Willow Bark: The Nature’s Aspirin - Blog
It’s not uncommon for people to think of herbal medicine as a ‘new age’ trend. Actually, the opposite is more accurate. The use of plants as medicine dates back as far as there are records of human cultures and civilisations. But few of these traditionally used plants have been brought through modern science development quite like Salix alba, common name white willow bark and one of the best-known natural sources of salicylic acid.
Use of white willow bark dates back as far as 500 BC in China for treatment of pain and fever. Fast forward to 1853 when a French chemist neutralized the decades earlier extracted salicylic acid, in effect creating acetylsalicylic acid which in 1899 was marketed under the name “Aspirin”. Over 120 years later Aspirin is still a commonly used medicine for, you guessed it, pain and fever as well as inflammation and as a mild blood thinner.
Using whole plant extracts (in the case of white willow it is the bark that is used medicinally) compared to isolated compounds from a plant produces quite a different effect in the body. When we use plant extracts, they come along with a whole spectrum of other chemical components. White willow bark provides salicylates, phenolic glycosides, procyanidins and flavonoids. We don’t always understand the exact benefit each one provides, but generally speaking they offer complimentary benefits playing an important role in the overall effectiveness of the plant and tend to be gentler on the body than singular extracted and potentized compounds. In the case of white willow bark, research has found that it is likely that the flavonoids and other compounds that contribute to its well-known benefits. The dose found to have greatest benefit is 240mg per day in divided doses. At this level the effect on platelet aggregations (blood thinning activity) are minimal, you must of course practice caution if you are already taking prescription blood thinners and chat to your GP about it first.
Because of the strong traditional use, coupled with scientifically proven anti-inflammatory and analgesic benefits, white willow bark is an important natural extract for helping with things such as osteoarthritis and low back pain. If you’re suffering with chronic pain for any reason, white willow bark extract is worth trying as part of your pain management regime.