Effects and Therapeutic Uses of the White Willow Bark

Botanical Name of White Willow Bark : Salix alba,

Other Common Names: Willow bark, white willow, salix.

Habitat: White willow bark, as its name implies if a member of the willow family. Predominantly grown in Central and Southern Europe and Northern America.

Plant Description: This deciduous tree grows to a significant height of 20-30m. This tree has long branches that drape toward the ground and the leaves are long, thin and narrow, with fine pale hairs on the underside of the leaves, which give rise to this tree its name.

Plant Parts Used: Bark.

White Willow Bark - Therapeutic Uses, Benefits and Claims

* White Willow is the original Aspirin, and has the same indications as its synthetic counterpart. Where these two compounds differ though, is that White Willow is milder on the stomach lining than its Aspirin and has a reduced anticoagulant action.
* This herb has been used for millennia to ease pain and inflammation, and recent studies are proving the traditional indications of White Willow to be correct. In the herbal treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and lower back pain, a daily dose of 3 x 60mg standardised white willow tablets led to a dramatic reduction in other pain medication being required. Over an eight week period, 97% of participants reported a reduction in their pain and 18% reported no pain at all.
* White willow bark is one of the herbs used for migraine and headace treatment. The use of white willow bark is also indicated for fibromyalgia, post surgical pain and any condition characterized by pain and inflammation. The active compounds in white willow, called salicylate glycosides, work as an effective anti-inflammitory by interfering with pain transmission in the nervous system and by treating the cause of inflammation.
* While it is understood to have an anticoagulant action similar to Aspirin, this action is greatly reduced in White Willow but still warrants supervision if using synthetic anticoagulants. The long term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) has become a cause for concern due to its effect on the gastro intestinal tract, where bleeding, gastric erosion and more recently, cardiac problems are potential side effects. The benefit of using white willow is that reduction in NSAIDs is achievable, and that they can still be used to reduce pain as required.

Dosage and Administration

Recommended dosage of White Willow Bark is 50mg two to three times daily. It is important to note that a standardised tablet of 60mg of White Willow Bark taken three times daily is the preferred dose for chronic joint pain.

Side Effects and Possible Interactions of White Willow Bark

Moderate care should be used when using White Willow. While White Willow is gentler on the stomach than Aspirin, it can aggravate conditions such as kidney disease and gastrointestinal ulcers. In addition, if you are sensitive to Aspirin or have an allergy to salicylates you should not take this herb. It is essential to consult your health care professional when altering medications and you should thoroughly investigate how your medications may interact with each other. If you take blood thinners, including warfarin and heparin, White Willow is to be taken with caution under your physician’s care.

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About The Author, Subodh Jain