The Lord shall open unto thee His good treasure.
Kendra is right, I enjoy studying nature. I have no formal herbal training, just the enjoyment of studying green things and appreciating their medicinal value. The closer we look at a man made object the more imperfect it becomes, whereas the more we scrutinize any part of creation, the more complex and perfect we can see it is.
We are all familiar with aspirin. It was first produced over one hundred years ago. But did you realize the inspiration for making aspirin in the lab came from the willow? As early as 3000 BC, the Egyptians used willow bark to reduce pain, fever, and inflammation. The salicin in willow is given credit for this, but other compounds in willow have also been found to contribute to it’s activity. The truth is, God has created the plant, and we do well to consider using it as it is instead of trying to extract a part of it and believing it to be superior! By isolating certain constituents within willow bark we leave out natural buffering agents found in the whole plant. Unlike aspirin, it doesn’t cause stomach bleeding or other known adverse effects.
See if you are able to read the following account Edward Stone wrote in 1764 about his success in using willow bark in the cure of ague (primarily referring to malaria): Click here to read account.
And here is salicin used in the treatment of rheumatic fever in 1876: Click here to read account.
All of the many different willows-which is in the salix species-contain similar properties. Poplar trees including quaking aspen (easy to find in Idaho!) and cottonwood, as well as the lovely perennial, filipendula ulmaria, commonly called meadowsweet or queen of the meadow, contain salicin as well and can be used in a similar way to willow. Just make a positive identification of the tree or plant before harvesting.
After the development of aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), little attention was given to the use of willow. More recently, a greater interest in it as an alternative is again emerging. A quick scrolling through the contraindications and adverse effects under “Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug” on Wikipedia gives us an idea as to why. Because my husband went down the path of kidney failure soon after three weeks of heavy ibuprofen use, our family is especially aware of its possible danger to the kidney.
Try going to www.amazon.com, and typing in “white willow bark”. You will see it can be bought in bulk, capsule, or tincture form. While you are there, scan through the reviews to see how helpful it can be for pain (especially back or arthritic pain) and headaches, while being gentle and nontoxic.
Although willow bark is unlikely to cause the rare but potentially fatal condition called Reye syndrome in children–it is metabolized differently than aspirin–the similarity to aspirin is close enough to use caution. This is what the respected List of German Commission E Monographs of Medicinal Plants says: “Because of white willow bark’s active constituents, interactions like those encountered with salicylates (aspirin) may arise. However, in reviewing the scientific literature available so far, there are no definite indications for this.”
We have a pussy willow bush in our backyard. It is coarse looking, and isn’t something I would want in an ornamental bed, but when the pussies show in very early spring, it makes my heart glad! Since my husband isn’t fond of the willow perched squarely in front of his shop window, we whack it down to waist level after the charming silky catkins lose their “fur coat” and the branches begin to leaf out. Severe pruning is just what is needed to force tall new stems for the following spring.
After a recent shopping trip I came home with a nagging “town headache”. Usually I end up swallowing an aspirin. This time, remembering our pussy willow, I quickly ran out to snip off a small branch tip to chew on. After 5 minutes I spit it out. It certainly had a bitter taste, BUT, within 30 minutes I found the tension headache was gone!
It is simple to peel the bark from the willow branches-just be careful to include the green inner layer or cambium. You can chew a mouthful of bark and swallow the liquid if you are in a hurry and don’t mind the taste. Or 2 teaspoons of the cut bark per cup of water can be simmered ten minutes, steeped ½ hour, then strained. Adding a cinnamon stick and honey makes a better tasting tea.
….And this is one of the good treasures I found in our backyard.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this page is for educational purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.