White willow bark is taken from a tree found mainly in Asia and Europe and has been used for thousands of years for medicinal purposes.
The active ingredient in willow bark is called salicin.
Salicin has been produced synthetically, but it is harder for the stomach to absorb and has led to a number of stomach problems.
A gentler synthetic version was then produced and is known to users today as aspirin. However, even though it is gentler, aspirin still has a reputation for being an irritant on the stomach lining.
Therefore, many people prefer to take white willow bark rather than the artificial version, as it more gentle on the stomach.
Willow bark extract has a number of benefits including:
- Easing the inflammation and aches of back pain and joint pain. This includes easing the symptoms of arthritis and rheumatism.
- Easing fever and flu symptoms (but should not be given to children).
- Helping to relieve headaches and migraine.
- The herb can reduce the frequency of night sweats and hot flashes in those going through menopause.
- The bark can be applied externally to remove warts.
- The pain-relieving properties of the herb can help those who suffer from menstrual cramps, and the salicin can help to regulate hormones.
- When combined with other herbs, it is thought to be beneficial for weight loss by promoting the metabolism of fat in the body.
- White willow bark has been used to relieve toothaches.
- It has blood-thinning properties so may be beneficial for those at risk of clotting or strokes. The herb should not be used by those already taking blood thinning medication.
Willow Bark Tea
A number of studies have been carried out on white willow bark that show it does have natural pain-killing properties and is beneficial for a number of painful conditions.
Users can make willow bark tea by steeping up to two grams of the bark in hot water for several minutes. The tea should be strained thoroughly before consuming.
It is thought that drinking several cups of the tea over the course of the day will have a similar effect to two aspirin tablets. The herb is also available in the form of a tincture, extract, and powder, and the leaves of the tree can be made into an infusion.
Those who have an allergy to aspirin or any sensitivity at all should not use white willow herb. Those who have stomach ulcers or kidney problems may find they are irritated when using the herb. There are a number of herbs which should not be combined with willow bark such as ginkgo biloba and garlic, as they could cause bleeding of the stomach.
Asthma sufferers should avoid using the herb, and it is not advised for children or pregnant or nursing women. Those who are due to undergo surgery should not use the herb for two weeks before or after the operation.
There are some prescription medications that may interact with the herb, so medical advice should be taken prior to using the herb if prescriptions are being used.