The Herbs Section
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White Willow (Salix alba [Latin]), also known as weeping willow, and Salicin willow, has been renowned for its pain- and inflammation-relieving abilities for thousands of years. The bark of the white willow tree contains salicin, an analgesic compound from which from which salicylic acid and later acetylsalicylic acid (otherwise known as aspirin) were derived. Today, herbalists recommend white willow bark for headache, fever, arthritis, and other disorders characterized by pain and inflammation, including heart disease.
White willow contains the same salicylates used in aspirin, but in a less concentrated form. Although aspirin works faster, white willow may be a better choice for those who get stomachaches from aspirin or who are treating chronic pain conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Low dose aspirin are now recommended to prevent heart attack. Aspirin thins the blood, which can help prevent blood clots that cause heart attack and stroke. Drinking willow bark tea may have the same effect, without increasing the risk of stomach bleeding and ulcers. White willow can also suppress inflammation and uterine cramping caused by prostaglandins.
Like aspirin, white willow may help reduce the risk of stomach and colon cancer. In one study it was also shown to help reduce blood sugar.
White willow is available in bulk powder or capsule form. It is also available in commercial tinctures and extracts. Make sure to follow dosage instructions on commercial preparations. To make white willow tea at home, use 1 teaspoon of powdered bark per cup of hot water, and drink up to 3 cups a day. White willow tastes bitter, but it's okay to add sugar or honey.
Do not give white willow to children to treat fever resulting from cold, flu, or chickenpox-it is not known if white willow, like aspirin, could cause potentially fatal Reye syndrome in children with these illnesses. People with ulcers or gastrointestinal conditions should not use white willow without first consulting their doctor-white willow may aggravate symptoms or cause stomach upset in some sensitive individuals. Those taking blood thinners should avoid this herb also, as it may increase the action of these medications.
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