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Herb Spotlight - Willow Bark

Willow (Salix spp.)

Family: Salicaceae

Part Used: Bark

Flavor/Aroma: Astringent; Bitter

Energetics: Cooling; Drying


Herbal Actions: 

Anti inflammatory, Analgesic, Vermifuge, Carminative, Anodyne, Febrifuge1

Overview:

In 1828, the active constituent salicin was isolated from Willow bark, paving the way for its modern application in drugs such as Aspirin and other pain-relieving therapeutics. Before this pharmaceutical adaptation, Willow was being utilized amongst Native American tribes, vikings, and in ancient civilizations in Asia for thousands of years. Willow botanical medicine has a great potential for a variety of systemic pain that should not be overlooked.

Botany:

Willow trees can grow to a mighty 80 feet tall in ideal conditions. Its bark matures from a smooth, light-colored look to deeply cracked, darker pigmented expression. The leaves provide a full canopy and are serrated, slender, and elongated in appearance. Willow prefers to grow close to rivers and streams in disturbed, wetter soil types. They are also helpful in maintaining soil integrity and preventing erosion. Willow will express flowers in the spring to early summer months.2

Cultivation and Harvesting:

Willow species are native to Europe and were introduced to the United States as medicinal and ornamental botanicals. It is easily propagated using a piece of a branch by simply partially burying it in soil and allowing roots to generate. Willow bark is best harvested with care in the early fall, before the buds on the branches begin to fully express, but after the flowers have cycled. The easiest way to harvest is by cutting a few younger branches from the tree and stripping them for their bark, and propagating them as to regenerate this valuable medicinal herb.

Southern Oregon Cultivation:

Willow species are commonly found throughout the Rogue Valley and Southern Oregon regions. Although usually found near water sources, Willow makes a great addition to most home-garden spaces and provides an excellent source of shade when cared for properly. It is popularly used as a living fence in landscape design and can offer a unique aesthetic appeal.

History and Folklore:

American Native Uses: Due to the unique flexibility of Willow branches, they were commonly harvested for crafting uniquely weaved baskets, bed frames and other furniture, and for sweat lodges and ceremonial spaces. Willow was commonly brewed into tea to remedy systemic pain and the younger shoots were chewed-on for their analgesic effect. WIllow was used as a febrifuge by the Cherokee and Blackfoot, and as an analgesic by the Eskimo and Iroquois. Willow trees were the clan symbol of the Hopi, Kahabi, Navajo, Apache, and Pueblo tribes. 

WIllow became known as the “toothache tree” by many, and was used to treat a variety of aches and pains.5

European Medicinal Uses: Willow bark was commonly infused into teas to treat pain, chronic diarrhea, dysentery, to dispel worms, and to support debility of the digestive organs. It was also used in crafting and weaving techniques in certain cultures across the continent.1, 2    

Modern Applications:

Willow species have been indicated to support a wide variety of types of aches and pains, inflammation, and both internal and external irritations. In Germany, constituents of Willow bark, such as salicin, were isolated and used in the development of antiarthritic medications. Other specifically indicated conditions that may benefit from Willow are fevers, pain associated with the cold and flu, rheumatic ailments, and headaches.1,3

Uses and Preparations:

 

Dried Herb Tea Preparation: 

Place 1 Tablespoon and broken bark into a pot of cold water and boil, allowing it to decoct for at least 5 minutes. Drink 3 to 4 times daily.

Using a reusable tea bag or tea ball, immerse the loose dried herbs into boiling water and allow to steep for 5-10 minutes, preferably covered, in order to release the maximum amount of herbal goodness. Some herbal tea can carry a strong flavor. We recommend organic honey as a sweetener which preserves the beneficial herbal compounds. 

Tincture: 

4-6 mL up to 3 times daily.

Some herbal tinctures can have a strong flavor on their own. Adding your tincture to a glass of 6-8oz of water is one easy way to help, should you wish to dilute the flavor.

Recommended Usage:

It is important to remember that some bodies may react differently than others when using herbal products. Our recommended usage amounts are designed to be an average dosage only. If you have specific concerns about the usage amount or interaction with other medication, please consult with your doctor or health care practitioner prior to using our products.  

Note:

It is important to remember that some bodies may react differently than others when using herbal products. Our recommended usage amounts are designed to be an average dosage only. If you have specific concerns about the dosage amount or interaction with other medication, please consult with your doctor or health care practitioner prior to using our products.  

Sun God Medicinals products that contain Willow Bark:

Sunna Ra Herbals White Willow Bark Tincture

Precautions:

We recommend consulting with your practitioner if you are pregnant, or plan to become pregnant, or if you are using any other medications. Do not give to those or take if allergic to aspirin or other salicylate-containing drugs. Do not administer to children with viral infections due to the possibility of Reye’s Syndrome.

References:

  1. WIllow Bark. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://cms.herbalgram.org/expandedE/Willowbark.html?ts=1573244104&signature=9094690187110d39709b57aa51a040e0 
  2. Salix.-Willow. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/kings/salix-alba.html 
  3. European Medicines Agency. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/documents/herbal-monograph/final-european-union-herbal-monograph-salix-various-species-including-s-purpurea-l-s-daphnoides-vill_en.pdf 
  4. Overview of Willow bark. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://pennstatehershey.adam.com/content.aspx?productId=107&pid=33&gid=000281
  5. White Willow Bark. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://nativeamericanherbalism.com/bacteria/white-willow-bark/

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.