Monday, September 3, 2012

Fireweed - The Multipurpose Beauty

I bet everyone living in the North, be it America or the old continent, knows this flower.
Yes, it is fireweed, also known as Willowherb, official latin name Epilobium Angustifolium.

Fireweed´s vegetation is actually not limited only to the North, you can find these plants, that like to grow in large groups, anywhere in highlands and mountains, although maybe not in as majestic amounts that turn entire meadows and havocs into amazingly pink fields, often looking like they are on fire.

But not many know that this pretty weed has some strong healing powers as well as properties that make it a great nutritional supplement.

Natural Medicine and Supplement
Fireweed is rich in natural bioactive phenolic compounds, tannins and flavonoids, vitamin C, pro-vitamin A, as well as a powerful anti-inflammatory known as "oenothein B". The chemical constituents of Epilobium angustifolium all contribute to its soothing, calming, anti-inflammatory effects.
In simplier words, its benefits are quite large – it is an anti-irritant, antioxidant, it has calming, soothing properties, mainly for the skin and stomach.

Herbal remedies made from fireweed have been popular with Native Americans and early settlers for healing skin afflictions and treating gastro-intestinal upsets.

In the Kitchen
In the old times, young shoots were combined with other mixed greens and eaten like a vegetable, and today, some people chosing the return to nature and natural way of life, use fireweed in the kitchen once again.
This spring we have actually tried it – and prepared the young shoots as asparagus. It was delicious!
Another common consumption of this herb is in the form of delicious tea.
During summer (the blooming time of fireweed in our neck of the woods is July-August) we often pick a few flowers and fresh leaves and make a nice, refreshing and cleaning tea.
We pick and dry enough to fill at least two large jars for the winter as well.

During summer, my dog kitchen looks like a herbalist´s workshop :)

In Dog Nutrition
In terms of use of fireweed in my dog kitchen, as soon as the pink-purple flowers start to open up to the sun, we collect them and feed them once a week to all the dogs, as part of their weekly herbal/detoxication cure, as well as a C and A vitamin supplement.

With the big help of our great kennel crew this summer, we were also able to pick and dry enough of this wonderful herb for the entire dog yard for the upcomming winter.

I cannot image the interior of our house in summer without the lovely pink/purple fireweed flowers decorating the vases in several of our rooms, and the beginning of fall without it´s gorgeous red-orange leaves.
Honestly, fireweed is one of my most favorite plants - it is beautiful, healing, nurturing, it tastes great, plus I love it´s survival skills in the rough nordic landscape.

Although it´s vegetation times are ending in most parts of the world at the moment, you can still pick the greenest leaves and find a few late blooming flowers, to dry them for the winter. Try to make the tea – it is really refreshing and with fall being the season of flu and lowered immunity, a natural additonal doze of vitamin C might be just what you need! J

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