What Is It?
And Where Does It Come From?
White willow (Salix alba) is a tree species, native to Central and S. Europe, that is also cultivated in North America. The bark of the tree is removed, and the salicin glycosides extracted. It also goes by the name pussy willow.
There are no known dietary sources of white willow. Use must come through supplementation of oral capsules or topical creams. It is possible to consume white willow by chewing on the bark of the Salix Alba tree, thereby leaching the glycosides from the bark and ingesting them sublingually.
What Does It Do?
And What Scientific Studies Give Evidence To Support This?
When ingested, salicin (the active glycoside in white willow) is converted into salicylic acid. (This compound has been synthesized into acetylsalicylic acid, otherwise known as aspirin.) Salicylic acid is believed to be the consitutent responsible for mediating white willows analgesic (pain relieving) effects.1
White willow has been used successfully as a natural alternative to synthetic salicylic products because of its ability to act as an antiinflamatory, its effectivness in treating fevers, colds, headaches and infections, its ability to relieve pain associated with osteoarthritis2, and its ability to relieve general pain. White willow also has the ability to stay in the body longer than synthetic salicin products, thus providing longer and more stable pain relief.
White willow has been shown to be an effective addition to widely used herbal weight-loss supplements.
Who Needs It?
And What Are Some Symptoms Of Deficiency?
Everyone can benefit from supplementing with white willow.
Because of its general pain relieving abilities, white willow offers a natural alternative to commercially prepared synthetic salicin (aspirin) preparations. White willow's greater half-life provides even, consistent, pain relief that is longer in duration compared to pain relief offered by synthetic products.
Athletes can benefit from supplementing with white willow, not only because it provides pain relief, but because peace of mind can come from knowing that white willow will not result in liver problems typical of some synthetic salicin products.
How Much Should Be Taken?
And Are There Any Side Effects?
Label directions should be strictly adhered to at all times.
In its natural form salicin is relatively harmless, but synthetic commercial preparations can cause stomach upset if consumed in high doses.
Many of the known side-effects of commercially prepared salicin products are absent when consuming natural white willow. However, just because white willow is a "natural" version of salicin, it does not follow that the natural substance is completely harmless. Herbal preparations are drugs; about this there should be no mistake. Abuse will lead to the same symptoms present when abusing commercially prepared synthetics.
If one were to abuse salicin at all, one would be better off abusing the synthetic versions, as many of these drugs have a shorter half life than white willow. A shorter half-life will expedite the removal of the substance from the body and side-effects would terminate more quickly. Thus, by abusing white willow (a longer-acting natural salicin) one may suffer worse effects. It should be noted, however, that tolerance for natural salicin is generally much higher than tolerance for the synthetic versions, and thus one would have to far exceed label directions to notice toxic effects.
Signs of overdose or side-effect can include nausea, ringing of the ears, fatique and irritability.
Persons who are sensitive to salacin products should not supplement with white willow, nor should individuals suffering from ulcers or gastric disorders3. Those who suffer from allergies to salicylates should avoid white willow as supplementation can increase the risk of anaphylactic reaction.4
Under no circumstances should white willow be mixed with other pain relieving substances, nor should white willow be administered to children (persons under the age of 18).
Where can I get it?
There are different brand names that manufacture supplemental white willow.
To View Top-Selling White Willow Products, Click Here.
References:1. Bradley PR (ed). British Herbal Compendium, vol 1. Bournemouth, Dorset, UK: British Herbal Medicine Association, 1992, 224-6.
2. Mills SY, Jacoby RK, Chacksfield M, Willoughby M. Effect of a proprietary herbal medicine on the relief of chronic arthritic pain: A double-blind study. Br J Rheum 1996;35:874-8.
3. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 230.
4. Boullata JI, McDonnell PJ, Oliva CD. Anaphylactic reaction to a dietary supplement containing willow bark. Ann Pharmacother. 2003 Jun;37(6):832-5.