Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Willowherb - Epilobium angustifolium



General "...growing to 2 m (6ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a fast rate." [PFAF]
Lifecycle Perennial. [IFBC][E-flora]
Flowers "The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees." [PFAF] "Inflorescence a many-flowered, terminal raceme..."[IFBC] [E-flora] "petals 8-25 mm. long, rose-colored;" [HNW] Rose to purple. [PCBC2004]
Fruits "Capsules, 4-10 cm long, densely short-hairy..."[IFBC][E-flora] "...narrow, green to red, 4 chambered..." [PCBC2004]
Leaves "Alternate, narrowly lanceolate..."[IFBC] [E-flora] "...deep green above, paler beneath..." [HNW] "...hairless and distinctly veined below..." [PCBC2004]
Stem "stems erect, often reddish".[HNW] Leafy, usually unbranched.[PCBC2004] "...short stiff hairs on upper part." [WildPNW]
Root Rhizome-like root.[IFBC][E-flora]
Habitat "...meadows, roadsides, burns, clearings and waste places..."[IFBC][E-flora] "...edges of open woods..." [HNW]
Range "abundant throughout BC (ssp. circumvagum more common along coast than interior); circumboreal..." [IFBC][E-flora] "...only locally abundant on the outer coast." [PCBC2004] Pacific States. [PSW]
Status Native [E-flora][WildPNW]
Ecological Indicator "...very shade-intolerant.... Grows on recently cutover and/or burnt sites... Scattered to abundant (often dominant) in herbaceous communities on a wide range of sites where it indicates increased decomposition of the remaining forest floor materials (originally Mor humus forms). In some situations, high-density stands of this species may hinder the survival and growth of forest plantations. Commonly associated with Polytrichum juniperinum. A nitrophytic species characteristic of fire-disturbed sites."[IPBC][E-flora]



Other Uses

Medicinal Uses

"Willow herb is often used as a domestic herbal remedy, though it is little used in conventional herbalism. The herb is antispasmodic, astringent, demulcent, emollient, hypnotic, laxative and tonic[4, 7, 172, 192]. It is used in the treatment of diarrhoea, mucous colitis and irritable bowel syndrome[254]. The plant is used in Germany and Austria to treat prostate problems[254]." [PFAF]


Cooking Pit: The leafy stems interspersed between layers of food in cooking pits.[Turner&Kuhnlein]
Cooking Tools: "Coast Tsimshian people sometimes used the fibrous outer part of the stem as a soapberry whipper and sweetener. They also added the sweet "syrup" from the stems to drying berry cakes as a "glue"."[Turner&Kuhnlein]
Fiber: "The stringy fibers that remain after drawing split fireweed stems through the teeth to extract the marrow were woven into twine and fishnets." [Schofield]
Waterproofing: The blackfoot "...rubbed fireweed flowers on mittens and rawhide thongs as waterproofing." [Schofield]

Intoxicant: "...fireweed was processed into a stupefying ale (common in Kamchatka in the 1800s); In A Modern Herbal, Grieve mentions this was prepared from boiled fireweed pith, cow parsnip stems, and the hallucinogenic fly agaric mushroom (Agaracus muscarius)." [Schofield]


Nutritional Facts

Per 100g Leaves (Fresh weight)
serving size 1

Ash (g) 1.8
Carbohydrate (g) 2.9
Crude Fiber (g) 1.4
Protein (g) 6.5
Water (g) 76


Vitamin A (RE) 22
Vitamin C (mg) 88


Calcium (mg) 175
Copper (mg) 0.2
Iron (mg) 2.7
Magnesium (mg) 70
Manganese (mg) <0.1

Molybdenum (mg) <0.1
Phosphorus (mg) 132
Potassium (mg) 404
Sodium (mg) 50
Zinc (mg) 0.9

Nutritional Facts

Per 100g Peeled Shoots (Fresh weight)
serving size 1

Ash (g) 0.5
Carbohydrate (g) 4
Crude Fiber (g) 0.9
Fat (g) 0.3
Food Energy (Kcal) 17
Protein (g) 0.2
Water (g) 92


Vitamin A (RE) 4


Calcium (mg) 32
Copper (mg) 0.7
Iron (mg) 0.5
Magnesium (mg) 20
Manganese (mg) 0.1

Phosphorus (mg) 31
Sodium (mg) 0.6
Zinc (mg) 0.7


  • Alpha-Reductase Inhibitor (1; X9140222) [HMH Duke]
  • Antibacterial (1; PHR; PH2) [HMH Duke]
  • Anti-BPH (1; PHR)[HMH Duke]
  • Antiedemic (1; PHR; PH2)[HMH Duke]
  • Antiexudative (f; PHR; PH2)[HMH Duke] Epliobium Sp. including E. angustifolium.''[PDR]
  • Antiinflammatory (1; FAD; PHR; WOI) [HMH Duke]
  • antiphlogistic - Epliobium Sp. including E. angustifolium.''[PDR]
  • Antiprostaglandin (1; X1775578) [HMH Duke]
  • Antiprostatitic (1; X9140222) [HMH Duke]
  • Antiseptic (1; PHR; PH2) [HMH Duke]
  • Antitumor (f; PHR)[HMH Duke]
  • Aromatase Inhibitor (1; X9140222)[HMH Duke]
  • Astringent (1; FNF; WOI) [HMH Duke]
  • Candidicide (1; PHR; PH2) [HMH Duke]
  • Laxative (f; DEM) [HMH Duke]
  • Panacea (f; DEM)[HMH Duke]
  • Toxic (f; DEM)[HMH Duke]

"All the extracts examined were rich in phenols (over 10%, w/w) and total phenol content correlated well with antioxidant activity in all tests.... Water extract of flowers demonstrated highest antioxidant activity. Potent antioxidant activity, together with pronounced antimicrobial activity of ethanolic extract, may support the use of E. angustifolium in treatment of prostatitis and benign prostatic hyperplasia." [Antimicro]

"A suspension of the fresh drug in ethanol stunts the growth of the bacteria of Pseudomonas pyocyanea." [PDR]
"Tincture and the liquid extract showed anti-microbial effect against Candida albicans, Staphylococcus albus and Staphylococcus aureus."[PDR]
"The dried residue of a maceration, which is fixed on filter paper, shows a weak effect against Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli, Mycobacterium smegmatis, Shigella flexneri, Shigella sonnei and Staphylococcus aureus."[PDR]



  • myricitrin [PDR]
  • isoquercitrin [PDR]
  • quercitrin [PDR]
  • guaiaverin [PDR]
  • quercetin-3-O-beta-D-glucuronide [PDR]

Palmitate [PDR]

  • beta-sitosterol and its ester [PDR]
  • beta-sitosterol caproate [PDR]

Tannins [PDR]


"An easily grown plant, it prefers a well-drained but moisture retentive soil in a sunny position[200], though it succeeds in most soils[1]. It prefers a moist soil[111], but also succeeds on dry banks[188]. It is best grown in open woodland[1]. Plants are hardy to at least -20°c[187]. The rosebay willowherb spreads vigorously by means of a creeping rhizome, and often forms large patches[187]. It is apt to become a weed especially through its seed which is very light and capable of travelling long distances in the wind. It is often one of the first plants to colonize disturbed areas such as scenes of fires[1, 200]. A very ornamental plant[1], it is the floral emblem of the Yukon[172]. A food plant for the caterpillars of several lepidoptera species[24], it is also a good bee plant[74, 94]."[PFAF]


"Seed - sow early spring in situ or as soon as the seed is ripe[111]. This plant is more than capable of finding its own way into most gardens and does not usually require an invitation. Division in spring or autumn. Very easy, larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring." [PFAF]

Epilobium Sp.;

E. latifolium - River Beauty:
"...used like the common species, and preferred to it by some people." We found some of the smaller species of Epilobium acceptable.[Harrington]
Nutritional: Leaves Per 100 g (fresh weight), Riboflavin (mg) 0.54, Magnesium (mg) - Water (g) 78, Niacin (mg) 1.4, Protein (g) 3, Vitamin C (mg) 128, Fat (g) 0.8, Vitamin A (RE) 1700, Iron (mg) 2.1, Carbohydrate (g) 6.3, Calcium (mg) 13, Phosphorus (mg) 89, Ash (g) 1.6, Thiamine (mg) 0.4.[Turner&Kuhnlein]
Inner Stems: Used same as fireweed.[Turner&Kuhnlein]
Young Leaves: Picked in spring and preserved in seal oil to be consumed within 2 days. They turn black and slimy if stored longer. The leaves have been fermented and eaten with walrus blubber.[Turner&Kuhnlein]
Flowers: Consumed raw, along with the leaves and seal blubber.[Turner&Kuhnlein]
Roots: Raw roots are a popular food of the Siberian Eskimos. Fall [Schofield]
Buds: Used same as young leaves. [Schofield]
Stalks: Raw, steamed,or stir-fried. Variable flavor. Can be made less potent by pickling. [Schofield]


Page last modified on Monday, July 12, 2021 8:07 PM