Willow bark has been used from the time of Hippocrates throughout the centuries to nowadays. It is one of the famous nature pain-killer and anti-inflammatory. What do we know about it?
Its biological names are numerous, the most popular in herbal usage is Salix alba L. or commonly known as White willow or European willow (due to the white tone of its green leaves). Willow is a tree; it can be 10 m tall or can grow to the large 30 m high tree. Its trunk is tremendous (may be of one m in diameter) with grey-brown bark. Its pale leaves are long and thing. The tree is dioecious, so male and female catkins of flowers grow on separate trees. Female catkins contain numerous small capsules with seeds (often happens in July).
White Willow is native to Europe and western and central Asia. It prefers good agricultural soils, but can also be grown successfully on any kind of other soils. You will find it in almost every garden and yard in Europe; it makes a good shade and can keep you from even heavy rain. It waves in the wind very tenderly, despite the gigantic size. Willow gives every garden (especially near the rivers or ponds) a fairy-like look.
The bark is sold in Europe and the United States. For medical purposes the combination of the bark of different Willows is used: usually of white, purple, and crack willows.
Willow bark is available on market in several forms, such as pills, powders, extracts, tinctures and teas. It is used in dried form as well. The pills and capsules are more easier way to control your dosage amount. Willow bark Tea is the most popular way to get the medical benefits of the bark (but it is rather bitter in taste).
Willow contains glycosides, tannins, salicylic acid, catechins and flavonoids.
Salicin is a chemical similar to aspirin (this chemical was actually used to develop aspirin); it acts as a nature pain-killer and anti-inflammatory, only it acts more slowly (the effect comes later) than medical aspirin and its effects last longer. The other difference is that nature aspirin has little amount of chemicals that are responsible for blood thinning. It is carried into the bloodstream unchanged; more time is needed for converting the sugar into salicyl alcohol in the colon and the constituents stay at the same needed levels longer (usually for several hours). For those reasons Willow bark has no side effects of aspirin (it does not increase bleeding, irritate the lining of the stomach or has any other harmful influences).
Willow bark is an antiseptic. The tannins have astringent properties. Some glycosides demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity.
Starting from the last properties, its anti- inflammatory benefits make Willow bark be very useful in treating the inflammation and joint pain. Sufferers from rheumatism, arthritis and other osteroporitic pain report good results after using Willow bark remedies, especially for those who cannot tolerate non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
High content of tannin makes the remedy very helpful in case of various gastrointestinal disorders. It is a very effective herbal remedy from heartburn for people in age.
As antiseptic, it makes it helpful for treating various irritations in bladder, kidney and urethra. Externally its antiseptic properties are used in treating cuts, wounds and burns. It demonstrated some results in using willow decoction for hair wash – to get rid of the dandruff. Willow decoction or Willow mouthwash is used to ease tonsillitis and stomatit (it is very popular in children, as it is effective and safe). Every day feet bath may be as helpful as black tea bath in treating feet that are too sweaty.
Willow bark has astringent and fever-reducing properties. It is good for fever (it cools the body) and colds.
As a pain-killer it is used in almost every case of various aches and pains: headaches, migraines, toothache, backache, pains during menstruation. As it was mentioned earlier it has no side effects as aspirin or ibuprofen has (or other NSAIDs). So, it is safe for those who can not tolerate NSAIDs and for children.
Common dosage for Willow bark herbal remedies are 1 - 2 tsp of dried bark in a cup of water (250 ml) for making a tea, 60 - 240 mg of salicin in form of capsules or liquid (once a day) and 4 - 6 mL when comes in tinctures (3 times a day).
Willow bark is good for children, but those who are under the age of 16. It is better to follow the instruction until the further researches (as in children it may be associated with the Reye syndrome). Pregnant and breastfeeding women better not take willow bark as well. If you are allergic or sensitive to salicylates or have some stomach disorders– do not use it without professional consultation. Asthma and diabetes are also the conditions that need special consultation in using any kind of herbal remedies (and of Willow Bark). In rare cases it may cause side effects, such as diarrhea and stomach discomfort. In wise hands and with professional guidance Willow bark is a great herbal benefit.
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