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White willow: anti-inflammatory and painkiller?

04.05.21 3 min. read

Did you know that the active ingredient in aspirin is closely related to a substance found in the bark of the white willow tree? According to ancient records, it was even recommended by the Greek physician Hippocrates in the 5th century B.C. [1] That’s reason enough to take a closer look at willow bark.

It’s rumored that the Latin name for white willow, Salix, is actually derived from the Celtic words sal and lis, which mean ‘near’ and ‘water’ respectively. As you can imagine, white willow trees tend to grow in damp areas. If you break off a small branch and plant it in moist soil, it’s possible that a new tree will likely arise—which is why the plant is often used as a symbol for eternity and the ever-renewing force of life.

The white willow is unusual, not only in its propensity to reproduce but in its appearance as well. Its lancet-shaped leaves have fine hairs, which make them shine ever so slightly silver in the light.

A medicinal plant with a long history

Archeological findings suggest that willow bark was used for healing purposes thousands of years ago. Sumerian clay tablets that date back to the 3rd century BCE mention the use of willow leaves to treat rheumatoid arthritis [1], and the ancient Egyptians are said to have attributed healing properties to the willow tree as well [2]. The so-called “Father of Medicine” of ancient Greece, Hippocrates recommended willow tree bark to treat patients with fever, pain and to lessen pain during childbirth [3].

One possible explanation for willow’s widespread use as a medicinal plant is likely to be the salicin contained in the bark of the white willow. When salicin passes through the digestive tract, it’s converted to salicylic acid and can relieve pain and reduce fever among other effects [4].

White willow is therefore sometimes referred to colloquially as ‘natural aspirin’.

The effects of willow bark extract

Back in 1897, Bayer was not yet a pharmaceutical company but rather a paint factory with a newly established pharmaceutical and chemical department. Felix Hofmann was a chemist at Bayer, whose own father suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, and produced the first successful synthesis of acetylsalicylic acid from salicin. It’s him we have to thank for aspirin, which from then on would triumph around the world. 

At the same time, however, many still swear by the effects of the natural white willow bark extract — going back to the medication’s roots (or to its bark, to be precise). 

Yet salicin alone cannot explain how white willow works; the real process is much more complex. Among the other substances in willow bark include flavonoids, which engage in an interplay with the other key ingredients. The effects of white willow bark extract have come under closer examination in some research. Studies suggest that it can be effective for treating lower back pain [5], headaches and mild joint pain [6]. In addition, it is said to have anti-inflammatory properties [7].

A blend of valuable ingredients

The active ingredient in white willow bark not only leans on a long history, but also takes on new relevance today as we return to a more natural way of living.

At This Place, we believe that natural ingredients like white willow bark extract deserve a place in everyday life. That’s why we’ve created The Blissful Day a soothing muscle cream whose formula was developed from natural ingredients. It’s made from precious white willow, organic CBD and other high-quality ingredients to pamper your body and enhance your daily routine with an extra dose of well-being. 

Reward yourself by applying The Blissful Day to tense areas of your body during or after a long day. Take in the delicate scent and feel the pleasant texture of the cream on your skin, and let the application become a ritual experience for your senses.

Sources:

[1] ‘Aspirin’, American Chemical Society http://pubsapp.acs.org/cen/coverstory/83/8325/8325aspirin.html? 

[2] From willow bark to acetylsalicylic acid https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20509453/

[3] ‘Aspirin: Turn-of-the-Century Miracle Drug’, Science History Institute
https://www.sciencehistory.org/distillations / aspirin-turn-of-the-century-miracle-drug #: ~: text = One% 20of% 20the% 20most% 20noteworthy, to% 20lessen% 20pain% 20during% 20childbirth

[4] ‘Willow bark extract: Multi-substance mixture against inflammation and pain’, Pharmazeutische Zeitung https://www.pharmazeutische-zeitung.de/ausgabe-082007/weidenrindenextrakt-vielstoffverbindungen-gegen-entzuendung-und-ache/

[5] Treatment of low back pain exacerbations with willow bark extract: a randomized double-blind study https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10936472/

[6] Salicis cortex, European Medicines Agency https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/medicines/herbal/salicis-cortex

[7] Anti-inflammatory effects of willow bark extract https://www.researchgate.net/publication/10676002_Anti-inflammatory_effects_of_willow_bark_extract

 

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