White willow extract, a common homeopathic remedy, is used to treat such conditions as rheumatic pain, arthritis, fevers, and menopause. The bark of the white willow tree is a source of salicylic acid, the precursor to aspirin. Salicylic acid has many of the same effects as aspirin, such as its analgesic and anti-inflammatory actions. Like aspirin, it can inhibit the production of prostaglandin, relieve pain, and reduce fever, but unlike aspirin, it does not thin the blood or irritate the lining of the stomach.
White willow extract comes from the white willow tree. It is also known by its Latin name, Salix alba. It grows to 80 feet (24.4 m) tall, has a plethora of tapered green leaves and dark gray bark with deep fissures. It is native across most of Europe, but can be found growing in Asia and North Africa as well. It grows best in wet areas, such as alongside riverbeds.
In the past, white willow extract was primarily used as an astringent. It was also often used to treat internal bleeding. Oftentimes, the bark of the tree was burned into ash, mixed with vinegar, and then made into a tincture to remove warts or corns from the skin.
Many homeopathic practitioners recommend white willow extract to treat the pain associated with arthritis and rheumatism. They claim it is particularly helpful for pain that affects the back, knees, and hips. When it is used in combination with other herbs, it is believed to reduce swelling and inflammation in the joints as well. People who use traditional medical practices often use aspirin to treat these same conditions because it is faster acting and stronger, but white willow extract does not have many of the side effects that aspirin has.
In addition to being used as a joint remedy, white willow extract is often used to reduce fevers and relieve headaches. It can also manage some of the side effects associated with menopause. For example, many people believe that it works to reduce perspiration, night sweats, and hot flashes in menopausal women.
Although white willow extract is usually in liquid form, there are several other ways it can be prepared. For example, it can be found in pill form. The pills often contain other herbs and are recommended for the treatment of the symptoms of arthritis. It can also be made into a tincture and used either alone or in combination with other herbal remedies, such as St. John’s wort and crampbark.
As with any homeopathic remedy, it is important to consult an expert in the field or a medical doctor before taking any extracts or supplements. Since white willow extract contains many of the same properties as aspirin, people who are allergic to aspirin should avoid using it. In addition, many practitioners warn people who have asthma, gout, diabetes, ulcers, and hemophilia against using it. Side effects are usually mild, but if used in combination with aspirin, rashes, nausea, and kidney problems may occur. Also, it is not recommended for women who are pregnant or who are breastfeeding.