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The use of willow bark dates back to ancient times where it was primarily used as a pain reliever and to reduce inflammation. The ancient Chinese, Egyptians and Greeks all used willow bark for various ailments. Willow bark itself refers to various trees and shrubs whose bark contains salicin and other useful compounds.
Utilizing naturally occurring salicin, the same ingredient later used in aspirin, willow bark calms headaches, tames muscle pain and reduces joint inflammation. It is also antiseptic and has been found to be useful as a weight loss aid and as an anti-cancer supplement.
Willow is a general name that refers to the genus Salix that includes a wide variety of trees, shrubs and groundcovers. Most commonly used for supplements is the white willow due to its elevated levels of naturally occurring salicin. Crack willow, purple willow and pussy willow are also used to produce willow bark supplements. Combinations of willow may be used in some instances.
Willow bark is sold as a dried herb that can be steeped for tea or be added to a poultice for wounds. Sold in liquid, capsule and tablet form, willow bark dosages vary from 60 mg to 400 mg per dose. A physician should be consulted for the proper dosage needed for each individual.
Willow Bark sold as a dried herb, supplement or extract has relieved pain for thousands of years across the globe. Doses as low as 60 mg have been found to relieve migraine headaches and chronic pain.
Headaches, muscle pain and joint inflammation can all be reduced by willow bark. Chronic low back pain sufferers in a clinical study reported a significant reduction in pain levels when using up to 240 mg of willow bark each day.
Mild side effects are possible when taking willow bark. These side effects include nausea and stomach upset. An overdose of willow bark can lead to skin rashes, stomach inflammation, kidney inflammation, and tinnitus.
A few people should not use willow bark supplements. Those people with stomach ulcers should not use willow bark as it may increase the possibility of stomach bleeding. Those who are allergic or sensitive to aspirin should not use willow bark. Children under the age of 16 should not be given willow bark due to the increased risk of developing Reye Syndrome.
Willow bark reduces blood coagulation and should not be used with blood thinners or within two weeks of surgery. Do not resume using willow bark within two weeks post-surgery due to the increased risk of bleeding.
Willow bark also reduces the effectiveness of beta blockers and diuretics. Those who take Dilantin should not use willow bark due to a toxic interaction.
Willow bark has long been used to help relieve headaches and other minor pains. Small doses of willow bark are best for everyday headaches, while larger doses will help relieve painful tension and migraine headaches.
Muscle pain is also greatly relieved by willow bark supplements. Pain caused by exercise is alleviated as well as chronic pain. Low back pain in particular has been shown to be greatly reduced by the use of willow bark. Many types of arthritis suffers have seen significant improvements from low doses of willow bark due to its pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.
The compounds extracted from willow bark reduce inflammation of the joints and muscle. This makes willow bark one of the most effective herbal remedies for bursitis and tendonitis.
Pain relief for fever and flu symptoms can also be obtained from willow bark supplements. Fever reduction and general pain relief are achieved with small doses of willow bark.
As a poultice, willow bark is antiseptic. It has also been used to successfully remove warts.
Willow bark extract has been shown to have anti-cancer properties. A study finished in 2003 reported that willow bark extract inhibited tumor growth. Referenced by the University of Maryland Medical Center, the willow bark extract killed abnormal cells, reducing the tumor size by 75 percent in some cases.
More research is necessary to find proper dosages needed for a complete anti-cancer supplement.
The dosage for willow bark supplements and extracts vary greatly. Consult a physician for the correct dosage for each individual case. Supplements are available in tablets, capsules and in a liquid suspension that contain 60 mg to 400 mg per unit.
The effect of willow bark ingested in any form is stronger than that of laboratory-made aspirin though it may take longer to be fully absorbed. For this reason, an effective dose of willow bark needed may be much smaller than a regular effective dose of aspirin. Care should be used when preparing willow bark as a tea. An overdose of willow bark can cause skin rashes, stomach inflammation, inflammation of the kidney or liver and tinnitus.
Although multiple clinical studies have been conducted, no formal endorsement has been obtained from the Food and Drug Administration. Always consult with a medical professional before using willow bark or any herbal supplement or extract to treat any illness.