Did you know that the therapeutic use of white willow bark dates back thousands of years - to the time of Hippocrates (400 BC) when patients were advised to chew on the bark to reduce their fever and inflammation?
White willow bark continues to be used today for the treatment of pain, especially headaches, lower back pain and osteoarthritis as well as inflammatory conditions such as bursitis and tendinitis.
That’s because the bark of white willow contains salicin, which is a chemical similar to aspirin (chemical name acetylsalicylic acid). In fact, in the 1800s, salicin was used to make aspirin.
Studies show that white willow is as effective as aspirin for reducing pain and inflammation - although not fever - and at a much lower dose. White willow causes pain relief more slowly than aspirin, but its effects also appear to last longer.
Along with salicin, polyphenols and flavonoids - white willow’s powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidant compounds are believed to be responsible for white willow’s therapeutic benefits.
Studies suggest that white willow may be useful for treating the following conditions:
- Headache - white willow has been shown to relieve headaches. Evidence suggests that it is less likely to cause gastrointestinal side effects than other pain relievers - however, if you are prone to getting stomach upsets easily, you may want to avoid white willow.
- Lower back pain - in a study of nearly 200 people with lower back pain, those who were given white willow experienced a significant improvement in pain compared to those who received control therapy. Higher doses worked better.
- Osteoarthritis - in a study of people with osteoarthritis of the neck or lower back, those who received white willow had better improvement in symptoms compared to those who received control therapy. Another study of 78 patients hospitalized with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip joint found that those who received white willow had better pain relief compared to those who received control therapy.