Payne Mountain Farms
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Using willow in herbal medicine

White Willow (Salix Alba) is anti-rheumatic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antiseptic, and astringent. It can cool a fever, relieve pain, and is known as a bitter digestive tonic. Willow contains high levels of acetylsalicylic acid, which is commonly known as aspirin. (Aspirin was the first of the modern generation of plant-derived drugs.)

Acetylsalicylic acid, in its natural state, is slower acting than modern day aspirin, but has longer lasting results. Willow does not usually cause bleeding like aspirin. This is because the natural compounds do not block prostaglandins in the stomach or intestines.

Willow bark has been used medicinally for thousands of years. Hippocrates, the Greek physician for whom the Hippocratic Oath is named, wrote about a bitter powder extracted from willow bark that could ease pain and reduce fevers.

Most often used as a headache remedy, willow bark can be dried, powdered and added to honey. The resulting mixture can then be stored in small jars and taken by the spoonful when needed. Willow leaves can also be chewed raw if immediate relief is needed.

The bark is used in many herbal remedies. Willow bark tinctures, teas, and decoctions are not only useful for treating headache, they are excellent remedies for fevers, chills, acute arthritis, rheumatism, digestive problems, colic, dandruff, infection, inflammation, and bursitis. For chills and treatment of general muscle pain combine willow with angelica or yellow dock.

When treating fever, combine willow bark tincture with boneset, elder, or gentian. Certain herbal combinations create a synergy that is many times more potent than any herb taken alone. Use care and common sense when taking herbal mixtures. Start out with small doses and monitor reactions closely. 

Willow leaves are used much like the bark. Willow leaf tea is sometimes used as a rinse for scalp conditions including dandruff. American Indians used the tea as a remedy for colic and fever.

Due to its high levels of tannins, willow may help some gastrointestinal conditions. It is sometimes used as a mild digestive stimulant in the treatment of stomach problems and diarrhea. For best results when treating gastric inflammations and internal infections, combine willow with marshmallow root or plantain leaves. Willow infusions and teas are usually taken after meals.

White willow grows abundantly in North America and Europe especially near riverbanks and streams. Willow bark and leaves should be harvested in the summer although the bark is most easily removed in spring when the sap is flowing. Dry completely and store in airtight containers for winter use.

* Like aspirin (which was not produced synthetically until 1899) willow should be used with precautions. Excessive use may cause nausea, heartburn, and diarrhea.  Individuals with concerns about blood clotting and bleeding should use aspirin and white willow with caution, as both have the potential to interfere with platelet aggregation and may prolong bleeding time. Never take willow or aspirin before surgery or dental visits. Always consult with a physician before using any herbal remedy.