Willow tree

Salix alba

Description

Willow bark, from the white willow tree was used by the ancient Greeks to reduce fever and inflammation. Throughout the rest of Europe and in China, it has been prescribed for centuries as a remedy for pain (particularly lower back pain and osteoarthritis), headache and inflammatory conditions such as bursitis and tendinitis. The bark is still widely used for pain relief today.

Parts used

The bark of the tree.

Constituents

White willow bark contains salicin, which is a chemical similar to aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid). Other studies show that several other components of willow bark, such as polyphenols and flavonoids, have anti-oxidant, fever-reducing, antiseptic and immune-boosting properties.

Medicinal uses

Salicin 3d model

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, some studies show that willow is as effective as aspirin for reducing pain and inflammation, and at a much lower dose. Although it is slower in its action than aspirin, its effects appear to last longer. Willow is useful in the treatment of:

  • Headaches.
  • Lower back pain.
  • Osteoarthritis.
  • May help to relieve menstrual cramps, fever, flu, tendonitis and bursitis.

CAUTION

Talk to your medical practitioner before taking any herbal supplements.
Although willow bark is thought to upset the gastric system less than aspirin does, its salicin content may not be tolerated by people who are allergic or sensitive to salicylates such as aspirin. Some researchers suggest that people with asthma, diabetes, gout, gastritis, haemophilia and stomach ulcers should also avoid willow bark. If you have any of these conditions, take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) regularly, or are on blood-thinning medication, ask your healthcare provider before taking willow bark. It is not recommended for pregnant or breast-feeding women, or for children under the age of 16 years.

Flora Force Products containing Willow

Domestic & culinary uses

Willow bark is not used in the kitchen.

Cultivation

Salix alba is a hardy perennial deciduous tree that grows to an ultimate height of 20-plus metres. It will grow in most types of soil.

Photo credits

  1. By Willow (Own work)
[CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons
  • By Ben Mills (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
  • Information in our herb library is intended only as a general reference for further exploration. It is not a replacement for professional health advice and does not provide complete dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription medicines. Accordingly, this information should only be used under the direct supervision of a suitably qualified health practitioner such as a registered homeopath, naturopath or phytotherapist.