Tuesday, 7 February 2012


The Great hairy willow herb is also known as the hairy willow herb and the great willow herb, and is as the name suggests a relative of Epilobium angustifolium or the Rose bay willow herb. It is a member of the Onagraceae family of plants so is also related to the Evening primrose, and the plant does resemble this as you can see from the pictures. It has a hairy stem and leaves, so the genus was given the name hirsutum which means hairy or hirsute in Latin. Its native habitat is in Europe including Britain, Scandinavia, eastern and southern Africa and temperate Asia. In the US it has become naturalized and is another invasive species in some states.
  The leaves are edible and are used in Russia to make tisane, or tea, although there have been reports that the plant and leaves are poisonous. If you do use this plant for any purpose, remember that it could be toxic. It can cause epileptic-like convulsions it is said.
  There are several other local names for this plant in Britain including Son-before–the- Father, which it is called because the seed pods appear before the flowers, or at least it used to seem so to people. It is also called codlings and cream (a codling is an elongated green apple which is used in Britain in cooking). Nicholas Culpeper the 17th century herbalist says that it was called this because it smelled of apples in milk.
  It is a plant which grows near lakes, ponds and pools and sometimes even in marshes. The flowers appear in June in the UK, and the plant can grow to heights of around 2 metres.
  Culpeper has this to say of its medicinal uses:-
“Governments and virtues. All the species of Willow-Herb have the same virtues; they are under Saturn in Aries, and are cooling and astringent. The root carefully dried and powdered, is good against bloody fluxes, and other hæmorrhages; and the fresh juice is of the same virtue.”
  The leaves have astringent properties, and one study published in 2007 in the Journal of Food Chemistry, “Antioxidant activity and phenolic compounds in 32 selected herbs” by Aneta Wojdylo et al. reported that it was the only one of the plants selected for testing which contained the bioflavonoid myricetin. This is also found in many berries, walnuts, onions and red grapes as well as other plants.
  Myricetin is known to have antioxidant properties so can protect the body’s cells from scavenging free-radicals which can cause cancer. It may also have other anti-cancer effects as well as anti-inflammatory ones, and may also improve bone health and be helpful in cases of diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s although a lot more research has to be done to find out what the mechanisms are for these activities.


  1. Thank you for the info!

  2. I love this. Make tea...but...er...It could be poisonous. I think I'll just let my bees enjoy it.

  3. That first picture is Chamerion angustifolium, aka fireweed.

  4. That first photo, right next to the title, is Chamerion angustifolium, aka fireweed.

  5. First pic here looks more like rosebay willowherb than greater willowherb


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