Willowherb (Za Cao)
Botanical Name: Epilobium augustifolium
Willowherb (also called Willow Herb) is not to be confused with the Willow Tree (also called Willow White). Willowherb is a lovely plant known mostly for being nutritious and edible, but it is also a good medicine for treating whooping cough and asthma. It is often used with the herb saw palmetto to treat prostrate problems. It is known for its ability to treat urinary tract infections, chronic diarrhea, intestinal irritations, and skin problems ranging from eczema, acne and burns to wounds and boils. The juice of the flowers is highly antiseptic and can be simply squeezed from the fresh petals.
Below is an overview of Willowherb (Za Cao), combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Willowherb (Za Cao).
Western Name: Willowherb
Also Known As: Fireweed, Rosebay Willowherb, Spike-primrose, Boisduvalias, French Willow, Blood Vine, Wickup, Tame Withy, Blooming Sally.
Organs/Systems: Lung, Bladder, Prostrate
Key Western Actions & Medicinal Uses: Demulcent, Tonic, Astringing, Antispasmodic, Mucilage, Anti-inflammatory.
Pin Yin: Za Cao
Also Known As: N/A
Meridians: Lung, Kidney
Key TCM Actions & Medicinal Uses: Clears Heat/Resolves Phelgm: colds, asthma, coughs. Seeds used to Tonify Kidney Qi and Yang: impotence.
Parts Most Frequently Used: Leaves, Roots, Young Shoots, Seeds
Flavors/Temps: Bitter, Astringing
Caution: Infusions of leaves can be too bitter causing stomach disorders.
History/Folklore: Willowherb is often considered a weed in the garden. In WWII, it rapidly colonized derelict bomb sites during the many bombings of London. In America, it springs up on ground recently cleared by fire, lending it the name of “fireweed.” It has also been known to colonize sites disturbed by oil spills and so is often used to re-establish vegetation in these areas.
The young leaves, roots and shoots are edible, with the shoots being eaten like you would eat asparagus. The dried leaves make a good tea.
As fodder it is popular with goats and cows and sheep will eat it too. It is believed in Finland to increase the milk production of cattle.
The down of the seeds has been mixed with cotton or fur in the manufacturing of stockings. Willowherb has been used in Russia as a tea substitute.
Native American Indians prepared a tea from the root to use as an enema to treat infant constipation. The peelings off the stems were dried and used to make strong cords for fishing.
Willowherb is emotionally considered useful for treating stress, the feeling of being burned out and for washing away an old way of life.
In China, typically only the seeds are used for treating Kidney Qi and Yang.
The name of the genus, Epilobium derives from the Greek words, “epi” meaning upon and “lobos,” meaning a pod, from the fact that the flowers stand upon the top of a long, thin, pod-like seed-vessel.
Rich source of Tannins and Vitamins A and C. Mucilage. Bioflavonoids, Pectin, Potassium.
Fireweed, a sweetner?
Willowherb (also called Fireweed) is used as a sweetner in Northwestern North America, where it is put in candy, jellies, ice cream and syrups.
A Rich, Spicy Honey
In late summer, willowherb’s flowers yield pollen and copious nectar which make a rich, spicy honey.
Native American Indians applied the sap from the stem to wounds, making use of the plant’s anti-inflammatory properties.
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