8 Impressive Benefits of Willow Bark

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

The most useful health benefits of willow bark may include its possible ability to reduce fevers, eliminate pain, lower inflammation, treat migraines, soothe the stomach, heal the skin, help with weight loss, and protect oral health.

What is Willow Bark?

Willow bark is most commonly derived from the bark of the white willow tree, which has the scientific name Salix alba. This tree is native to Europe and Central Asia and has been in use as a medicinal element for nearly 5,000 years. The benefits of this bark are numerous and well studied, which is why it remains such a popular and trusted alternative medicine for a variety of afflictions. White willow trees have an inner and outer bark, which have different concentrations of compounds, making them better for certain ailments. For this reason, always trust a trained herbalist or alternative medicine practitioner for willow bark supplements or powder. [1]

You can consume it in the form of a tea by steeping chopped bark, but not the powdered form. You can also take capsules of willow bark, as well as topical tinctures and decoctions. The possibly high concentration of unique chemicals, such as various tannins and salicin, may have a strong impact on the body and result in significant health benefits if prepared and administered properly.

Close-up of dried willow bark on a jute cloth

Willow bark has been used to treat pain, fever, and inflammation in ancient Greece. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Health Benefits of Willow Bark

Let’s take a closer look at the many impressive health benefits of this bark.

May Relieve Pain

Due to its rich blend of antioxidants and organic compounds, willow bark functions as a very successful analgesic. For thousands of years, it has been traditionally used to relieve pain from injuries and illness, with great success. More than 2,500 years ago, the earliest recorded use of an herb was of willow bark, in Chinese traditional medicine. Although it was mentioned in older texts dating back to the Egyptians, this was the first documented use of willow bark for pain relief! [2]

Possibly Anti-inflammatory Properties

Inflammation may take on many different forms within our bodies. If you are looking to eliminate the inflammation in your respiratory tracts, gastrointestinal system, or joints, then willow bark can quickly soothe your symptoms. If you prepare a decoction or a tea of this bark, you will feel the inflammation and topical pain from arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gout, and other conditions disappear. [3]

May Reduce Fever

One of the most important potentially anti-inflammatory properties of willow bark is in the reduction of fevers. Fevers are a symptom of an infection in the body, but reducing a fever or breaking it is important to speed up the healing process and get the organs working normally again. It has been used to treat fevers for thousands of years. [4]

May Ease Menstruation

For many women who suffer from abnormally heavy periods or severe menstrual symptoms, taking a small glass of willow bark can do wonders for everything from period pains and cramping to mood swings and unnecessary stress hormones in the body. Its relaxing characteristics are particularly good in these circumstances, as they can help re-balance hormones in a woman’s body. [5]

May Soothe Stomach Disorders

The high content of tannins can help soothe the stomach and prevent gastrointestinal distress during other illnesses or periods of a weakened immune system. Willow bark can be slow-acting, its effects can be long-lasting, making it an effective herbal remedy to occasionally add to your health regimen, but it should not be consumed daily unless advised by a doctor or trained herbalist. [6]

May Aid in Weight Loss

Many people turn to willow bark to enhance their weight loss efforts, namely because the herb combines so well with other fat-burning and metabolism-boosting substances. It can intensify the effects of these herbs healthily, thereby increasing their efficacy and improving your results even further. [7]

May Aid in Skin Care

The appearance of the skin is very important for many people, and the high content of antioxidant compounds found in willow bark can have a major impact on the health of the skin. Whether applied topically or consumed, willow bark can increase blood flow to the skin due to its antioxidants, while also reducing the appearance of wrinkles and age marks. Furthermore, it can eliminate inflammation in the skin and ease the pain of insect bites and irritation.

May Help Eliminate Migraines

If you suffer from chronic headaches and migraines, you might be able to benefit significantly from the potentially pain-relieving qualities of willow bark. It can help eliminate migraines by possibly lowering the blood pressure in the small capillaries and blood vessels in the head, easing pressure, and relieving those painful, debilitating symptoms. It can also be used as a preventive method for regular headaches. [8]

Word of Caution: The side effects of willow bark may include upset stomachs, itchiness, and rashes, particularly with people who are allergic to other analgesics, such as aspirin. If you have blood or kidney disorders, be particularly careful before using willow bark, as it can exacerbate these conditions if not administered properly. There is no need to take willow bark regularly, as high doses can greatly increase your chances of experiencing side effects. Furthermore, you should only add willow bark to your health regimen after speaking with your physician.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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