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White Willow Bark Information and Facts

SCIENTIFIC NAME(S): Salix alba L., Salix purpurea L., Salix fragilis L., and other species. Family: Salicaceae (willow family)

COMMON NAME(S): Willow, weidenrinde,white willow (S. alba), purple osier willow/basket willow (S. purpurea), crack willow (S. fragilis)

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."

History

For centuries, the bark of European willows has been used to treat fevers, headache and other pain,and arthritis. North American willows also have been used in folk medicine. Most of the European medicinal willows have been introduced to the Americas and have escaped cultivation. In the late 19th century, salicylic acid was widely used in place of willow bark,and its derivative aspirin was discovered to be less irritating to the mouth and stomach.

Botany :- Willows are small trees or shrubs, many of which grow in moist places or along riverbanks in temperate and cold climates.Most of the several hundred species are dioecious, with male and female catkins (flowers) on separate plants. Largely insect pollinated, different species of willow hybridze freely. Medicinal willow bark is collected in the early spring from young branches (2 to 3 years of age) of the species listed above. Other species of salix have similar chemistry and pharmacology.

Uses of Willow Bark

Willow bark can be an effective analgesic if the content of salicylates is adequate.

Side Effects of Willow Bark

  • White willow bark can safely be taken long-term at recommended doses.
  • Higher than commonly recommended doses of this herb can cause stomach upset, nausea, or tinnitus (ringing in the ears). If any of these reactions develop, stop taking the herb .

Dosage

Willow supplements are usually standardized for salicin content, its primary active constituent. A suggested dosage for salicin is 6 to 120 mg per day. However, newer studies suggest a higher salicin intake of 240 mg per day may be more effective for treating pain. Willow tea can be prepared by adding 1/4-1/2 teaspoon (1-2 grams) of bark to about 7 ounces (200 ml) of water and then boiling for ten minutes. This tea can be taken up to five times per day.

Toxicology

There are no reports of adverse effects because of the use of willow bark; although, additive effects with synthetic salicylates must be considered. Use with caution in patients with peptic ulcers and other medical conditions in which aspirin is contraindicated.

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