Fireweed - A Potential Powerhouse

This attractive plant has gorgeous pink flowers and would probably look great in a bouquet, but I'm guessing you won't find it in any florist shops. This pretty slice of nature just happens to be categorized as a weed.

Like most weeds, Epilobium Angustifolium, (also Chamaenerion Angustifolium and Chamerion Angustifolium) is a hardy plant that is real good at surviving without any special prodding or pampering from humans.

The common name: Fireweed.

Fireweed Has More Than One Name

To be fair, fireweed also goes by other common names such as Great Willowherb and Rosebay Willowherb, but I have personally fallen a bit in love with the Fireweed name because of how it came about.

Fireweed is often the first plant to be observed growing, thriving, and reestablishing nature in recently burned areas.

It's a weed that grows like fire after fire.

(excuse the little play on words - it just jumped out at me)

What Fireweed Has to Offer

We're going to look at what this plant has to offer in the way of health and well being, but as this blog is all about cosmetics and skincare, there will be a special focus on topical use of the plant.

A recent gift of some freshly wildcrafted and dried fireweed leaves called for a bit of research (and a few infusions and extracts also begged to be made). We'll get into my infusions in coming posts, but meantime, let's get acquainted with fireweed.

What's Inside Fireweed

Among other constituents, fireweed contains
  • flavinoids
  • phenolic acid
  • tannins (1)

A 2018 article in Pharmacognosy lists quite a few documented therapeutic properties of this plant:
  • anti tumor
  • anti ulcer
  • Anti-inflammatiory
  • anti-microbial
  • anti viral
  • antioxidant (2, 4)
Fireweed tea shows promise as an aid to headaches and migraine (4)

Topical Use

Historical use tells us fireweed poultice was favored for burns, bee-stings, and aches. Its soothing properties makes it an ideal ingredient for rashes.

Because it is anti-inflammatory and shows anti-microbial effect, I would be inclined to include it in cleansers and tonics for troubled skin.

Fireweed Scent

The dried leaves have a refreshingly clean herbal, grassy scent with undertones of what best can be described as a mixture of citrus and mint. I was quite taken with the scent to the point of finding myself taking deep breaths of the contents of the bag.

Spoiler alert: the beautiful scent is fully captured in a glycerite.

Fun Facts about Fireweed

There are additional uses of this plant that bear mentioning. Fireweed flowers were traditionally rubbed on leather for fireproofing, and the 'fluff' (seed plume) from flowers can be used as tinder or even woven into fabric. Check the link to reference 3 below for a 2017 presentation on the many uses and list of potential uses of fireweed.

Do Tell

Have you ever worked with this plant? Please share in a comment below.

More About Fireweed

1. Fireweed constituents and their antioxidant functions, Researchgate

2. Medicinal potential of fireweed,  Prasad K, Manohar P, Kavita Y. A Review on Phytopharmacopial Potential of Epilobium angustifolium. Pharmacog J. 2018;10(6):1076-8.

3. Uses of Fireweed:

4. Fireweed's therapeutic potential, pubmed

Wikipedia on Fireweed


Ieva said…
Never knew that fireweed could be so useful or smell so nice and it is a very common plant where I grew up. My grandmother was using a lot of plants but always dismissing fireweed as a nuisaince. Always interesting to learn something new :) Thank You :)
LisaLise said…
Hello Leva - Isn't it amazing how much nature has to offer us? It's always more than we realize :)
Anonymous said…
Hi Lisa, wow, I had no idea of these benefits. Never worked with it, I guess, but I have some dried fireweed tops/flowers in my little tea storage. Thank you for these details. Many thanks, Johanna
LisaLise said…
HI Johanna - Oh yes., it is also a lovely tea :)
Idun said…
Where did you find this image of the fireweed? Does it belong to you?
LisaLise said…
Hi Idun — the photo at the top is a stockphoto that I paid to use. The photo of the dried plant is one I took.
Unknown said…
Hello! Thank you for this information! Have you ever tried making a hydrosol from the fireweed flowers? I’ve considered trying to make some as I have a copious amount of fireweed around my home. Thank you!
LisaLise said…
Hey there Unknown -- I would absolutely love to try doing a distillate with fireweed! It's on my to do list. I would love to hear how your hydrosol turns out if you decide to make it!