Fireweed, also known as willow-herb, can be found in every Canadian province and territory - although sometimes only in isolated pockets - and across the northern United States. It is usually one of the first plants to grow and bloom on land devastated by a forest fire - or even by a volcanic eruption.
Fireweed, also known as willow-herb, can be found in every Canadian province and territory - although sometimes only in isolated pockets - and across the northern United States. It is usually one of the first plants to grow and bloom on land devastated by a forest fire - or even by a volcanic eruption.

© 2005, Coalition of Canadian Healthcare Museums and Archives

Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium)

Thomas G. Barnes
USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

© Thomas G. Barnes


First Nations used fireweed externally for burns and other skin conditions, and drank it as a tea for gastro-intestinal and bronchial problems. Many early settlers from Europe already used native European Epilobium species for similar purposes and so quickly accepted the North American plant.

In addition to its medicinal uses, fireweed shoots can be eaten as a vegetable, while the young leaves can be added to salads.

First Nations used fireweed externally for burns and other skin conditions, and drank it as a tea for gastro-intestinal and bronchial problems. Many early settlers from Europe already used native European Epilobium species for similar purposes and so quickly accepted the North American plant.

In addition to its medicinal uses, fireweed shoots can be eaten as a vegetable, while the young leaves can be added to salads.


© 2005, Coalition of Canadian Healthcare Museums and Archives

Fireweed has been found to contain several chemical compounds with anti-inflammatory and/or antibacterial properties. One, Oenothein-B, has been patented by a Canadian company and is now being marketed as an anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory ingredient for skin care products.

Researchers are also investigating fireweed as a possible acne treatment. Another line of investigation is exploring whether fireweed has any value as a treatment for prostatitis, since related Epilobium species are being used for this purpose.

Fireweed has been found to contain several chemical compounds with anti-inflammatory and/or antibacterial properties. One, Oenothein-B, has been patented by a Canadian company and is now being marketed as an anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory ingredient for skin care products.

Researchers are also investigating fireweed as a possible acne treatment. Another line of investigation is exploring whether fireweed has any value as a treatment for prostatitis, since related Epilobium species are being used for this purpose.


© 2005, Coalition of Canadian Healthcare Museums and Archives

Fireweed makes a handsome and dramatic garden perennial, growing 1 -2 metres tall and sporting large spikes of pink flowers in mid to late summer. Since it is a vigorous native plant, its major drawback in the garden is a tendency to grow too well. It can be kept in check by planting it in dry poor soil, cutting off the flower stalks before they seed, and occasionally digging and dividing the clump.
Fireweed makes a handsome and dramatic garden perennial, growing 1 -2 metres tall and sporting large spikes of pink flowers in mid to late summer. Since it is a vigorous native plant, its major drawback in the garden is a tendency to grow too well. It can be kept in check by planting it in dry poor soil, cutting off the flower stalks before they seed, and occasionally digging and dividing the clump.

© 2005, Coalition of Canadian Healthcare Museums and Archives

Fireweed in Canada is almost entirely harvested from the wild, and at present there are no serious conservation concerns. There are a few commercial growers, but they raise fireweed plants primarily for use in land reclamation and stabilization projects, rather than for medicinal purposes.
Fireweed in Canada is almost entirely harvested from the wild, and at present there are no serious conservation concerns. There are a few commercial growers, but they raise fireweed plants primarily for use in land reclamation and stabilization projects, rather than for medicinal purposes.

© 2005, Coalition of Canadian Healthcare Museums and Archives

Fireweed yields a honey so prized that some Canadian beekeepers drive - or even fly - their bees and hives to areas rich in fireweed for the blossoming season.
Fireweed yields a honey so prized that some Canadian beekeepers drive - or even fly - their bees and hives to areas rich in fireweed for the blossoming season.

© 2005, Coalition of Canadian Healthcare Museums and Archives

Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • describe the plant Fireweed;
  • explain why Fireweed is interesting as a plant remedy.

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