White willow (Salix alba): properties and benefits

White willow (Salix alba): properties and benefits

The bark of the White Willow “the herbalist aspirin”

The properties of white willow include an activity: febrifuge, analgesic and anti-inflammatory. Its use is also indicated in case of joint and muscle pain and in flu syndromesThe white willow, Salix alba , due to its salicin content, is a remedy indicated for the treatment of flu symptoms and as a pain reliever.

Its bark was used by Chinese doctors as early as 500 BC.Dioscorides was the first in the West to recommend the plant for treating pain and inflammation and, after the discovery of America, it was discovered that many Indian tribes used the bark of the willow to treat fever, pain and rheumatism.

In 1828 the active ingredient, salicin, was isolated and 10 years later salicylic acid, the main component of aspirin , arrived .

The plant

It is a tree of the Salicaceae family that reaches 20 m in height, with a brown-gray, rough bark.It has a large crown with long, thin leaves and green and yellow male and female flowers.It is a very widespread plant in Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa, Italy, typical of alluvial soils and is easily found in the woods bordering the great rivers of the plains, in moist and sunny soils.

the bark of the White Willow is generally harvested in October from branches of at least 3 years, after the leaves have fallen, it is dried in dry places, in the shade, and is kept in cloth or paper bags.

What does the bark contain?

There are many types of willow, used over time, with similar properties, but the white willow is the one most used to make it the only one used in herbal medicine.It is probably the richest in active ingredients, due to its analgesic properties, it is named as a herbal aspirin ,The white willow contains tannins, resins, but salicin , the glycoside precursor of salicylic acid , is the component that led to its notoriety.Salicin is present in numerous analgesics and anti-inflammatories.

5 uses of white willow:

Willow bark can be used as a decoction (beware of those who suffer from gastric disorders) for internal and external use, even if the mother tincture, the extract and the glycerine macerate are more commonly used , which are purchased already prepared in herbalist’s shops.

The white willow is analgesic, febrifuge, antirheumatic, astringent, antineuralgic and sedative .

  1. In case of feversalicin has an antifebrile and anti-inflammatory action on flu symptoms.
  2. It is indicated in rheumatic, articular and muscular pains dueto its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.
  3. In the case of osteoarthritis of the fingers, the macerate has an anti-inflammatory action on the ligaments and on the small joints, slowing down the degenerative process.
  4. Baths and footbaths with diluted decoction are traditionally used to relieve rheumatic pains and promote sleep.
  5. For external use, given the presence of tannins, it produces an astringent action on the skin, favoring healing.

How to prepare the white willow decoction

  • 1 tablespoon of bark willow
  • 1 cup of water.


Pour the shredded bark into cold water, light the fire and bring it to the boil, let it boil for a few minutes, turn off the heat. Cover and leave to infuse for at least 10 minutes. Then filter and drink.

Curiosity and history

In the past, the willow tree was considered a magical plant used in the divination rites of the future. He was however highly valued for his therapeutic virtues.

According to Pliny (23 AD – 79 AD): “the leaves chopped and taken with water moderate the accesses of love and with repeated use extinguish them completely”.

Hippocrates the Father of Medicine, cured fever and pain with the bark of this plant, which is rich in tannins and has febrifugal properties.

The willow is also mentioned among the ancient writings of the Sumerians, in the Egyptian Papyrus of 1500 a, C. which listed more than 800 herbal remedies.

In China it is a symbol of life and immortality for the characteristic, of cut branches, of developing roots with ease.

Willow in the folk tradition

The farmers plant them to consolidate the landslides and its wood is very light and not very valuable, but it is used in the paper industry. Also used as a fuel, it burns quickly and produces good heat.

In agriculture the young branches are used to tie vines.

With its branches the peasants made wicker baskets.

Contraindications and warnings before taking

It is not recommended for those who are hypersensitive to the substances present, allergies to salicylates or other NSAIDs, to those suffering from gastro-duodenal ulcer and gastritis, salicin irritates gastric mucosa. As a precaution during pregnancy and lactation. Not recommended for children under 18 in cases of bronchial asthma, liver disease, coagulation problems. In all cases where you take drugs and consult a doctor before starting treatment.

by Abdullah Sam
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