The Wonders of White Willow

Whether you have a headache, cramps, back pain or acne, white willow bark may be just what you need!

White willow is a centuries-old remedy that uses the bark of the white willow tree for a variety of ailments due to its analgesic and pain-killing properties. The famous Greek Hippocrates recommended chewing willow bark to relieve pain and fever and prescribed willow bark tea to women to lessen the pain of childbirth. In the late 1890s, Bayer Aspirin Company used it to create aspirin, so the aspirin used today is a direct result of the bark from the white willow tree. The bark itself, however, is an old, homeopathic, naturopathic release for headaches, menstrual cramps and many other chronic health conditions.

How It Works

There are many useful chemicals found in white willow bark, including salicin, salicylate, and a number of flavonoids. These chemicals inhibit prostaglandins, which kick off pain cycles in the body.  By suppressing those, white willow bark acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, reducing swelling is a major cause of headaches. Prostaglandins also cause swelling and inflammation, so if you inhibit the prostaglandin formation, you decrease the swelling (which means you also decrease inflammation).

Whatever benefits aspirin has, white willow bark has as well. Just as aspirin does, it also slows down the blood clotting process. If you’ve got a headache that is tension-based or vascular in nature where everything is constricting, white willow can help you relax the artery or “thin the blood” so that it can flow through that constricted point more easily.

Different Forms of White Willow Bark

White willow bark is available at just about any health food store, and comes in many different varieties. You can buy the bark by itself and actually make your own tea on your stove at home. They make it in powders, and there are some that are in tinctures or liquid form that you can put sublingual (under the tongue). There are also a number of different herbal remedies that are out there that use it as a main ingredient, so it’s really quite easy to get.

  • Headaches

    It’s really beneficial in tension-type headaches, or the vascular headaches where the blood is causing the headache.

  • Back Pain

    When taken by people experiencing lower back pain, white willow bark inhibits the prostaglandins that are causing the swelling and pain.

  • Acne/Skin Issues

    Chemicals in the white willow act as astringents, which help with your skin, tightening it up and clearing it out. It also helps the body fight off bacterial infections, and because it’s anti-inflammatory and has salicylic acid, it’s a natural exfoliant as well.  All of this leads to rejuvenated skin.

  • Arthritis

    It’s used a lot for arthritic pain, rheumatoid arthritis, or osteoarthritis, because it decreases swelling and inflammation. Several years ago, The Journal in Rheumatology found that just by taking white willow, you can reduce your pain by almost 20%.

  • Heart attacks & strokes

    It’s been used to help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke for the same reason that aspirin is used; it reduces internal clotting and reduces swelling and inflammation.

  • Menstrual cramps

    White willow bark tea has been used to alleviate issues with women’s reproductive organs for centuries, both for monthly cycles and for childbirth.

One of the key differences between white willow bark and commercial aspirin is that, with white willow bark, you don’t typically get the side effects usually associated with aspirin, such as general intestinal irritation or other gastric irritation. Note: Taking too much white willow bark can give those side effects.

If you are dealing with any health issue related to inflammation—redness, swelling, heat or pain, consider white willow bark in one of its many forms to alleviate these symptoms. Because it’s in a more natural form, in a more blended symbiotic relationship with the other ingredients that are in it (that aspirin doesn’t have), it’s got a lot of aspirin’s benefits with a whole lot less side effects. This makes it a great thing to have in your natural, home medicine cabinet.