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Better Than Aspirin – White Willow Bark

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March 20, 2012

 

White willow bark is a tree native to Europe and Asia. The name “white willow” comes from the color of the leaves, which are covered with fine white hairs. This herb is also called Salix alba, white willow, willow bark. The ancient Egyptians used white willow for inflammation. The Greek physician Hippocrates wrote about white willow’s medicinal uses in 5th century B.C. In 500 BC Chinese healers began using it to control pain. Native Americans also discovered the value of the Willow tree for relieving pain from headaches and rheumatism and reducing fevers. In 1829, scientists in Europe identified what was believed to be the active ingredient in white willow bark—a compound called salicin. Public demand grew rapidly. Extracting salicin from herbs was an expensive and time-consuming task, and a synthetic version was sought. Many chemist worked on the problem individually.  In Germany in 1852, it was discovered that salicin is converted in the body to salicylic acid. The problem was that salicin was harder on the GI tract. At therapeutic doses, people using the synthetic salicyclic acid developed ulcers and bleeding. Finally in 1897, the Chemist, Feliex Hoffmann, at Bayer in Germany, chemically synthesizes a stable form of ASA powder that relieves his father’s rheumatism. The compound later becomes the active ingredient in aspirin named – “a” from acetyl, “spir” from the spirea plant (which yields salicin) and “in,” a common suffix for medications. This synthetic was less harsh. They called this derivative of salicylic acid, acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), and mass-produced it under the  brand name Aspirin. Despite this, aspirin is still known for irritating the stomach lining. White Willow Bark contains salicin, which the body converts to salicylic acid and has the same effect on the body as aspirin without any of the side effects. The benefits of White Willow Bark today are that it is an anti-inflammatory, a fever reducer, an analgesic, an anti-rheumatic, and an astringent. Specifically, it helps to relieve headaches; helps to ease pain associated with inflammatory conditions like rheumatism, arthritis, and carpal tunnel syndrome; and helps to control fevers. Also studies have shown that if you feel better, you are more likely to want to stick to your weight loss plan and because of that, White Willow Bark can aid in diet goals. There are not the same side effects as Aspirin. However, due to the tannins in White Willow, some may develop stomach upset. Also, due to the chemical similarity to aspirin, avoid White Willow Bark if you have had any allergic reaction to aspirin such as asthma. Unlike aspirin, it does not “thin “ the blood.  Take one to two capsules daily with water at mealtimes. Do not exceed recommended dosage as needed to relieve pain. They work better and are far safer than the NSAIDS like Ibuproven and Naproxen.

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