Willow bark – natural aspirin

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Willow bark – natural aspirin

Acetylsalicylic acid in the form of white tablets known for over a century, but the origin of the substance which is the main component of world-renowned medicine is known for a long time. In ancient Egypt used a decoction of the bark of willow in a variety of pain (describe the Egyptian scrolls from about 1550 BC), and in later centuries, Galen and Hippocrates also recommending willow bark for pain and joint problems, in the Middle Ages used the bark, leaves, fruit and juice. Today, only the bark is used.


Raw material:

The whole, shredded or crumbled bark of young branches following related species of willow (Salix sp):

  • Purple willow – Salix purpurea L.
  • European Violet-Willow – Salix dafnoides Hill.
  • Brittle Willow – Salix fragilis L.
  • White Willow – Salix alba L.
white willow

White willow


The raw material is collected in the spring, before the leaves. Plants found in the temperate climate zone of the northern hemisphere, in Poland is a popular shrub, also breeding.

Composition – biologically active compounds included in the raw material:




  • phenolic glycosides – salicin, salicortin, triandin
  • Flavonoids
  • Tannins
  • Mineral salts



A little bit of history – where it came from aspirin?

Willow bark its analgesic properties, is due to salicylates contained therein. In 1928, a German professor of pharmacy Johann Andreas Buchner began production of the drug in the form of a yellow mass of willow bark, its product called salicylate. A year later, a French pharmacist Pierre Leroux received a crystalline form of salicylate. In 1838 the Italian chemist, Raffaele Piria developed a method for the production of salicylic acid. Aspirin is known at present received a French chemist Charles Gerhardt until 15 years later. He failed, however, to obtain a pure chemical form of the compound, which meant that he received the substance was unstable. In 1897, acetylsalicylic acid, obtained by chemical synthesis and started its production on a larger scale (artificial synthetic equivalent was in production cheaper).

Interesting facts:

  • Even in the late nineteenth century, the decision to use aspirin is left to the patient, because of the taste and irritating effect on the mucous membranes and causing nausea.
  • Aspirin was the first drug obtained synthetically and the beginning of its production is considered to be the beginning of the pharmaceutical industry.


Action willow bark:

wierzba purpurowa

Purple willow

Willow bark action results from interaction of salicylates, tannins and flavonoids. Included in the salicylates in the gastrointestinal tract are converted into alcohol and salicylic acid and salicylic acid. The compound exhibits an analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antipyretic activity. Tannins have an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, and seal the capillary walls. Flavonoids increase the amount of urine and act as anti oxidant (neutralize free radicals). Willow bark inhibits prostaglandin synthesis – that is, compounds that cause inflammation and supportive.

Willow bark is more genial than synthetic equivalent, does not have as many side effects (especially in the stomach and intestines), and does not affect the blood clotting, but they should not be used in pregnant women and children.



When used willow bark?

Willow bark is antipyretic agent, palliative pain, strengthening and cleansing the blood. The decoction is recommended in rheumatic fever and pains in joints and chronic rheumatism. In the literature herb is also recommended to persons 50 years of age as an anti-myocardial infarction (instead of using small doses of aspirin) during cold and flu. Is described as antiparasitic activity and antidiarrheal. More than that recommended when other symptoms:

willow flower

  • Insomnia
  • Migraines
  • Neuralgia
  • As wraps chronic wounds
  • As a poultice of excessive sweating