White Willow Bark

White Willow Bark

salix alba

Acetylsalicylic acid is one of the primary ingredients in willow bark, similar to asprin, that aids in headaches and pain relief. Willow bark has been used for over 2000 years as a remedy for fever inflamation and pain.

  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Other names:
  • Medicinal: Yes
  • Culinary: No
  • Ceremonial: No
  • Parts Used: Bark
  • Side Effects:
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About White Willow Bark

White willow bark, fancily known as Salix alba, is an average-sized deciduous tree. The white willow tree can be of 100 feet high but a variety of lower than 50 feet can also be seen.

It has got the name ‘white’ willow bark because of the presence of white tones beneath the lamina of leaves. Its leaves look pale green as there is a fine sheath of white hairs, especially beneath the lamina. White willow trees are dioecious, meaning male and female trees are different.

The greyish-brown bark is of immense importance and is used extensively to analgesia as it has the same constituent that is present in aspirin, salicylic acid. Historically, ancient Egyptians used white willow bark to reduce inflammation and fever. The white willow bark is harvested from the young tree’s branches and is employed in making medicines that are useful in curing pain, fever, menstrual cramps, mild rheumatoid arthritis, muscle pain, and various other sorts of pain.

Other than salicylic acid, white willow bark contains flavonoids, phenolic compounds, tannins, and various minerals that are good for relieving skin disorders. They are also helpful in lightening the complexion of the skin.

Growing

White willow trees can be a beautiful addition to any garden. They grow at a really fast pace. However, the white willow tree produces weak wood that should be protected from storms.

Early fall is the best time to plant white willow as this renders the plant more time to organize its roots, all the while aiming all the energy in producing a good amount of leaves. The rainfall in late fall proves to be quite fruitful as this plant loves the moisture.

White willow is planted in loamy moist soil with a pH range of 5.5 to 8.0. Also, a sunny spot is chosen because they do not do well in the shady aura.

White willow seeds are super-quick to germinate. They sprout within 12 to 24 hours, provided the given environment must be overly-wet or moist.

The rest of the growth is also really quick. Soon the shrill tendrils develop into trunks and branches. The growth rate of white willow is 3 to 4 feet per year which are considered to be really fast.

With the sunrise of early fall, comes the blooming phase of white willow. They are yellowish to light green in color and calls out for pollinating insects, but at times they can undergo wind pollination too.

The fruit develops in the form of a capsule and matures to produce seeds that are dispersed via wind to begin a new lifecycle.

An urban white willow can live for at most 30 years, but the one in the wild is powerful enough to stretch its lifetime to 100 years.  

Harvesting

White willow bark is harvested in spring during mid-day. During this time, the tree tissues are soft which is helpful in cutting the bark.

White willow bark is cut from young branches or trunk in small amounts with sharp and clean cutting tools.

The white willow bark is dried in a well-ventilated and dust-free area. The dried willow bark is then broken into small pieces and stored in a zip-lock bag or airtight container.

Usage

The use of white willow bark dates to 5 B.C. its endless usage has earned it the trust that many look for.

  • Tincture - Infuse dried white willow bark in grain alcohol for 4 to 6 weeks. Strain the liquid and place it in a dark and dry place.
  • Tea - Dried white willow bark is boiled in water for 10 minutes on high flame. The tea is then steeped for a further 20 minutes and decanted to be served.
  • Decoction - Dried willow bark is chopped and boiled in water for not more than 10 to 15 minutes and strained.
  • Salve - White willow bark infused oil is fused with melted beeswax and lavender oil to form white willow bark salve.
  • Syrup - Dried white willow bark is boiled with sugar in water until the quantity of water reduces to half. The mixture is then strained and preserved in an airtight jar for use.
  • Infused oil - White willow bark is topped with jojoba oil or sweet almond oil. The jar is placed in the crockpot with water for 4 hours. The oil is then in a clean jar for use.