11 Health Benefits Of White Willow Bark, Uses, & Side Effects

Updated: 09/12/2012

What Is White Willow Bark?

Most willows are available in arctic and temperate zones. They are geographically distributed in all continents except Australia and Antarctica. Willows have small trees, groundcovers, and shrubs, and many species are dioecious with female and male catkins (flowers) on the separate plants. The catkins have cylindrical shapes, measuring 6 – 7 cm in length. The female flowers are green while the male flowers are yellow. People often collect young branches (2 – 3 years of age) in the early spring for medicinal uses. To know more about the health benefits of white willow bark, uses, and side effects, keep reading! There is no science-based evidence for the following homemade recipes. The recipes we've focused on are traditional home remedies, so always consult your doctor and check out your health condition regularly to know if a remedy is working for you.

What Are The Health Benefits Of White Willow Bark?

Willow bark is a superfood with multiple health and beauty benefits. People often use white willow bark to reduce pain and inflammation. According to researchers, the chemical salicin in white willow bark is in charge of these properties. However, some studies show other components of this bark, including plant chemicals called flavonoids and polyphenols, have antioxidant, antiseptic, immune-boosting, and fever-reducing properties[1]. Some studies also show willow works well as aspirin for relieving pain and inflammation, and at a lower dose. The usual dose of white willow bark is 240 mg/day[1]. According to scientists, this may be thanks to other compounds present in this herb.

Some herbalists recommend using white willow bark for some conditions below; however, more studies are needed.

  • Fever
  • Flu
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Bursitis
  • Tendonitis
  • Cancer[2]

Uses Of White Willow Bark

1. Relieve Toothache

White willow can help to relieve a toothache because it contains anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties[3]. Simply, chew on a white willow bark piece or rub its powder onto the affected area. You may also drink willow bark tea to get the effectiveness of this herb. For healing inflamed gums, gargle with white willow bark tea nightly before going to sleep.

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2. Reduce Tennis Elbow Pain

The salicin present in white willow bark can relieve pain effectively and naturally[3] [4]. You may add 1/2 tablespoon of dried willow bark to 1 cup of water, give it a boil, cover it, let it steep for about 15 minutes, strain, and have it immediately. Repeat this method daily to get the best results.

3. Treat Bursitis

Treat bursitis is another of health benefits of white willow bark thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, willow bark contains active components that are useful to reduce pain and inflammation and treat illnesses including myalgia, the flu, and headaches[5]. Willow bark can also treat acute injuries, tooth pain, and back pain.

4. Treat Back Pain

You can replace aspirin with white willow bark to treat back pain[5] [6]. When taken by mouth, aspirin is transformed into salicylic acid in the body, which is responsible for giving you relief from pain. In a similar manner, salicin, a natural component in white willow bark, is converted into salicylic acid when it is in your body. Studies show that a daily dose of 120 to 240 mg of salicin equivalent white willow bark offers short-term relief from low back pain[7]. To make a willow bark tea for back pain, click at Natural Home Remedies For Back Pain Relief (Remedy no. 15)

5. Treat Sprained Ankle

Benefits Of White Willow Bark

The salicin in white willow bark is transformed into salicylic acid[4] [8] when entering your body. This acid helps to relieve inflammation & pain because it works as aspirin. Moreover, it also contains compounds called phenolic glycoside esters. When you take the bark internally, the microorganisms of your intestine will convert these compounds into saligenin. Then, saligenin will be oxidized in the liver & blood, producing salicylic acid. Salicylic acid may relieve pain by hindering the prostaglandins synthesis in the sensory nerves. Hence, you take white willow bark tea or tincture to reduce pain caused by a sprained ankle.

6. Remove Acne

The extract of white willow bark can be used as an ingredient in some personal care products and cosmetics thanks to its anti-inflammatory, soothing, and astringent properties. It consists of salicylic acid that is an excellent exfoliant used in some acne treatments because it helps the skin shed the dead cells and clears the skin pores[9]. It also includes phenolic acids, including salicortin, flavonoids, salicin, tannins, and minerals, which aid in rejuvenating the skin.

7. Relieve A Sinus Headache

benefits of white willow bark - relieve a sinus headache

One of other health benefits of white willow bark is to relieve sinus headaches. According to some studies, using this bark is less likely to lead to gastrointestinal side effects rather than other pain relievers, including ibuprofen (Advil) and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs[5] [10]. However, for sure, people with stomach upset should avoid white willow bark. Now, large-scale studies are required to fully determine how effective and safe white willow bark is for sinus headaches.

You may drink the tea that is made from 1/2 tablespoon of willow bark powder and 1 glass of water. Simmer this mixture for 5 minutes. Drink it after cooling it.

8. Soothe Menstrual Cramps

benefits of white willow bark - soothe menstrual cramps

Many females who suffer from severe menstrual symptoms or heavy periods, taking a small cup of white willow bark may do wonders for period pain as well as cramping to mood swings & unnecessary stress hormones in their body. It’s relaxing properties are especially good in these cases because they can aid in re-balancing hormones in the body of a woman.

You can scrape and boil this bark to make a tea and drink it for this purpose. Or, you may also use its oil or pills to soothe menstrual cramps. You should take it 1 or more weeks before starting your period.

9. Prevent Heart Attacks

According to the American Heart Association, taking a low dose of aspirin daily may prevent heart attacks & stroke[11]. Aspirin has been related to easing the risk of getting internal clotting, which is linked to these health conditions. Because the effects of aspirin & white willow bark have been similar, it is believed that white willow bark extract can reap similar benefits[12]. However, it is important for you to know how much salicylate you get in a cup and monitor this amount.

10. Settle The Stomach

White willow bark contains a high content of tannins[13] that can help to soothe the stomach as well as prevent gastrointestinal problems[14]. While white willow bark may be slow-acting, its properties can be long-lasting, which makes it an effective remedy to add to the health regiment. However, you should not consume it daily unless advised by your doctor or good herbalist.

11. Improve Skin Health

In fact, the look of the skin is crucial for many people, especially for women. The high source of antioxidant compounds in the white willow bark may have a major effect on the health of your skin. Whether used topically or consumed internally, white willow bark may increase the blood flow to your skin thanks to its antioxidants, while reducing wrinkles and age marks[15]. In addition, it may also remove inflammation in your skin and relieve pain caused due to insect bites & irritation.

What Are The Side Effects Of Willow Bark?

White willow bark can cause stomach upset & digestive system upset[13]. It may also cause a rash, itching, and allergic reactions, especially in those allergic to aspirin.

White willow bark is safe for most people if consumed by mouth internally for a short period of time (up to 3 months).

Special Precautions & Warnings:

It might be unsafe for breastfeeding women to use white willow bark. It contains chemicals that have harmful impacts on the nursing infant. Avoid using it if you are a breastfeeding woman.

It has not enough evidence about the safety of willow bark during pregnancy. However, it is better to avoid using it.

Children: White willow bark may be unsafe for children when consumed for viral infections including the flu and colds. Like aspirin, it may increase the risk of Reye’s syndrome. Although it is still on the safe side, don’t use it for children.

Kidney disease: White willow bark may reduce blood flow to the kidneys, which may result in kidney failure in some people[16]. If you suffer from kidney disease, avoid using this bark.

Bleeding disorders: White willow bark may increase the chance of bleeding in people who have bleeding disorders.

Sensitivity to aspirin: Those with stomach ulcers, asthma, diabetes, gout, hypoprothrombinemia, hemophilia, or liver or kidney disease may be sensitive to willow bark. Using this bark may cause serious allergic reactions. Never use it.

Surgery: White willow bark may slow blood clotting. It could cause extra bleeding during and after surgery. Avoid using this bark at least two weeks before surgery.Respiratory distress.

Where And How To Buy Willow Bark

White willow bark is readily available in many herbal food stores in various forms such as the dry bark pieces, pills, extracts, capsules, tinctures, teas, and powders. When buying it, ensure that it should be produced by a reliable & well-reputed company. Commonly, the bark of white willow is applied for therapeutic purposes. To regulate the daily dosage of this herb, use willow bark capsules or extracts.

Here are a few of the health benefits of white willow bark that you should know. Hope that this article can help you know more about this herb as well as its uses. If you know other health benefits of white willow bark, please share with us.

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