The willow tree has a rich history within civilization. There are over 500 different species of willow and though most of them like swampy river valleys, some can be seen almost 10,000' above sea level and some live all the way in the freezing arctic tundra. They are living proof that they can endure extreme conditions and their beauty and strength have been revered throughout time. Some believe the willow tree to be magical as it has medicinal properties that reduce fevers and relieve pain. I'm sure you are all familiar with Aspirin - well it wouldn't be here if not for the white willow bark. Salicin is the component which is harnessed from the bark to make Aspirin but the bark itself has been used for thousands of years as a pain reliever.
Once our bodies absorb salicin, it breaks it down into various derivatives that help reduce inflammation and the pain that comes from it. The effects of the white willow bark may take longer to show up vs popping a pill but the effects last longer and cause fewer adverse reactions. There are also antioxidants and flavonoids within the bark that protect us against oxidative stress and the symptoms that are tied to aging, cognitive decline and physical performance. The synergistic effect of all of these components within the bark play a huge role in its therapeutic actions.
In the past, people used to chew on the bark to help with pain. Today after many studies, it has shown to assist those suffering from chronic conditions due to osteoarthritis, injuries and it seems to affect prostaglandin production, which can lead to cramps and fever. It supports our immune system and while reducing fevers, it can help manage symptoms of the common cold and flu. With its antiseptic qualities, it can defend against bacteria and viruses. I have personally used it to help combat my migraines and I have heard it is used in the athletic community to assist with performance and recovery.
Like all great things, this herb must be used in moderation. White willow bark can become dangerous if overused because it can cause some bleeding disorders and kidney damage. Anyone sensitive to Aspirin, has stomach ulcers, diabetes, gout, or liver disease should take caution using this herb. It should never be used with any medication that slows blood clotting (anticoagulants) since this increases the risk of uncontrolled bleeding. It has been approved as a natural pain reliever for dogs but not for cats. The recommended dosage for people if drinking in a tea form is 1 tablespoon per one cup of water - steeping for 10 minutes prior to consuming along with a meal. You can drink 1-3 cups per day to manage pain.
We can learn so much from our silent living ancestors. They stand so tall enduring time, beautifying our world, giving us life and sending us love. Next time you are out and about and see the wispy branches of the willow tree, give it a pat and say thanks for all the help they have given us throughout the centuries.
Take good care,