed your great instructions and now have a pound of dried leaves for making decoctions. I also kept and cut-up the dried stems. Can I use them for making decoctions as well, either seperately or with the leaves? (sorry for breaking my promise in the previous thread, feel free to add me to your July rant)

Alex

I don't decoct willowherb, I infuse it. It's not "boil this leaf", it's "pour boiling water over this leaf". There's a difference; you get out more of the tannins and other harder to extract constituents when you decoct, which isn't always good.

Yes, you can use the stems, and those I'd decoct, as you can't expect to get things out of thicker things by infusion. Be prepared for blisters, though: cutting stems is hard work, especially after they're dried. Scissors work better than knives, for not-all-that-thick dried hard things.

Hi, again!

[another year another epilobium question...]

Well, last year's plants turned into a nice patch of 20 or so plants. I was wondering (and can't find any info on this on the internet)... if i cut the plants back to approximately the first set of leaves, will they regrow to normal height and flower before fall? Any idea? I'm trying to maximize the amount I can harvest this year.

(on a different topic, your blog's advice on drying burdock leaves was so helpful this weekend, i now have big packs hanging on nails around the house)

Over here they're weeds. They're profuse vigorous growers. Cut away ...

How can I make liquid epilobium from the Small Flowered Willow-herb?
Someone told me to pour in 38% alkohol, like vodka, and let it sit in the sunshine for 2 weeks.
What do you suggest?

If using alcohol, how much alcohol per gram of herb?

Greatful to hear from you.
Kind regards,
George.

Try making tea from your willowherb. It is, after all, a tea herb.

(Your idea to make a tincture in two weeks of sunshine is Quite Far Fetched - don't EVER do that.)

I would appritiate if someone could tell me what is the best alcohol concentration to make quality tincture using the dry herb. I guess ratio of herb to solvent would be 1:5, correct?
Thanks a lot for sharing.
Aleks

I've never made a tincture from it, nor do I think I ever will. Unless, of course, somebody comes up with a completely new use for the tincture ...

In your blog, you seem to suggest most of the Epilobiums are useful.
I've been trying to find out if Epilobium ciliatum Raf. is amongst the useful ones but can find nothing.
Seen or heard anything about this one?
It is one of 2 that grow wild around here (Oz).
Thanks.

Use them all. I suspect you can use the very close relative Oenothera (evening primrose) as well ...



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