Herbal Series with Tess: Willow Bark (White)

by Tess Wood | Instagram

Welcome to the first of our herbal blog series, brought to you by the lovely Tess Wood. This week –

Willow Bark

Salix alba

Basket Willow, Bay Willow, White Willow,

Weeping Willow, Pussy Willow, Brittle Willow

Properties

I really praise White Willow bark for medicinal purposes, as it’s a natural pain killer, fever reducer and anti-inflammatory. This amazing bark taken from the Willow tree contains Salicin. Salicin oxidizes in our bodies creating salicylic acid, which reduces pain. In the latter part of the 1800s, willow bark was used to produce a synthetic we now know as aspirin. This particular bark helps aid in the treatment of muscle aches, back pain, tension headaches, rheumatic ailments, stomach and intestinal catarrh, and fever conditions like infections and flus. Willow is so popular throughout history, we even know the ancient Greeks chewed on its bark for pain relief and the ancient Egyptians wrote about it in texts. The best practice for taking this wonderful bark medicinally is a tea or infusion. See below for a decoction recipe.

Photo: Tess Wood

Magical Uses

Willow bark is connected to the moon, and its magical uses include enhancement to one’s intuition and dreaming. It can also be used to represent an idea of transformation or rebirth. This tree has a strong feminine aspect and because of this, it is used in aiding fertility. Willow is also famous for its power when used in love divination and healing. Broomsticks are usually made out of willow or wrapped in the branches, as it is said to trap in its bark the secrets you tell it. So the next time you see a willow maybe sit down and have a chat.

Folklore

Willow bark has its roots in most ancient folklore around Asia, North America and Europe. Ancient Chinese traditions believed willow branches would ward off “evil” spirits; people would often place its branches by the entrance to their homes to keep the spirits at bay. Most modern phrases we use today can be traced back to the willow tree, including the phrase “knock on wood,” which was used to refer to a person knocking on the wood of a willow tree for good luck. The other phrase you may know is  “wind in the willows.” This is said to be the old tale of elves whispering in the willow trees as people passed by underneath. In Irish lore, it is one of the seven sacred trees.

Photo: Tess Wood

Willow Bark Decoction Recipe

Step 1: Add 1 tablespoon of dried or fresh bark for every 1 cup of water used. Add the bark and water to a pot (do not use cast iron or aluminum as this will compromise the infusion).

Step 2: Boil this mixture on the stove for 10 minutes.

Step 3: Take off the heat and let the mixture steep for about 30 minutes allowing the water to absorb into the bark and release the beneficial constituents.

Step 4: Once it is done steeping and has cooled down slightly, it’s ready to drink (keep in mind, this infusion is incredibly bitter).

Precautions:

-DO NOT USE if you have an allergy to aspirin or salicin of any kind as this can cause serious harm.

-Stop using if you start to develop headaches, stomach pain, itchiness or redness of any kind.

-Do not use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

-Always consult your doctor before starting to use herbal remedies of any kind as it can interact with other medications.

About the Author: Tess is a Canadian herbalist living in the UK, and has been for the past four years. She started working with herbs as a way to change her and her families’ lifestyle and help with her overall health. She is currently working on extending her qualifications and becoming a herbalist full-time in the future. You can find out more about her and working with holistic medicine on her Instagram page @theobscurawitch, where she posts frequently about her herbalism journey

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