Source: The Amazing Healing Powers of Nature, Reader’s Digest
Tree bark (yes, tree bark) can be used as a natural remedy for pain
Willow bark is used as an alternative to Aspirin and other commercial painkillers and is considered one of the most effective natural remedy to treat pain. It can be purchased in strips, as a tincture or in a powdered form, all of which are added to water before consumed.
Modern scientific research confirms that it is effective against headache, lower back pain and osteoarthritis. A tea made from steeped willow bark can be an effective painkiller.
How willow works as a natural pain remedy
Inflammation involves a cascade of chemical reactions, and one of the most noticeable results is a localized increase in blood pressure, with the pain, swelling and redness that accompanies it. Another effect of inflammation is the raising of the body’s temperature: fever. By inhibiting acute inflammation, salicylic acid reduces pain and swelling and reduces body temperature.
Willow bark’s ability to reduce inflammation is due to its salicin content. Once inside the body, salicin is metabolized into salicylic acid, as is aspirin.
However, the amount of salicylic acid present in the body after taking a dose of willow bark, in a tea, for example, is less than one-tenth the amount present after taking a typical Aspirin tablet. Therefore salicin alone cannot account for willow bark’s anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. In fact, willow bark extract is a complex mixture of potentially beneficial, biologically active compounds, including antioxidant flavonoids and antibacterial tannins.
Which should you choose: willow or Asprin?
Willow bark has some benefits over its close cousin, synthetically produced Aspirin. It does not damage the stomach lining, as Aspirin is known to do in some cases. And, while Aspirin can reduce the tendency for the blood to clot, willow bark does not’and for some people that’s a major benefit.
Who is willow bark safe for?
If you are allergic to Aspirin, you should avoid willow extract; a few people experience other side effects, including black stools, nausea and fatigue. You should also avoid taking willow extract if you are taking blood-thinning medicines, such as warfarin. The tannin content of willow bark extract is particularly high, and this can leave some people feeling a little nauseous.
Modern research into willow bark as a natural remedy for pain
In a 2000 study at the Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel, sufferers of back pain who received a 240 milligram daily dose of willow bark extract experienced significantly greater pain relief than those who received a placebo. In 2012, an international team of researchers based in Germany and the UK investigated the mechanism behind willow bark’s effect on osteoarthritis, for which it is a popular herbal remedy. Tracking biochemical reactions in detail, the researchers discovered that an extract of the bark encouraged the formation of collagen, which is lost during the normal progression of the disease, and reduced painful inflammation.