Willowherb is a perennial plant, belonging to the genus Eilobium, that's mostly herbaceous. This plant, that gives rise to small flowers that are commonly pink in color, has a long history of medicinal use, although it's sometimes dismissed as a weed. Historically, leaves from the willowherb plant have been steeped to produce a tea to treat an enlarged prostate. There is science to supports this. Studies show that a compound in willowherb blocks the action of an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase. This enzyme converts testosterone to a form that promotes prostate growth. Therefore, this natural plant compound acts in a manner similar to some pharmaceutical medications used to treat prostate enlargement that also block 5-alpha-reductase. In addition, willowherb has been used medicinally to treat other urinary tract conditions including urinary tract infections and urinary incontinence. It purportedly has anti-bacterial activity that helps to prevent and treat urinary tract infections.
Willowherb is also used by some herbalists to treat intestinal conditions especially irritable bowel syndrome. Herbalists and alternative medicine practitioners recommend adding hot water to a teaspoon of fresh, finely chopped willowherb and allowing it to steep for ten minutes before straining. This makes a tea that's soothing to the digestive tract.
The leaves and shoot tips of the willowherb plant are edible and contain a variety of natural compounds that have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties including flavonoids, beta-sitosterol and ellagitannins. It's the ellagitannins that inhibit alpha-5-reductase and block prostate growth. Some of these ellagitannins also appear to have anti-cancer properties and may be particularly effective for prostate cancer prevention.
Because of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, willowherb appears to have benefits topically for treating certain inflammatory skin problems such as psoriasis, rosacea and eczema. As an anti-inflammatory, willowherb applied topically to the skin helps to ease irritation and itching. It soothes and eases irritation safely and naturally without the side effects of other treatments like topical steroid creams.
The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of willowherb also give it skin anti-aging benefits.
The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of willowherb also give it skin anti-aging benefits. When skin is exposed to ultraviolet light, it causes damaging free radicals to form that break down collagen, a protein that gives skin its youthful firmness and resistance against wrinkles. As an antioxidant, willowherb may prevent some of these harmful free radicals from forming, although it doesn't replace the need for a sunscreen.
Because it soothes irritation, willowherb is an ingredient in some cosmetic and skin care products including baby wipes, shampoos, hair styling products, facial cleansers, hair removal products and sunless tanners and is a common ingredient in natural skin care products.
Willowherb also has anti-bacterial activity that makes it effective for addressing blemishes.
Willowherb also has anti-bacterial activity that makes it effective for addressing blemishes. Acne occurs when hair follicles become clogged with dead skin cells and sebum. Bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes feed on the dead skin cells and sebum. This causes an inflammatory response that triggers the pustules, papules and cysts we see with acne. Willowherb is able to destroy Propionibacterium acnes and reduce the number of acne lesions. It does this without irritating the skin. This is important since skin irritation can trigger additional acne outbreaks. While not considered an active ingredient, you can find willowherb as an ingredient in some acne treatment products.
Willowherb is effective for addressing rosacea, another common skin condition that's sometimes mistaken for acne. Rosacea is a skin problem characterized by increased facial redness and small, red pustules that resemble acne lesions. It's an inflammatory skin condition, and willowherb helps to reduce the inflammation and redness associated with rosacea. That's why you can find it in moisturizers and other products formulated for people with this skin problem.
Is it safe? There are no known safety issues associated with willowherb. In quantities found in cosmetic and personal care products, it appears to be safe. The Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database classifies it as a low-hazard cosmetic ingredient. As a cosmetic ingredient, it doesn't generally cause skin irritation, redness, flaking and is usually well-tolerated even by those with sensitive skin.
All in all, willowherb is a natural plant-based ingredient rich in natural antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. In addition to its other medicinal benefits, it soothes skin irritations and reduces skin inflammation. It also has anti-bacterial properties that make it an effective treatment for acne and other skin conditions as well.