White willow bark is one of the oldest home analgesics, dating back to 500 b.c. in China. Modern research confirms old-time wisdom, showing it helps back, osteoarthritic and nerve pains. Willow bark contains apigenin, salicin and salicylic acid, which provide anti-inflammatory, analgesic and anti-neuralgic actions. At the end of a four-week study of 210 individuals suffering from back pain, reported in the American Journal of Medicine in 2000, 39 percent of those who had received 240 mg of salicin daily were essentially pain-free, compared to 6 percent of those given a placebo.
White willow bark is an anti-inflammatory agent and a pain reliever, perfect for PMS. The problem with aspirin is that it is about as tough on your stomach as it is on pain. Aspirin damages the sensitive lining of your stomach, especially when your stomach is empty. On the other hand, natural remedies like wild willow are much gentler on your body. Specifically, the salicin in wild willow bark is metabolized to salicylic acid after it hits your stomach. So, you avoid the pain of the acid interacting directly with your stomach lining.
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, white willow bark also works well with other herbs. Wild yam, black cohosh and damiana have all been proven to complement wild willow bark’s natural wonders, as each of these herbs act as a soothing anti-inflammatory as well.
Individuals with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip also are helped. Willow bark can be purchased as standardized extracts and teas. If you have access to white willow and wish to make your own, collect bark from a twig (never the main trunk). Use about 2 teaspoons of bark to a cup of water, boil, simmer for 10 minutes and cool slightly. Because salicin concentration is low and widely variable in willow bark, you may need several cups to obtain the equivalent of two standard aspirin tablets. A word of caution: Willow should not be given to children, due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome, nor used by individuals with aspirin allergies, bleeding disorders, or liver or kidney disease. Willow may interact adversely with blood-thinning medications and other anti-inflammatory drugs. Also, willow tends not to irritate the stomach in the short term, but long-term use can be problematic.