White Willow Bark: At a Glance
White willow bark is bark stripped from young white willow (Salix alba) trees. It is sometimes known by its Chinese name bai liu. It is gray-brown in color, and fissures develop in the bark as it ages.
White willow bark contains salicin, which has proven medicinal properties. It reduces prostaglandin levels in the body, thereby lowering fevers, pain, and inflammation. That’s why you’ll find white willow bark in many natural herbal medicines, including lozenges and salicin tablets. It can also make great herbal teas. Medical studies show white willow bark can help treat headaches, osteoarthritis, and lower back pain. Herbalists also believe it can treat fevers, flu, tendinitis, menstrual cramps, and bursitis.
Cooking With White Willow Bark
In the kitchen, white willow bark is most commonly used for brewing herbal tea. Experts recommend drinking 3 to 4 cups of white willow bark tea daily until the pain subsides.
You should add 1 to 2 teaspoons of white willow bark, depending on how strong you like your tea, to 8 ounces of water. Boil the tea for 5 to 10 minutes so the bark can infuse. Then take your pot off the heat, and let the bark steep for an additional 20 to 30 minutes. The bark will settle to the bottom of your pan, and the water will turn a deep red color.
Strain the bark through a coffee filter or mesh tea strainer and drink the tea that remains. White willow tea has an earthy taste which can take some getting used to. Cinnamon sticks and honey can enhance the flavor.
Your favorite spirits can turn white willow bark into a tincture. Vodka with at least 80 proof is perfect. Make your solution in a Mason jar. Add a tablespoon of white willow bark for every cup of vodka you want to use. Screw on the lid, shake it up to thoroughly mix your ingredients, and let the bark steep for at least two to four days. When your tincture is done, take a teaspoon of the mix two or three times a day. The tincture will last longer than the tea, so it’s a good option for camping.
White Willow Bark: History and Origination
Practitioners of Chinese medicine were among the first people to use white willow bark. They used the plant byproduct to alleviate pain and reduce fevers. Ancient Greek physicians Hippocrates and Galen, along with Roman writer and philosopher Pliny the Elder, also used white willow bark for the same medicinal purposes. There are also references to white willow bark and its powers in ancient texts from Egypt, Assyria, and Sumer.
Reverend Edward Stone conducted the first clinical trial of white willow bark in 1763. The British vicar claimed he used the bark to successfully treat a parishioner with malarial fever.
In 1828, German chemist Felix Hoffman identified white willow bark’s active medicinal ingredient, which he named salicin. The Bayer company was inspired by the salacin’s analgesic properties. However, they found pure salicylic acid tasted bitter and irritated the stomach when taken orally. They tried several solutions before developing acetylsalicylic acid in 1893. In 1899, the Bayer company released its salicin-inspired medicine, aspirin. It continues to be one of the world’s leading over-the-counter medications and is largely unchanged from its original recipe.
Modern-day advocates of white willow bark say that it successfully treats acute and chronic health complaints without the side-effects of aspirin. While they concede white willow bark doesn’t work as quickly, they claim its medicinal effects last a lot longer.
Cultivation of White Willow Bark
White willows are native to Europe and western and central Asia. They get their name from the white color on the underside of their leaves. White willows are medium to large trees, standing around 30 to 100 feet when fully grown. Their trunks typically have diameters around 3 feet.
White willow trees thrive in moist loam with a pH range between 5.5 and 8.0. Planting white willow trees near ponds or rivers gives their moisture-seeking roots an accessible water source, which reduces the need for manual irrigation. They love full or partial sun and do not grow well in shady conditions.
Farmers harvest white willow bark from young trees during spring. Harvesting from young trees ensures that farmers take the bark before the trees fall prey to diseases. White willows are vulnerable to the bacterial watermark disease and the fungal disease willow anthracnose.
About Our White Willow Bark
Our white willow bark comes from Bulgaria. This is one of the European countries where white willow is a native species. The tree is common along Bulgaria’s river banks, and its population has not been declining. This makes choosing white willow bark from Bulgaria a sustainable choice. By sourcing our white willow bark from Bulgaria, we make sure we always have a fresh, high-quality product available for you.