There are about 400 species of willows mainly present in the temperate and cold regions of the northern hemisphere.
White willow is present throughout continental Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, North Africa, the United Kingdom.
It has been introduced in North America and is considered in some parts of America as an invasive plant.
The white willow likes wet soils where it can reach a large size (up to 30m), but it is most often a medium-sized tree, sometimes headless and with a low longevity (a few decades).
The trunk has a cracked bark
The alternate, lanceolate leaves are finely toothed.
They are green but with a whitish appearance, especially on their underside, due to the presence of fine whitish bristles.
White willows have separate sexes (dioecious), male and female inflorescences are kittens that attract bees (melliferous plant) and sometimes appear early before the leaves.
The fruit is a capsule containing many seeds that ensure the dispersal of the species.
The bark of young branches and leaves are the medicinal parts.
Wite willow flower ( kitten)
CHEMICAL COMPOSITION AND PROPERTIES
WHITE WILLOW BARK
The majority of the pharmacological effects of willow bark are probably due to the presence of salicoside = salicin (heteroside of salicylic alcohol) which is transformed in the body (intestine then liver) into salicylic acid: anti-inflammatory, analgesic (anti pain), antipyretic (lowers fever).
Other similar compounds must also have complementary properties (salicortin, populine).
Remember that ASPIRIN (acetylsalicylic acid) is a synthetic chemical derivative of salicylic acid (natural) marketed at the end of the 19 th century with great success by the German BAYER.
- PHENOLIC COMPOUNDS
Some pharmacologists believe that the anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antipyretic properties of willow bark cannot only be explained by the presence of salicylates.
They think that phenolic acids and other flavonoids potentiate their action.
They may also be responsible for the diuretic properties of white willow bark.
Tannins are abundant (10 to 15%): anti-inflammatories, scavengers of free radicals
WHITE WILLOW LEAVES
White willow leaves also contain salicylates, but in small quantity, as well as flavonoids and anti-inflammatory tannins.
WHITE WILLOW INFLORESCENCE (KITTEN)In traditional European medicine an infusion of willow kitten is calming, slightly sedative, but there is no pharmacological study on that property (to my knowledge).
WHITE WILLOW BARK
Willow bark is harvested on 2 to 3 years old twigs.
It is dried and then pulverized and sieved.
It is used in short decoction, in the form of powder, alcoholic tincture (titrated 1/10), or extracts titrated in salicoside.
Example ethanolic tincture:
- proportions for an homeopathic tincture: 250 g of fresh bark in 1 liter of 70 ° ethanol (alcohol.
- for a "domestic" ethanolic tincture 100 g of dry bark powdered in 1 liter of 50-60 ° alcohol.
Macerate at least 1 month in a shady and cool place, filtrate.
Examples of dosage:
- Decoction: 2 to 3 g of dry powder in 1/2 liter of water, boiling for 5 minutes, 2 to 3 cups a day.
- Alcoholic (ethanol) and homeopathic tincture : 30 to 50 drops 3 times a day in a glass of water, double the dose if necessary and if it is well supported.
Capsules of white willow (powder or extracts) can be found in pharmacy or on Internet, comply with the manufacturer's instructions because there is no standardization for this medicinal plant.
For some herbal therapists, willow bark is a possible alternative in long-term treatment (rheumatism and chronic joint pain) to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as diclofenac (voltarene) or ketoprofen (profenid) because the digestive side effects are less .
WHITE WILLOW LEAVES
Infusion: proportion, a small handful of leaves in 1 liter of very hot water, infuse a few minutes, 2 to 3 cups a day.
- Articular, rheumatic, osteoarthritic, traumatic (lumbago) pain (willow extracts are easier to bear in prolonged treatment than the NSAID anti-inflammatory drugs).
- Some herbal therapists recommend willow extracts to increase diuresis in case of kidney disorders related to small stones.
Salicylic acid acts on the enzymes of the inflammatory reaction, but it does not seem to affect significantly blood coagulation (unlike aspirin).
However, it is best to avoid using white willow extract when taking prolonged anti-coagulant therapy (possibly increasing the risk of bleeding).
White willow and its extracts are generally well tolerated at the digestive level (better than aspirin or more potent anti-inflammatory drugs), however a peptic ulcer is a formal contra-indication.
WHITE WILLOW CULTIVATIONPropagation of this tree can be done:
Willows are melliferous and very useful for bees and other hymenoptera because they bloom early in spring.
Willow provides wicker (osier) (especially the "red" willow variety), its wood is susceptible to rotting (in case of moisture) but easy to work or carve.
WHITE WILLOW AS A NATURAL ASPIRIN
White willow and related species have a bark that contains salicylates with somewhat similar properties to synthetic aspirin. It is the traditional medicinal plant against viral fevers, muscle aches, arthritic or traumatic pain, and as a diuretic in case of uncomplicated small urinary stones.
Contraindications: anticoagulant treatment and peptic ulcer.
Copyright 2019 : Dr Jean-Michel Hurtel