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White Willow Bark

AKA: LA: Salix alba Family: Salicaceae, The Witches Wand, Salix Alba, the aspirin plant.

Propagation/Description: Willows are native to Europe and are found in areas that are damp such as riverbanks and swamps. It can be propagated by softwood cuttings in early summer or hardwood cuttings during the winter. Small mammals like to feed on the leaves and catkins while songbirds use the twigs for nesting. Insects pollinate the flowers. It needs full sun to partial shade and medium to wet, well drained soil. It has shallow, pervasive roots make it especially unwise to plant it near structures, pipes, cesspools, or sidewalks. White willow may be used in the landscape but is not recommended as a street tree.

Folklore/History: During the 16th and 17th centuries it was associated with grief and people who wore a crown or garland made of willow branches were said to have been scorned or rejected by a lover. It is believed that the Greek poet, Orpheus, was given a harp by Apollo carved from Willow. “The bark is fibrous and pliable – ideal for making rope. On the Outer Hebrides people made anchor ropes from willow bark. Highlanders also used bark strips to tie down thatch on roofs and it has even been used to make cloth!”. It was the first plant from which salicylic acid was isolated in 1828. Patented in 1900, aspirin was born. It continues to be one of the most popular over-the-counter drugs. It is said you can “plant” a branch from a willow and a tree will grow there. This says a lot about how strong and how it can survive challenging conditions.

Medicinal: White Willow has historically been an analgesic and treats pain including headaches, cramps, arthritis, Fevers and even tooth/mouth pain. Science has been able to determine that it modulates inflammation and relieves pain as well as commonly being used for backaches, muscular soreness, headaches, and arthritis. It has also been used as a bitter tonic to stimulate digestion, as well as a vermifuge to rid the body of parasitic worms and is safer to use than aspirin. It is an astringent and anti-inflammatory therefore has many, many benefits for scraps and other minor open wounds.

Spiritual: It is associated with the moon and water and is symbolic of fertility, immortality, protective, Spiritual healing, new life and a long list of other uses and symbols. The most powerful wands are believed to be made of willow branches.

Summary: I found a ton of information online and in my herbal books regarding White Willow. It has been researched, studied and has been found to be a reliable source of many medicinal and spiritual properties. It is a high maintenance tree, but the benefits are so very worth every moment taken to give this tree the TLC it demands. This small glimpse into this beautiful tree should give rise to your curiosity and fascination. Not only is it one of the most graceful and beautiful trees, it has been used for thousands of years in multiple ways and continues to be a strong contender for one of the most valuable plants that our mother earth has given us!


Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine by Andrew Chevallier, FNIMH, Page 141

The Lost Book of Herbal Remedies; The healing Power of Plant Medicine by Dr. Nicole Apelian, PH.D & Claude Davis

Medicinal Herbs; A Beginners Guide by Rosemary Gladstar

The Lost Book of Herbal Remedies; The Healing Power of Plant Medicine by Dr. Nicole Apelian, Ph.D & Claude Davis

Home Doctor; Practical Medicine for Every Household by Dr. Maybell Nieves, Dr. Rodrigo Alterio, Claude Davis

Medical Guide for Wilderness Survival by Amber Robinson

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