Friday, April 18, 2008

Basics On Willow Bark

Hi to all, I had a question from a blog reader about the pain relieving qualities from willow bark. So I am giving you all some general information on willow bark.
Willow is one of my favorite trees, and so very special.. I gain this information through many herbal books and source documents from my own personal library. So I feel this information is very sound.



Willow Bark has been used for thousands of years to treat fevers, and headaches, white willow bark contains a chemical forerunner of today's most popular painkiller - aspirin. The herb is sometimes called 'herbal aspirin', but has few of that drug's side effects.

"Salix Alba" (white willow) know as the American willow, belongs to the Salicaceae family and is also called "white willow", salicin willow, withe, withy,"Salix Nigra",( black willow) willow bark and salicis cortex.

"Salix Nigra" "Black Willow" Originating in Europe, this salix is also called the European willow.

History tells us that the bark of Salix Alba ( white willow?) has been used to relieve pain and reduce fever for over 2,000 years. The Willow encompasses more than three hundred species. The White Willow is a low-growing deciduous tree that is native to Europe and northern Asia and naturalized in North America. It grows in damp, low places, especially along riverbanks, and thrives in moist-to-wet, heavy soil in sun, rising to a height of eighty feet. White Willow branches were once regarded as a symbol of desolation and grief and were displayed by those who experienced "lost love," but it has more often been called one of nature's greatest gifts to man because of its natural painkilling effects. In the first century A.D., the Greek physician, Dioscorides, appears to have been the first to note the use of Willow Bark to ease pain and reduce fevers, and he even specifically prescribed a mixture with the bark to treat lower back pain. He also prescribed it for the pain occurring in childbirth. Biblical scriptures also reflect the use of willow bark as a "tea," which had an aspirin effect During the Middle Ages.

White Willow Bark continued to be used in Europe to reduce fevers and relieve pain. The plant contains salicylic acid, which was first synthesized in 1838, and provides the basis of aspirin; and in 1899, the Bayer Company of Germany introduced a drug composed of a synthetic chemical compound, similar to the active compound in Willow Bark, the "aspirin."

Native Americans knew of the benefits of White Willow Bark when they used it as a painkiller, a cure for fever and to induce sweating. Some tribes used Black Willow Bark to quell sexual desire and also made good use of the stems for basket-weaving. The stems are still used to create baskets and in the manufacture of wicker furniture and artists' charcoal pencils. Over the centuries, White Willow Bark's growing list of medicinal applications has risen to include remedies for insomnia, colds, rheumatism and dysentery. Some of the constituents included in White Willow Bark are apigenin, beta-carotene, catechin, lignin, rutin, salicin, salicylic acid, tannin, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc, B-vitamins and vitamin C. .

History reads that in mid-18th century England, the Reverend Edmund Stone tasted white willow bark and found its bitterness similar to that of cinchona bark, the source of quinine(used to treat cramps). He wrote of the "success of the bark of the willow in the cure fever. Reverend Stone had reached this conclusion based on the willow's growing in damp areas. He reasoned that fevers abound in damp areas and the willow bark possessed properties appropriate to curing feverish conditions.
Salicin, is the active ingredient in willow bark, and was discovered in 1827. In conjunction with Reverend Stone's theories, it was first used in 1875 to treat rheumatic fever. Later uses included the relief of joint inflammation and reduction of uric acid in the blood of patients with gout. In the 1890s.

Gathering and Preparation;

Salix bark is stripped from the tree in spring when it is moist with sap. The bark can then be prepared in a variety of ways.

Salix as a liquid extract can be prepared by soaking one teaspoon of bark in cold water for 8-10 hours. The bark is strained and removed from the water. One cup of this extract equals a low dose of aspirin (about 60-150 milligrams.) Liquid extracts can also be prepared with alcohol and taken at a dosage of 1-3 milliliters. These extracts are generally used for cold symptoms, but can be used simply as teas. When consumed as a tea, sugar or honey is added to sweeten the bitter flavor of the bark. Preparations for extracts include soaking or boiling 1-3 teaspoons bark in 1 cup of cold water for 2-5 hours. The liquid is bitter and taken unsweetened. The dosage is 1 cup per day, a mouthful at a time. Although the bark is the most commonly used part of the salix tree, its leaves can also be eaten. This produces results similar to the bark as the leaves contain a concentration of salicin.

I must Warn you willow bark may ;

Cause upset stomach, nausea and vomiting
Avoid if you are pregnant or breast feeding.
Consult a physician before using salix bark to prevent heart attack or stroke.
Avoid if you have an ulcer.
Avoid if you have asthma or tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
Avoid if you are allergic to aspirin.
Do not give willow bark to children as it may cause Reye's syndrome. Although rare, the syndrome is potentially fatal and damages a child's brain and liver.

In the body the salicin from white willow bark is metabolized to form salicylic acid, which reduces pain, fever and inflammation. Though the herb acts more slowly than aspirin, its beneficial effects last longer and it causes fewer adverse reactions. Most notably, it does not promote stomach bleeding - one of aspirins most potentially serious side effects. Benefits White willow bark can be very effective for relieving headaches, as well as acute muscle aches and pains. It can also alleviate all sorts of chronic pain, including back and neck pain. When recommended for arthritis, especially if there is pain in the back, knees and hips, it can reduce swelling and inflammation and increase joint mobility. In addition, it may help to ease the pain of menstrual cramps - the salicin regulates the action of hormone-like chemicals called prostaglandins that can contribute to inflammation and cause pain.


The white willow is an outstanding medication to heal arthritic as well as rheumatic pain that have an effect on the back as well as joints like keens and hips. When blended with other aromatic plant extracts and modifications in the dietary systems, while willow acts efficiently to alleviate irritations and enlargements. At the same time, it perks up mobility in sore and rasping joints in the body. Although these days aspirin-based medicines function better and more quickly than white willow, they are known to have bitter side affects.

In addition to the above mentioned uses of white willow, it may also relief headaches or any other kind of pain in the skull. White willow is also useful for women as the herb helps in lowering night sweating and hot flashes through menopause period.

When it comes to aspirin and colon cancer, it is not as if there are no other options. Aspirin was originally sourced from the herbs meadowsweet and white willow bark. In these plants salicylic acid is buffered by other plant compounds and they tend to be easier on the stomach and intestinal lining. While these herbs are a more gentle option, there is still no call to be taking them without good reason and without supervision for the long term.

I also have a source document that claims that Salix Nigra ( Black willow) also has a aphrodisiac effect.