White willow

(Salix alba)

The willow tree grows primarily in central and southern Europe, although it is also found in North America. The bark is used to make herbal extracts.

Willow bark was used traditionally by herbalists for fever, headache, pain, and rheumatic complaints. In 1838, the constituent salicylic acid was isolated from willow bark and went on to become the model for the development of aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid).

What it does

White willow contains salycylic acid which is responsible for its anti-inflammatory and pain relieving action. It also contains other flavonoids, tannins and phenolic glycosides which are said to prolong the anagesic effect of salycylic acid.

Potential Uses

Osteoarthritis Back pain Bursitis
Fever Pain Rheumatoid arthritis
Deep Vein thrombosis Headaches Pleurisy
Stroke Temporal arteritis Transient ischemic attack

Other information

As with aspirin, some people may experience stomach upset from taking willow. Although such symptoms are less likely from willow than from aspirin, people with ulcers and gastritis should avoid this herb.


Several drugs interact with aspirin and as white willow also contains salycylic acid it is prudent to avoid taking those drugs in conjunction with white willow. These drugs include: bismuth subsalicylate, ketorolac, nadolol, repaglinide, ticlopidine, safirlukast, spironolactone, anti-convulsants and blood thinning drugs. If in doubt speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

If you already take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, you should not take white willow at the same time.

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