Using white willow in herbal medicine and home remedies

White Willow (Salix Alba) is anti-rheumatic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antiseptic, and astringent. It can cool a fever, relieve pain, and is known as a bitter digestive tonic. Willow contains high levels of acetylsalicylic acid which is commonly known as aspirin. White oak, which also contains acetylsalicylic acid, can be used as a substitute if willow is unavailable.

Girl with fever needs willow bark tea.
© Vadim Ponomarenko | Dreamstime Stock Photos

White willow bark tea can stop headaches and reduce fevers.

White willow is a useful medicinal herb.

Acetylsalicylic acid, in its natural state, is slower acting than modern day aspirin, but has longer lasting results. Willow does not usually cause bleeding like aspirin. This is because the natural compounds do not block prostaglandins in the stomach or intestines. Aspirin is one of the first modern-generation plant-derived drugs.

White willow has been used medicinally for thousands of years.

Hippocrates, the Greek physician for whom the Hippocratic Oath is named, wrote about a bitter powder extracted from willow bark that could ease pain and reduce fevers. Cultures all over the world have used white willow bark for its medicinal properties.

White willow bark headache remedy

Most often used as a headache remedy, willow bark can be dried, powdered and added to honey. The resulting mixture can then be stored in small jars and taken by the spoonful when needed. Willow leaves can also be chewed raw if immediate relief is needed.

Willow bark is used in many herbal remedies.

Willow bark tinctures, teas, and decoctions are not only useful for treating headache, they are excellent remedies for fevers, chills, acute arthritis, rheumatism, digestive problems, colic, dandruff, infection, inflammation, and bursitis. For chills and treatment of general muscle pain combine willow with angelica or yellow dock.

Herbal blends can work wonders.

When treating fever, combine willow bark tincture with boneset, elder, or gentian. Certain herbal combinations create a synergy that is many times more potent than any herb taken alone. Use care and common sense when taking herbal mixtures. Start out with small doses and monitor reactions closely. 

Willow leaves are used much like the bark.

Willow leaf tea is sometimes used as a rinse for scalp conditions including dandruff. American Indians used the tea as a remedy for colic and fever.

Willow contains high levels of tannins.

Due to its high levels of tannins, willow may help some gastrointestinal conditions. It is sometimes used as a mild digestive stimulant in the treatment of stomach problems and diarrhea. For best results when treating gastric inflammations and internal infections, combine willow with marshmallow root or plantain (plantago) leaves. Willow infusions and teas are usually taken after meals.

White willow trees

White willow grows abundantly in North America and Europe especially near riverbanks and streams. Willow bark and leaves should be harvested in the summer although the bark is most easily removed in spring when the sap is flowing. Dry completely and store in airtight containers for winter use. White oak bark also contains acetylsalicylic acid and may be substituted for white willow in herbal remedies.

* Like aspirin (which was not produced synthetically until 1899) willow should be used with precautions. Excessive use may cause nausea, heartburn, and diarrhea.  Individuals with concerns about blood clotting and bleeding should use aspirin and white willow with caution, as both have the potential to interfere with platelet aggregation and may prolong bleeding time. Never take willow or aspirin before surgery or dental visits. Always consult with a physician before using any herbal remedy.

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Herb Articles by Janice Boling

"The only way to really learn about herbal medicine is to touch and smell herbs, taste them, use them daily, and grow them if possible. Herbal medicine is a way of life. It is not a quick fix." ... , herbalist, web designer, writer, photographer

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