Botanical Aspirin: Background
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 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. It is described above. Salicin like aspirin, inhibits prostaglandin production, and is anti-inflammatory. However unlike aspirin, it does not irritate the stomach lining because of the tannens and mucilage that is 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.