The use of willow bark dates back thousands of years, to the time of Hippocrates (400 BC) when patients were advised to chew on the bark to reduce Fever
.Willow bark has been used throughout the centuries in China and Europe, and continues to be used today for the treatment of Pain
(particularly low back Pain
, and inflammatory conditions, such as Bursitis
and tendinitis. The bark of white willow contains salicin, which is a chemical similar to aspirin (acetylsalicylic Acid
).In combination with the herb's powerful Anti-inflammatory
plant compounds (called flavonoids), salicin is thought to be responsible for the Pain
-relieving and Anti-inflammatory
effects of the herb. In fact, in the 1800s, salicin was used to develop aspirin. White willow appears to bring Pain
relief more slowly than aspirin, but its effects may last longer.
Medicinal Uses and Indications: 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 Polyphenol
s and flavonoids, have Antioxidant
, and Immune
boosting properties. Some studies show willow is as effective as aspirin for reducing Pain
(but not Fever
), and at a much lower dose. Scientists think that may be due to other compounds in the herb. More research is needed.
Treatment:Studies suggest that willow bark may be useful for the following conditions:Headache
. Willow bark has been shown to relieve Headache
s. There is some evidence that it is less likely to cause Gastrointestin
al side effects than other Pain
relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil) and other nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory
drugs, do. However, studies have not shown this beyond all doubt, and people who are prone to
upset may want to avoid willow bark. Large-scale studies are needed to fully determine how safe and effective willow bark is for chronic or recurring Headache
Low back Pain
Willow bark appears to be effective for back Pain
. In a well-designed study of nearly 200 people with low back Pain
, those who received willow bark experienced a significant improvement in Pain
compared to those who received placebo. People who received higher doses of willow bark (240 mg salicin) had more significant Pain
relief than those who received low doses (120 mg salicin).
Several studies show that willow is more effective at reducing Pain
than placebo. In a small study of people with osteoArthritis
of the neck or lower back, those who received willow bark experienced significant improvement in symptoms compared to those who received placebo. A similar study of 78 patients hospitalized with osteoArthritis
of the knee or hip joint found that patients who received willow bark had significant Pain
relief compared to those who received placebo.
Other uses: Menstrual Cramps Fever
Dosage and Administration
Because of the danger of developing Reye syndrome (a rare but serious illness associated with the use of aspirin in children), children under the age of 16 should not take willow bark.
General dosing guidelines for willow bark are as follows:
Dried herb (used to make tea): boil 1 - 2 tsp of dried bark in 8 oz of water and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes; let steep for hour; drink 3 - 4 cups daily.
Powdered herb (available in capsules) or liquid: 60 - 240 mg of standardized salicin per day; talk to your doctor before taking a higher dose.
Tincture (1:5, 30% alcohol): 4 - 6 mL 3 times per day.
Because willow bark contains salicin, people who are allergic or Sensitive
to salicylates (such as aspirin) should not use willow bark. Some researchers suggest that people with Asthma
, hemophilia, and Stomach Ulcers
should also avoid willow bark. If you have any of these conditions, take nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory
drugs (NSAIDs) regularly, or blood-thinning medication, ask your health care provider before taking willow bark. Children under the age of 16 should not take willow bark.
Side effects tend to be mild. However, Stomach
, and Stomach Bleeding
are potential side effects of all compounds containing salicylates. Overdoses of willow bark may cause Skin Rash
, Stomach Inflammation
, Kidney Inflammation
, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
Salicylates are not recommended during Pregnancy
, so Pregnant
and breastfeeding women should not take willow bark.
Interactions and Depletions
Because willow bark contains salicylates, it might interact with a number of drugs and herbs. Talk to your doctor before taking willow bark if you take any other medications, herbs, or supplements.
Willow bark may interact with any of the following:Anticoagulants (blood-thinning medications) -- Willow bark may strengthen the effects of drugs and herbs with blood-thinning properties, and increase the risk of Bleeding
.Beta blockers -- including Atenolol (Tenormin), Metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol-XL), Propranolol (Inderal, Inderal LA). Willow bark may make these drugs less effective.Diuretic
s (water pills) -- Willow bark may make these drugs less effective.Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory
drugs -- including ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve). Taking willow bark with these drugs may increase risk of Stomach Bleeding
.Methotrexate and phenytoin (Dilantin) -- Willow bark may increase levels of these drugs in the body, resulting in toxic levels.