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INGREDIENT OF THE WEEK: WHITE WILLOW BARK

AUGUST 3, 2016

White Willow Bark is the bark of a willow tree, and is most commonly derived from the bark of the white willow tree, which has the scientific name Salix alba. The name “white willow” comes from the color of the leaves, which are covered with fine white hairs. Willow bark is available in the form of actual bits of tree bark for chewing, powder, and liquid extract. Willow bark supplements could be a natural remedy for lower back pain, neck, and muscle aches and also can be an effective treatment for reducing arthritis and osteoarthritis-related pain by decreasing the swelling.

The main chemical that gives willow bark its therapeutic effects is salicin. When the body processes salicin, it turns it into salicylic acid, which is the chemical precursor to aspirin. Willow bark, also known as “nature’s aspirin,” essentially provides the same benefits as aspirin. Since the effects of aspirin and willow bark have been comparable, it is believed willow bark extract may reap similar benefits but the same precautions as aspirin should be taken until research has shown otherwise. One of the reasons people use willow bark as an alternative to aspirin is because it doesn’t produce the same side effects. Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can cause stomach irritation or damage, while willow bark taken in normal amounts does not.

Willow Bark isn’t just good for pain relief. It also contains tannins and flavonoids, which have their own health benefits. Tannins are chemicals found in many plant-based foods. They’re thought to stop the growth of certain bacteria, viruses, and fungi. They can also improve blood clotting and may boost heart health by helping to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Flavonoids are compounds made by plants that give them their red, orange, and yellow colors. They also work as antioxidants in the body, helping cells to repair and protect themselves from damage. White willow bark supplements haven’t been tested for safety and keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.