StoneGround eZine


White willow; salix alba; nature's aspirin.


Introduced from Europe into eastern United States, this tree does not have the characteristics of the Weeping Willow (salix babalonica) and its limbs do not "weep" but are more upright, somewhat akin to an elm. The tree grows to 80 feet tall and to 3 feet in diameter. The leaves are typical willow shape, long and thin (described as finely toothed, lance-like), about 2 to 4 inches long and averaging 1 inch wide at the widest. The leaves grow from a whip-like slender stem that is greenish when small. Older bark is furrowed and grayish brown. The leaves are pale green above and silvery below and covered with fine hairs.

White Willow from


White willow bark is used in the same manner as is aspirin. In fact, aspirin was originally created from research into White willow bark. As nature's aspirin, White willow continues to be an important herb to be kept in our awareness if not in the medicine chest (aspirin is just too easy to keep and use). White willow bark reduces fever, relieves pain, prevents migraine headaches, aids in reducing the onset of some cancers, reduces the frequency of heart attack and stroke, relieves inflammation, and tastes simply awful. The active chemical in White willow is called salicin.


Chinese physicians used willow to reduce pain and inflammation from before the time of Christ. It was not until about 1750 that Rev. Edmund Stone md. of Oxfordshire, England experimented with White willow in an attempt to treat malaria with a local source rather than the expensive and difficult to obtain cinchona bark which contains quinine, an effective antimalarial drug. The good Reverend used the bark from White willow because it tasted similar to the bitter cinchona bark. When he gave it to the local patients, their pain and fever were reduced even though it did not control the malaria. Medicinal applications of the herb caught on quickly and word spread of its effectiveness against pain, inflammation, and fever. White willow trees began to be transported throughout Europe and the Americas for medical purposes. Today, the willow goes largely unidentified because of the introduction of aspirin in readily useable form in 1899.

Current Status:

White willow bark still has a usefulness that should not be ignored. Aspirin upsets some people's stomachs, but white willow bark seems to be free of this problem. Experts point out that white willow bark will work on almost anything you take aspirin for. The dosage is just more difficult to control from bark than from the pharmaceutical company's brewed up standards. It will likely require several cups of white willow bark tea to give the effectiveness of two standard aspirin tablets. If your willow bark reduces pain and fever, the same dose will act to produce the preventive benefits of aspirin which include warding off stroke and heart attack, combating certain types of cancer (digestive tract), preventing migraine headaches, reducing the frequency of internal blood clots, and reducing toothache.

Brewing some healing:

If you grow your own, you may use fresh if you strip and chop into fine particles to get the most fresh surfaces available to the water. You may steam fresh bark to make the chemical available also (do not boil). From the local store, you will likely get powdered bark. This works well and will store well, in addition, you may dry and powder your own bark for future use. To make a tea, soak one teaspoon of powdered bark in a cup of cold water for eight hours. This allows the salicin to dissolve into the water (it is slow to get into solution). Strain out the bark and drink. You may make as much as you want in advance but refrigerate no more than 48 hours after which it will lose its effectiveness. This stuff really tastes nasty (commonly called bitter and astringent) so you may want to add whatever you can think of the make it drinkable.


If nausea or ringing in the ears develops, reduce your dose or discontinue use. If you are pregnant or have a chronic gastrointestinal condition such as ulcers, colitis or Crohn's disease use caution with this herb. Children under 18 who have colds, flu or chicken pox and take aspirin, are at risk for Reye's syndrome, a potentially fatal condition. Although White willow has not been linked to Reye's syndrome, use caution here also and do not give it to children with fevers from those conditions. For other symptoms, children over 2 may use low-strength preparations, increasing strength if necessary. People over 65 should also begin with low-strength preparations to gain the benefits listed above.


Herbal Hint:

DAMIANA: Turnera Aphrodisiaca.

A scientific name that is certainly self-descriptive. Damiana grows in the desert areas of North America and northern Africa and stimulates hormonal production that directly affects sex drive in both men and women. Damiana stimulates the sexual organs of both sexes producing aphrodisiac effects but having a more notable effect on the female libido. Make a tea from the dried leaves as you would any other tea. Drink what you make as you make it and don't try to store it, it will taste nasty within a short time after sitting. Drinking the tea right away gives a pleasant tasting, citrus-like tea with a bit of a "punch" after a cup or two. To gain sexual response, make the tea as strong as possible and drink plenty (four to five cups). Repeat daily for a week or so to get maximum results.


Environmental Note:

Dragon Fly:

This is your friendly (and beautiful) mosquito predator. Both the adult and nymph form of the dragon fly feed on other insects and are especially fond of mosquitoes. The dragon fly life cycle is dependant on water, incidentally the mosquitoes habitat. There are many types of dragon flies found throughout the world. Dragon flies range in size from 1 inch to 4 inches in length with corresponding wing size. They come in a rainbow of hues, often iridescent with blue, green, red, and brown predominating. To tell a dragon fly from a damsel fly, note how the wings set when resting. Dragon fly wings stay straight out to the sides of the body and damsel fly wings are folded above the body. Both look similar in flight and eat small insects such as gnats and mosquitoes.


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