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Willow – (Salix alba)

Willow herb

Willow trees grow in many parts of the world. The European, or white tree, grows to a height of 35 to 75 feet tall. It is usually found near streams. The bark has been used to relieve pain and fever since the days of Hippocrates. It was also utilized by the ancient Chinese, the tribes of North America and other indigenous people around the world. The bark was chewed to release its abilities to relieve aches and pains. Modern herbalists use bark in place of aspirin, as it has fewer side effects than synthetic acetylsalicylic acid. Because of the methods by which the herb is ingested and converted to salicylic acid in the digestive tract, it takes longer to feel relief than taking an aspirin. The effects usually last for an extended length of time, however.

Key Medicinal Uses

Internally – Willow has long been used for headaches. It has been proven effective for low back pain, osteoarthritis and fever. The bark has also been recommended for diarrhea with cramps, sexual dysfunction, flu, bursitis, tendonitis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Externally – It is sometimes used for toothache pain.

Parts Used

Bark – The bark contains a compound that acts like aspirin. It is harvested from branches that are two or three years of age in early spring.


People who are sensitive to aspirin should stay away from willow. Some studies suggest that if you have asthma, gout, diabetes, hemophilia, gastritis or stomach ulcers, you should also avoid this herb. Likewise, if you use NSAID drugs or blood thinning prescriptions, be sure to consult your physician before adding bark to any herbal remedies you may use.

If you have tinnitus, do not use this herb. Do not give bark to children, especially if they are exhibiting symptoms of flu, fever, chickenpox or dehydration. Large doses may cause nausea, stomach upset, diarrhea or ringing in the ears. Stop taking if this happens.

The following drugs may interact with willow bark: Ibuprofen, Celecoxib, Etodolac, Ketoprofen, Nabumetone, Oxaprozin and Nadolol. Refer to your care provider for more possible interactions.

Preparation and Dosage

Willow bark can be found commercially prepared as tinctures, capsules, tablets, powders or tea.

Typical doses of willow bark would be 4 to 6 ml of tincture three times per day, or 60 to 240 mg of standardized salicin in the form of powdered herb in capsules or liquid per day, or 3 to 4 cups a day of tea made with 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried bark in 8 ounces of water. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes and then let it steep for a half an hour before straining and drinking.

Willow Herbal Remedies Top