Revolutionary Rosebay Willowherb (Chamaenerion Angustifolium)

This tall and elegant beauty is a herb that I don’t know what I would do without. Rosebay Willowherb has been supporting my digestion problems for well over a year now.

Anyone who reads my posts regularly will know that I have a very weak stomach. This means that I struggle to digest food  and keep minerals in my body. Fortunately Rosebay Willowherb gives me the opportunity to stop diarrhoea for a little while and this is fantastic for emergencies.

I make a syrup from the flowers and also keep a stock of dry leaves. This is because I am very sensitive to drugs and taking the usual loperamide or Imodium tablets gives me adverse side effects. These include heartburn, terrible bloating of my stomach, and stomach pains. It feels like these drugs just back me up because when I stop taking them defecation is much worse.

Both the Rosebay Willowherb syrup and dry leaf tea give me this relief. Despite this I only take the herb when absolutely necessary. This is because afterwards I still go more but this natural alternative is much gentler to my body. As a result I don’t get the heartburn and stomach pain side effects that the chemical drugs give me.

I also love Rosebay Willowherb’s beautiful dark pink colour and some even use it for dying. Read more about natural dye’s and plants here;

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_dye

Other names for Rosebay Willowherb

Rosebay Willowherb is the British name for this majestic herb.

Other names for the herb include;

  • Bombweed because it grew expansively on burnt ground cleared by world wars, such as bomb craters. This type of ground is perfect for the Rosebay Willowherb to grow.
  • Fireweed again because of its ability to grow on burnt ground and this is why its the first to grow after forest fires.
  • Singerweed because it grew on the bombed Singer sewing machine factory site in Clydebank. I remember my mum using one of these machines and it would fold away inside its table after use.

Identifying Rosebay Willowherb

Rosebay Willowherb grows up to 2 meters high on disturbed ground, heaths, hedgerows, mountains, railway embankments, wasteland, woodland clearings and verges. It is a perennial herb and therefore it lives and grows for several years. 

At this time of year its easy to spot the tall and elegant beautiful dark pink flowers because they grow from June to September. They grow in abundance on long spikes and picking the flower heads is best done in late summer. Its amazing to see that they are already starting to turn to fluffy seeds.

The Rosebay Willowherb’s narrow leaves grow and spiral around erect stems. The leaves “willow” like appearance give Rosebay Willowherb this part of its name.

If you are new to foraging take a look at my “Foraging Tips for Beginners” post;

https://theforagingherbalist.com/foraging-tips-for-beginners/

Making Rosebay Willowherb Syrup

Again I thank Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal for their Hedgerow Medicine book. This time they really came through for me personally with their Rosebay Willowherb syrup.

I also love their books because they include a bit of history, fantastic recipes, and great photos and descriptions to help identify herbs.

Take a look for yourself;

 

My interpretation on how to make the syrup is as follows;

1. Forage 20 flowerheads.

2. Returning home open and place the bags of herbs outside because it allows bugs to escape. I do this using my garden table.

3. Rinse the flowerheads under a tap using a colander and leave them to drain on the kitchen draining board. This is to ensure that any other bugs still lurking around are removed.

4. Once the water evaporates put 500ml of bottled water into a large pan and bring it to the boil. I prefer bottled water because I do not like to consume the chemicals in tap water.

5. Add the flowerheads and simmer until the colour leaves the flowers. This should take 5-10 minutes.

6. Strain into a measuring jug and throw the flowerheads away.

7. Put the liquid back into the pan and add 100g of granulated sugar per 400ml of liquid.

8. Add the juice of a lemon. I have started using an amazing and simple handheld gadget for this. Its so much easier than the push down varieties because they do not require as much effort and strength. Here are some examples;

Handheld Juicers

Its amazing to see the beautiful pink colour that the liquid becomes as a result of adding the sugar and lemon juice. It nearly matches the colour of the original flowers themselves.


9. Boil for 5 minutes and allow the syrup to cool slightly.

10. Pour into a jar with a lid.

11. Label with syrup name, preparation date, expiry date, ingredients, uses and dosages. I put an expiry date of 6 months onto my syrups.

12. Store in a refrigerator.

Dosages

Use a dessertspoonful for children or a tablespoonful for adults.

I only require a child’s dose because I am very sensitive. Take a look at my “Herbal Preparation Dosages” post to find out why different people require different dosages;

https://theforagingherbalist.com/herbal-preparation-dosages-hsp-highly-sensitive-person/

Uses for Rosebay Willowherb Syrup

  • Diarrhoea and this includes childhood diarrhoea.
  • Loose bowels.

Rosebay Willowherb Tea

In case I run out of the Rosebay Willowherb syrup I like to dry some of its leaves as a back up. With my condition being chronic its a problem I deal with every day. Therefore I need the “crutch” that this herb provides to be constantly available to me.

To dry my leaves I firstly follow stages 2 and 3 in the above syrup recipe . Next I lay the leaves onto kitchen roll in a place where they can be left undisturbed for a week or two. I put more kitchen roll over the top as well because I don’t like them to get dusty.

When they are dry I store them in brown paper bags and label them with the herb name, uses, dosages and a description of how to make the tea.

Making Rosebay Willowherb Tea

I make mine as follows;

  1. Place 2 or 3 dry Rosebay Willowherb leaves (or flowers) into a cup of boiling bottled water. How many I add depends upon their size.
  2. Cover the cup with a tea plate and leave to infuse for 15 minutes.
  3. Strain and throw away the leaves.

Drink a cup whenever wanted.

Uses of the Rosebay WillowherbTea

The tea may support the body in the following ways with regards to;

  • Colitis and this is the inflammation of the inner lining of the colon.
  • Diarrhoea, weak stomachs and gastro-enteritis. This also includes summer diarrhoea in children.
  • Digestion.
  • Diverticulosis and this is when pockets form in the walls of the digestive tract. As a result of this the inner layer of the intestine pushes through these weak spots.
  • Dysentery and this is an infection of the intestines which results in severe diarrhoea and abdominal pains.
  • Prostrate problems – Germany and Austria use it for this reason.
External uses

Also use the tea cold as a gargle for mouth ulcers, sore throats and pharyngitis which is an inflammation at the back of the throat.

I was sceptical the first time using the Rosebay Willowherb leaves instead of the syrup but they are just as effective.

Rosebay Willowherb  and Vaseline Salve

I end by talking about a little beauty of a salve that I make from dry Rosebay Willowherb leaves and Vaseline. Another annoying mosquito bit me on my back a few weeks ago. As a result there was a red and dry patch of skin on my back that would not go away.

Trying some of my other salves did not touch it but this new one was amazing. After less than a week of applying the salve its nearly gone. In fact it was no longer dry after just two days.

Making Rosebay Willowherb and Vaseline Salve

To try this little beauty for yourselves I make mine as follows;

  1. Measure 1 part dry Rosebay Willowherb leaves to 8 parts Vaseline using an electronic scale for accuracy.
  2. Place the Vaseline and the leaves into a Pyrex jug and place to one side.
  3. Next pour water into a large pan and place the Pyrex jug inside. The water needs to surround the outside of the jug to the same height as the leaves and Vaseline inside.
  4. Bring the water slowly to the boil.
  5. Once boiling reduce the heat to a simmer but be careful to keep an eye on the process so that the pan does not boil dry.
  6. Simmer for 2 hours.
  7. Remove the Pyrex jug using gloves because it is very hot.
  8. Place the jug onto a heat proof surface or chopping board to cool slightly.
  9. Remove the leaves using a slotted spoon and use another spoon to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Throw away the leaves.
  10. Pour the remaining liquid into a container with a lid and leave it to set.
  11. Label with name, ingredients, uses, preparation and expiry date.

This is the first time I have used Vaseline for a salve. Therefore I have initially put on an expiry date of one year. However I will keep an eye on it because it will be easy to see if it starts to go off before then. It may start to smell, lose its colour or consistency.

This Rosebay Willowherb salve attracts me even more to this herb. Its certainly a herb that will be in my home apothecary for many years to come.

Finally

Be aware that you never know if you’re intolerant to something new until you try it for the first time. Therefore only try a tiny amount first and wait a day or two to check that there is no adverse reaction. 

If you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are taking any medications, always check with your doctor to ensure that using any of these suggestions don’t contradict them.

 

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