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White Willow

Salix alba

What is White Willow?

Other names: Sandbar Willow, Narrow Leaf Willow, Dusky Willow, Gray Willow.

White Willow originates from central and southern Europe, it is also native to Central Asia. The bark of the White Willow tree has been used for over 5,000 years as a medicine to relieve pain. The Ancient Egyptians used this bark for inflammation, whilst Hippocrates and Dioscorides recommended it as a remedy for gout and rheumatic joint diseases. Native American healers also relied on White Willow bark for its pain-relieving properties [i].

White willow therapeutic benefits

Pain relief

White Willow has been shown to relieve headaches and is less likely to cause gastrointestinal side effects than pharmaceutical pain relief medications[ii]. The active constituent in White Willow is salicin, a chemical that is a powerful anti-inflammatory and is known for its pain-relieving properties. Other components of Willow bark, including polyphenols and flavonoids, are known to have antioxidant, fever reducing, antiseptic and immune boosting properties [iii] [iv].


A number of clinical studies have been conducted showing evidence of the use of willow bark extracts in chronic lower back pain, joint pain and osteoarthritis [v]. The active components in White Willow bark have been shown to inhibit cyclooxygenase, which is an enzyme producing chemicals to signal inflammatory reactions in the body, such as prostaglandins [vi]. As such, salicin helps to ease pain via reducing the production of prostaglandins in the nerves[vii].

It is also thought that if taken regularly, White Willow bark may help to suppress the progression of arthritis as a disease [viii].

Heart health

Aspirin is famously taken as a preventative measure as well as first aid application for heart attacks, as it changes the way the blood clots helps to reduce the risk of blood vessel blockages and haemorrahges [ix]. The salicylates in aspirin are derived from Willow bark and thus have a very similar effect on the heart as the concentrated levels in aspirin as a drug. Therefore, Willow bark can be very effective in helping to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

One argument for taking willow bark over aspirin as a concentrated drug form, is that the flavonoids and plant particles which accompany the active constituents of Willow bark enhance its actions [x].

Skin health and acne

Powerful antioxidant compounds found in White Willow bark have been found to have a positive effect on the skin. These compounds increase blood flow to the skin to provide the nutrients required for good skin health. This way, White Willow can reduce the signs of ageing in the skin such as the appearance of wrinkles and age spots [xi].

Acne vulgaris usually occurs during adolescence. However, often it can continue in adults with the risk of leaving permanent face scarring. Results from a study suggest White Willow may have a potential role for the prevention of acne vulgaris and scarring, without unwanted side effects [xii].

Typical use

White Willow Bark Powder can be made into a tea, by infusing in boiling water for 10 minutes.

Suggested dosage 1-2 tsp of herbal powder per 1 cup of boiling water up to 3 x per day. Tincture: Take as directed on the product packaging or under guidance of a qualified practioner or herbal specialist. Do not exceed suggested dose.


Pregnancy and breastfeeding

There is insufficient evidence to suggest that White Willow is safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding, so please avoid use during these times.


Willow bark is unsafe for young children and infants, it might increase the risk of developing Reye's syndrome. Please avoid use in children.

Bleeding disorders

Willow bark might increase the risk of bleeding in people with bleeding disorders.

Kidney disease

Willow bark might reduce blood flow through the kidneys. This might lead to kidney failure in those affected. Please avoid use in kidney disease.

Sensitivity to aspirin

Please avoid use if you have a known sensitivity to aspirin or salicylic acid.


Willow bark might slow blood clotting. There is a concern it could cause extra bleeding during and after surgery. Stop using willow bark at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Safety and Interactions

Anticoagulant and anti-platelet drugs: Willow bark might slow blood clotting. Taking willow bark along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.

Willow bark contains chemicals similar to aspirin. Taking willow bark along with aspirin might increase the effects and side effects of aspirin.

Salicylates: Salicylate-based medications should be not be mixed with Willow bark as they also contain chemicals similar to aspirin [xiv].

Recommended For

Pain , Inflammation , Arthritis (Osteo) , Cardiovascular Health / Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)

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