WHITE WILLOW EXTRACT
Standardized: white willow
Salix alba L. Plant Family: Salicaceae
Native to North America, northern Asia, and much of Africa, the willow is a low-growing deciduous tree bearing long, green, tapering leaves and catkins in spring. Bark for use in herbal medicines is stripped from young trees during the spring. Native American healers were using willow bark long before Columbus or the Vikings landed. The conversion of willow bark to aspirin began in 1828 when German chemist Felix Hoffmann isolated the active ingredient and named it salicin. In 1899, the Bayer company began manufacturing and selling a modified form of the willow bark chemical acetylsalicylic acid, or aspirin. It is a mild, non-narcotic analgesic that’s useful in the relief of headache and muscle and joint aches. The drug works by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins, body chemicals that are necessary for blood clotting and also responsible for sensitizing nerve endings to pain.1
The father of modern medicine was Hippocrates, who lived sometime between 460 B.C and 377 B.C. Hippocrates left historical records of pain relief treatments, including the use of powder made from the bark and leaves of the willow tree to help heal headaches, pains and fevers. However, it took wasn’t until 1829 that scientists discovered that it was a compound called salicin in willow plants that relieved the pain.
Most commonly used in tea preparations, and equally convenient as a capsule or extract. Also used to make lozenges, and salicin tablets.
White willow bark is approved by the German Commission E in supporting joint health, as well as for alleviating occasional headaches in healthy individuals. It is traditionally used as an all-purpose pain reliever and anti-inflammatory.
One of the reasons people use willow bark as an alternative to aspirin is because it doesn’t produce [all] the same side effects as aspirin. Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause stomach irritation or damage, while willow bark taken in normal amounts does not.3
Scientists believe the difference in side effects may be either because the salicylic acid from willow bark is created when the body breaks down salicin (instead of directly entering the body). Another possible explanation is the fact that a standard dose of willow bark comes close to the strength of one baby aspirin.
When Salicin is consumed the acetalic ether bridge is broken down. The two parts of the molecule, glucose and salicyl alcohol, then are metabolized separately. By oxidizing the alcohol the aromatic part finally is metabolized to salicylic acid,2 where it is utilized in the body.
Medical Herbalism by David Hoffmann pg. 579
Specific: Do not use if allergic to aspirin or other salicylate-containing drugs. Mild side effects are standard, with rare occurrences of nausea, vomiting, rash, dizziness and breathing problems. Overdose from high quantities of salicin can be toxic, damaging kidneys, causing stomach ulcers, diarrhea, bleeding or digestive discomfort. Some people may be allergic or sensitive to salicylates and suffer reactions similar to those produced by aspirin. People should not take salicin if they have asthma, diabetes, gout, gastritis, hemophilia, stomach ulcers; also contraindicated are children under 16 with viral infections due to the possibility of Reye's syndrome.4
General: We recommend that you consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before using herbal products, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, or on any medications.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
1. "History of Aspirin". About.com Inventors.
2. "Salicin" Wikipedia
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