Anecdotal evidence is powerful. When a person claims that “chamomile helps me go to sleep”, that’s an anecdote in the form of a personal testimony. Data is just a collection of anecdotes, which can be collected scientifically, though not necessarily. Attentive grandmothers have heard many many anecdotes. They’re data mines for home nutrition and wellness, among other topics. A bonus is that they don’t (generally) speak in complicated terms. They’re understandable.

Grandmothers from the former USSR know about Ivai Chai and what it’s good for. They know that it’s a herbal infusion made from the fermented leaves of fireweed (Chamerion Angustifolium, also commonly known as rosebay willowherb). Ask them what are the health benefits, and you’ll get simple answers.


It has been well studied in academia to determine that fireweed is a powerful anti-inflammatory [9,7,1,4]. It has been proven to be more effective than cortisone in suppressing inflammation [6]. Reducing inflammation is an effective way to remedy many health issues such as your gut, a weak immune system, or a foggy mind. If grandma was very attentive, she may have noticed.

Digestive System

Grandmothers will tell you that Ivan Chai heals your digestive system. Ulcers, gastritis, and colitis can all be remedied by drinking Ivan Chai [6,4]. It helps prevent inflammation of the stomach lining, as well as the smaller and larger intestine. It serves to stabilise digestive imbalances for those with irritable bowel syndrome or undergoing changes in their diet. The Woodlands Cree grandmothers had learned that intestinal parasites could be eliminated by drinking a decoction made from the entire fireweed plant [6]. Your grandma would say it just soothed your tummy.

Sleep, Excitability, and Anxiety

Ivan Chai is caffeine free. It helps you get to sleep and overcome sleep disorders. It’s a known mild sedative in folk medicine [10,9]. Neither scientists nor grandmothers know exactly how it aids in sleep disorders [4,9]. If grandma had insomnia thought, she would certainly know how to remedy it.

Ivan Chai calms you down. That’s probably why Russians I’ve spoken with have told me that they drank it when they were kids (again, my small collection of anecdotes). Grandmas also knew that it was naturally sweet, so it wouldn’t take much convincing for children to drink it.


It’s antimicrobial properties have been well studied, showing that the compounds in fireweed inhibit yeasts, bacteria, and fungi over a broad spectrum of species [2,1]. Due to its antifungal properties, it helps against candida (yeast) overgrowth in the digestive system. Every one can reason the following: a healthy digestive system means better absorption of nutrients, which leads to a strengthened immune system.


Your grandma may never have said the word “urogential”, but she knew a thing or two about prostate health. Renowned European herbalist Maria Trebens had used fireweed quite specifically for the prostate [10]. It was found effective, after thousands of anecdotal reports from men and their wives, for remedying prostatitis (swelling and inflammation of the prostate gland) and growth of the prostate growth (scientifically known as BPH, benign prostatic hyperplasia). The compound responsible, oenothien B, has been identified as the polyphenol responsible for fireweed’s effect on the prostate [8]. Wise old grandmother Trebens further recommended fireweed for urinary tract infections, cystitis, kidney, and bladder problems — and not just for men [10]. So that’s how grandma kept grandpa healthy.

Antioxidant and Antitumor activity

Grandma might have never said the words tumor and antioxidant. Even less so, the word polyphenol. Fireweed is packed with polyphenols, which acts as the main group of constituents responsible for the antioxidant activity [8,5]. The compound oenothien B, another polyphenol, has been found to have antitumor activity [8,3]. The antitumor effect has been well studied specifically for prostate cells [8].

May grandmothers’ natural health wisdom live on.

Works Cited

[1] Battinelli, Lucia, et al. “Antimicrobial Activity of Epilobium Spp. Extracts.” Il Farmaco, vol. 67, no. 6-8, 2001, pp. 356–359., doi:10.1017/s0015-928x(01)01058-3.

[2] Borchardt, Joy R., et al. “Antimicrobial Activity of Native and Naturalized Plants of Minnesota and Wisconsin.” African Journal of Pure and Applied Chemistry, Academic Journals, 31 May 2009,

[3] Miyamoto, K, et al. “Antitumor Activity of Oenothein B, a Unique Macrocyclic Ellagitannin.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 110103,

[4] Olga, Kolesova, and Vladimir Poilov. “[PDF] Investigation of the Immunological Effect of Fermented Epilobium Angustifolium Extracts at the Cell Level. | Scinapse | Academic Search Engine for Paper.” Scinapse, Scinapse, 1 Jan. 2017,

[5] Ostrovska, Halyna, et al. “Epilobium Angustifolium L.: A Medicinal Plant with Therapeutic Properties.” The EuroBiotech Journal, vol. 1, no. 2, 2018, pp. 127–131., doi:10.251100/issn2675-716x/2018/02.03.

[6] Rogers, Robert. “Fireweed – a Treasured Medicine of the Boreal Forest.” Discovery Phytomedicine, vol. 1, no. 1, 2015, p. 10., doi:10.16672/phytomedicine.2015.17.

[7] Sayik, Aysema, et al. “DNA- Binding,  Biological Activities and Chemical Composition of Wild Growing Epilobium Angustifolium L. Extracts from Canakkale, Turkey.” Journal of the Turkish Chemical Society, Section A: Chemistry, 2018, pp. 911–950., doi:10.196107/jotcsa.31108910.

[8] Schepetkin, Igor A., et al. “Therapeutic Potential of Polyphenols from Epilobium Angustifolium (Fireweed).” The Canadian Journal of Chemical Engineering, Wiley-Blackwell, 25 May 2017,

[9] Serebryanaya, F. K., and I. I. Posevin. “Morphological and Anatomical Investigations of Chamenerion Angustifolium (L.) Scop .) Growing in the Northern Caucasus Region.” Pharmacy & Pharmacology, vol. 5, no. 2(16), 2017, pp. 810–98., doi:10.110173/2308-10277-2017-5-2(16)-810-98.

[10] Wood, Matthew. The Earthwise Herbal: a Complete Guide to New World Medicinal Plants. North Atlantic Books, 2010.

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