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Where Tradition Meets The Lab: White Willow Bark

The Cabinet — 11.09.19
by Nina Mullen

Hilma ingredient: White Willow Bark

White Willow is one of the most interesting plants out there — a beautiful tree that is also a powerful natural remedy. We have all seen Willow trees with their drooping branches, but many are unaware of the healing properties of this plant. 

The bark from this tree, when still young (2-3 years old) can be used to reduce pain in your head and body.


The History 

The exact timing of the discovery of Willow Bark is not known. There is evidence of usage dating back to the ancient Egyptians, who used willow bark as a remedy for aches and pains. There is also evidence that Hippocrates, the famous Greek physician (460 to 377 B.C.), studied and used Willow Bark as he wrote that “willow leaves and bark relieved pain and fevers”.

The household staple, Aspirin, is actually derived from chemical compounds found in White Willow Bark, but it took a while for modern science to catch on to this ancient herb. The research shows that it was not until the 18th-century when a clergyman, Edward Stone, discovered Aspirin as he “wrote a report about how a preparation of powdered willow bark seemed to benefit 50 patients with ague and other maladies”.


The Science & Benefits

The most frequent use of Willow is for symptoms of pain and occasional headaches. Several controlled studies have reported that White Willow is effective as an anti-inflammatory  meaning it reduces inflammation and pain before entering your bloodstream.

So how does it work? Willow Bark has a chemical in it called salicin which actively helps to relieve pain. However it is not just the salicin that helps, there are other ingredients in the Willow Bark, including polyphenols and flavonoids, that have been shown to augment the therapeutic actions of the salicin alone. There are quite a number of compelling research studies on Willow Bark — one example is that in a well-designed study of nearly 200 people with low back pain, those who received willow bark experienced a significant improvement in pain compared to those who received placebo. People who received higher doses of willow bark (240 mg salicin) had more significant pain relief than those who received low doses (120 mg salicin).

And it is not just effective, it is also very easily digested and tolerated. Compared to NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), including Aspirin, Willow Bark has recorded fewer adverse events. The events that have been recorded are mainly allergic reactions in salicylate-sensitive individuals.

 

This information is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult a physician before treating any disorder.

Footnotes

  1. http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/12/22/aspirin.history/index.html
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25536022
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25997859
  4. http://pennstatehershey.adam.com/content.aspx?productId=107&pid=33&gid=000281
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25997859
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