White willow, also known as European willow, was introduced to the New World by 18th century Europeans. For centuries the white willow bark has been used as an analgesic. In fact, there is recorded evidence that the herb was used for this purpose in China as early as 500 B.C. The herb was also used extensively by Native Americans for fever and pain associated with arthritis. Today, we know that its effectiveness is due to a chemical called salicin that is converted in the human body into acetylsalicylic acid, a compound better known as aspirin.
Willow bark is used to ease pain and reduce inflammation. Researchers believe that the chemical salicin, found in willow bark, is responsible for these effects. However, studies show several other components of willow bark, including plant chemicals called polyphenols and flavonoids, have antioxidant, fever-reducing, antiseptic, and immune-boosting properties. Some studies show white willow bark is as effective as aspirin for reducing pain and inflammation, and at a much lower dose. White willow bark has been shown to relieve headaches and back pain, and is effective at reducing pain from osteoarthritis. It may also help with menstrual cramps, fever, flu, tendonitis, bursitis and even cancer.
PLEASE NOTE: Due to the fact that white willow bark contains salicin, do not use if allergic to aspirin or other salicylate-containing drugs, or are are currently taking antiplatelet or anticoagulant drugs. Do not administer to children or adolescents due to the possibility of Reye’s syndrome. Salicylates are not recommended during pregnancy, so pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take willow bark. We recommend that you consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before using this product, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, or on any medications.
To prepare as a tea: For the most therapeutic effect, we recommend making a decoction. Put 1 tbsp of willow bark in a small sauce pan. Cover the bark with 1 cup of water. Slowly heat to a simmer (be careful not to boil), cover for 10-30 minutes, then strain. You can initially put the bark in a tea strainer or filter, or put it straight into the pot and strain the tea afterwards. Can also be prepared as an infusion: Fill tea strainer or filter with 1 tbsp bark and place in a mug. Pour boiling water over bark until mug is full. Cover and steep 10-15 minutes; however, the effects might be less than that of a decoction. Drink 2-3 cups a day as needed. Be sure to stay within the recommended doses. If any discomfort occurs, speak to your doctor immediately. TIP: Some people find the flavor of the tea to be bitter and unappealing. You may combine it with other flavorful teas, honey, cinnamon, and anything else desirable! TIP #2: Don’t be afraid to just chew on (but not swallow) some of the bark. Experimentation is fun and sometimes enlightening!
White willow bark can also be finely grated and put into capsules, or made into tinctures.
To use as a poultice: Make a strong tea of the bark (decoction) and apply the cooled liquid to aid healing of sores, burns or cuts. Decoctions of willow bark tea can also be used as a gargle to treat inflamed gums.
Uses in skin and beauty treatments: Because salicin is naturally antimicrobial, willow bark is capable of eradicating bacteria associated with acne and reducing skin lesions. White willow bark extract also contains natural beta hydroxy acids, an exfoliant that reduces the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and other signs of aging skin. Applied topically it can improve wrinkles, skin roughness, pore size, and radiance.
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These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please consult with your doctor or midwife before taking herbs and supplements if pregnant or breastfeeding, or on any medications. For educational purposes only.