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White Willow Bark

Veterinarian Reviewed on June 15, 2012 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Uncategorized

White Willow Bark


The White Willow tree (Salix alba) from where the White Willow Bark comes from is a medium-sized deciduous tree that grows up to thirty meters tall and has a trunk that can grow up to one meter in diameter with an irregular and leaning crown. White Willow Bark is grey-brown and will grow deeply cracked as the tree gets older. Its flowers are produced in catkins during spring and are pollinated by insects. The cuttings of this willow will root in moist soil as it prefers soggy soil and plenty of sunshine.

The main chemical components of White Willow Bark are salicin, salicoside, tannin, salicortine, flavanoids, and catechin. The salicin when converted by the body into salicylic acid will act in the same manner as aspirin, but without the harmful side-effects.

History and Origin

White Willow Bark is a bark that comes from White Willow tree, which is common in Europe. Its genus name, Salix, is perceived to come from the Celtic words, sal lis, that means “near water”. Its use dates back during the time of Hippocrates when people suffering from fever and inflammation were advised to chew on the bark of the White Willow tree.

White Willow Bark has been mentioned in ancient Assyrian, Egyptian, and Greek manuscripts and was used by notable physicians Dioscorides, Galen, and Hippocrates for treating fever and pain. Native American Indians used the bark for sore muscles, rheumatism, and chills. It was also used for the treatment of malaria in the mid of 1700s.

Ancient Uses

For thousands of years, White Willow Bark has been used as a treatment for headaches, arthritis and fevers. The bark is the natural source of salicin that is later used in making aspirin. During 500 BC, the Chinese started to use White Willow Bark as a pain reliever that led to the formulation of synthetic aspirin in the 19th century. The bark has long been used as an astringent and as an antiseptic. Its infusions and extracts have been used in cleansing the skin and scalp, treating corns and growths, and as a treatment for dandruff. White Willow Bark was also used as a topical medicine in the form of a poultice and compress for burns, wounds, insect bites, and as a foot soak for sweaty and tired feet.

Modern Uses

White Willow Bark is beneficial as an anti-inflammatory in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome and rheumatism. It is good at reducing fever and relief from Headaches. It is also used to boost the effectiveness of other ingredients. It is added to several sexual performance supplements and helps in weight loss as shown by some research studies.

White Willow Bark’s efficiency as a pain reliever is very helpful in relieving the pain for tension headaches, menstrual pain, migraines, tendonitis, bursitis, joint and muscular pains, flu and colds, lower back pains, and osteoarthritis.
For cosmetics, decoctions of White Willow Bark are good for making facial astringents.

Side Effects

White Willow Bark has not been reported to have any major side effects, other than some isolated cases of anaphylaxis that resulted from an allergy to aspirin. It is perceived that there is a possibility that White Willow Bark will have similar side effects as to that of aspirin that include; nausea, abdominal pain, ringing in the ears, and gastrointestinal bleeding. White Willow Bark should not be taken in high doses as it may become toxic.

Read also: How to Break a Fever

Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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