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Overview InformationWillow bark is the bark from several varieties of the willow tree, including white willow or European willow, black willow or pussy willow, crack willow, purple willow, and others. The bark is used to make medicine.
Willow bark acts a lot like aspirin, so it is used for pain, including headache, muscle pain, menstrual cramps, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), osteoarthritis, gout, and a disease of the spine called ankylosing spondylitis.
Willow bark’s pain relieving potential has been recognized throughout history. Willow bark was commonly used during the time of Hippocrates, when people were advised to chew on the bark to relieve pain and fever.
Willow bark is also used for fever, the common cold, flu, and weight loss.
Salicin, the active ingredient in willow bark, seems to have contributed to the death of the composer, Ludwig von Beethoven. Apparently, Beethoven ingested large amounts of salicin before he died. His autopsy report is the first recorded case of a particular type of kidney damage that can be caused by salicin.
How does it work?Willow bark contains a chemical called salicin that is similar to aspirin.
Uses & Effectiveness
Possibly Effective for
- Treating lower back pain. Willow bark seems to reduce lower back pain. Higher doses seem to be more effective than lower doses. It can take up to a week for significant improvement in symptoms.
Insufficient Evidence for
- Weight loss. Early research suggests that taking willow bark in combination with ephedra and cola nut might cause slight weight loss in overweight and obese people. However, it is not wise to use this combination because of safety concerns about ephedra. Ephedra has been banned in the United States due to severe harmful side effects.
- Osteoarthritis. Research on willow bark extract for osteoarthritis has produced conflicting results. Some research suggests it can reduce osteoarthritis pain, while other research shows no effect.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Early research suggests that willow bark extract is not effective for rheumatoid arthritis.
- Treating fever.
- Joint pain.
- Other conditions.
Side Effects & SafetyWillow bark is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth for a short time (up to 12 weeks).
It may cause stomach upset and digestive system upset. It can also cause itching, rash, and allergic reactions, particularly in people allergic to aspirin.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the safety of using willow bark during pregnancy. It’s best to avoid using it.
Using willow bark while breast-feeding is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. Willow bark contains chemicals that can enter breast milk and have harmful effects on the nursing infant. Don’t use it if you are breast-feeding.
Children: Willow bark is POSSIBLY UNSAFE n children when taken by mouth for viral infections such as colds and flu. There is some concern that, like aspirin, it might increase the risk of developing Reye’s syndrome. Stay on the safe side and don’t use willow bark in children.
Bleeding disorders: Willow bark might increase the risk of bleeding in people with bleeding disorders.
Kidney disease: Willow bark might reduce blood flow through the kidneys, which might lead to kidney failure in certain people. If you have kidney disease, don’t use willow bark.
Sensitivity to aspirin: People with ASTHMA, STOMACH ULCERS, DIABETES, GOUT, HEMOPHILIA, HYPOPROTHROMBINEMIA, or KIDNEY or LIVER DISEASE might be sensitive to aspirin and also willow bark. Using willow bark might cause serious allergic reactions. Avoid use.
Surgery: Willow bark might slow blood clotting. There is a concern it could cause extra bleeding during and after surgery. Stop using willow bark at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Do not take this combination
Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs) interacts with WILLOW BARK
Willow bark might slow blood clotting. Taking willow bark along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.<br/><br/> Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.
Be cautious with this combination
Aspirin interacts with WILLOW BARK
Willow bark contains chemicals similar to aspirin. Taking willow bark along with aspirin might increase the effects and side effects of aspirin.
Choline Magnesium Trisalicylate (Trilisate) interacts with WILLOW BARK
Willow bark contains chemicals that are similar to choline magnesium trisalicylate (Trilisate). Taking willow bark along with choline magnesium trisalicylate (Trilisate) might increase the effects and side effects of choline magnesium trisalicylate (Trilisate).
Salsalate (Disalcid) interacts with WILLOW BARK
Salsalate (Disalcid) is called a salicylate. It's similar to aspirin. Willow bark also contains a salicylate similar to aspirin. Taking salsalate (Disalcid) along with willow bark might increase the effects and side effects of salsalate (Disalcid).
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For back pain: Willow bark extract providing 120-240 mg salicin has been used. The higher 240 mg dose might be more effective.
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- Biegert C, Wagner I, Ludtke R, et al. Efficacy and safety of willow bark extract in the treatment of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis: results of 2 randomized double-blind controlled trials. J Rheumatol 2004;31:2121-30. View abstract.
- Boullata JI, McDonnell PJ, Oliva CD. Anaphylactic reaction to a dietary supplement containing willow bark. Ann Pharmacother 2003;37:832-5.. View abstract.
- Chrubasik S, Eisenberg E, Balan E, et al. Treatment of low back pain exacerbations with willow bark extract: a randomized double-blind study. Am J Med 2000;109:9-14. View abstract.
- Chrubasik S, Künzel O, Model A, and et al. Assalix® vs. Vioxx® for low back pain - a randomised open controlled study. 8th Annual Symposium on Complementary Health Care, 6th - 8th December 2001 2001.
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