White Willow or Salix Alba is named for the white underetone of its leaves.
White willow is famous as the original source of salicylic acid (the forerunner of aspirin).
More than two thousand years ago, the Greeks used Salix alba and bark from other species of willow to treat gout, relieve joint pain and manage fever.
Equally long ago, Native Americans were boiling willow to relieve headaches and bathing in it to fight fevers.
The effect of white willow is due to the activity of the glycoside, salicin.
Salicin is readily hydrolyzed to saligenin, an aglycone component.
Salicyclic acid is a phenolic glycoside and is useful as a disinfectant, antirheumatic and antipyretic.
Salicin like aspirin, inhibits prostaglandin production and is a strong anti-inflammatory agent.
However unlike aspirin, white willow does not irritate the stomach lining because of the tannin and mucilage associated with it.
White willow is an excellent remedy for arthritic pain affecting the back and joints.
It relieves inflammation and swelling and improves joint mobility. Although aspirin-based medicines are stronger acting, they have unwanted side effects.
Aspirin, Tylenol and Motrin are NSAIDs and described above. Aspirin, derived from salicylic acid is useful in mild or low intensity episodes of pain. Aspirin inhibits cyclooxygenase affecting arachidonic acid metabolism and the synthesis of prostaglandins.