The bark of the stately white willow tree (Salix alba) has been used in China for centuries as a medicine because of its ability to relieve pain and lower fever. Early settlers to America found Native Americans gathering bark from indigenous willow trees for similar purposes.
The active ingredient in white willow is salicin, which the body converts into salicylic acid. The first aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) was made from a different salicin-containing herb–meadowsweet–but works in essentially the same way. All aspirin is now chemically synthesized. It’s not surprising, then, that white willow bark is often called “herbal aspirin.”
Although white willow is the species of willow tree most commonly used for medicinal purposes, other salicin-rich species are employed as well, including crack willow (Salix fragilis), purple willow (Salix purpurea), and violet willow (Salix daphnoides). These all may be sold under the label of willow bark.
10 Health Benefits And Uses Of White Willow Bark
Studies suggest that taking small amount of aspirin may reduce the risk of internal clotting and hence can play a significant role in reducing the stroke and heart attack risks. Therefore, by drinking one cup of White Willow Bark tea once or twice daily, aspirin like activity of the bark may reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in people high at risk.
Taking white willow bark can help to relieve pain associated with tension and migraine headaches. With alternative therapies becoming more popular, interest in white willow bark is on the rise, notes the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Although larger studies are lacking in determining whether white willow bark is safe and effective for chronic headaches, some medical evidence indicates that willow bark is less likely to cause gastrointestinal side effects like upset stomach that other pain relievers can cause, says the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis
A German study shows that people with osteoarthritis who took Willow Bark extract providing 240mg of salicin for two weeks had 14% reduced pain levels. Therefore, for people who have mild to medium rheumatic disorders and are at risk of Osteoarthritis, taking 240mg of White Willow Bark extract regularly can suppress the progression and onset of the disease.
The anti-inflammatory and analgesic activity of Willow Bark may help with toothache. Simply, chew on a small piece of White Willow Bark or rub its powder on to the affected area. Drinking Willow Bark tea may add to the effectiveness of the herb. For inflamed gums gargling with Willow Bark tea every night before going to bed may be beneficial.
Medical studies have also found that white willow bark is effective in easing lower back pain. The University of Maryland Medical Center points out a study of about 200 people with lower back pain, which found that the participants who took white willow bark experienced a major improvement with their pain. People who took 240 milligrams of salicin experienced better pain relief than participants who took lower doses of 120 milligrams.
White Willow Bark has long been used in the treatment of fever associated with cold and flu. Taking one capsule of Willow Bark twice daily may help with mild fevers related to cold and flu. Or drinking one cup of Willow Bark tea 2-3 times daily may be beneficial.
PMS and Menstrual Cramps
Menstrual Cramps are usually caused by the inflammation of uterine lining and contractions induced by a hormone like chemical prostaglandins. Studies suggest that natural components of Willow Bark may help with Menstrual Cramps and PMS symptoms by regulating the production of prostaglandins and reducing the inflammation. Simply drink one cup of Willow Bark tea two to three times daily starting a couple of days before the start of menstrual cycle. It may also help alleviate back ache, headache and legs pain associated with menses.