The use of willow bark dates to the time of Hippocrates (400 BC) when people were advised to chew on the bark to reduce fever and inflammation. 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 osteoarthritis), headache, 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.
The University of Maryland, Medical Health Department, said that, “studies suggest that willow bark may be useful for the following conditions:”
- Low Back Pain
- Menstrual Cramps
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, diabetes, gout, gastritis, hemophilia, stomach ulcers, or with kidney or liver issues should also avoid willow bark. If you have any of these conditions, or if you take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or blood-thinning medication, ask your health care provider before taking willow bark. Children under the age of 16 should not take willow bark.