The willow is a very adaptable tree, ranging in size from a small shrub to 50 feet in height, depending on the species. The most common species is an import, the weeping willow.
The willow tree has been used since prehistory as a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory herb. It can be applied both topically and ingested. The main ingredient in willow is salicin, which is also the main ingredient in aspirin.
Willow is often mixed with other herbs, depending on what type of pain is the problem. For arthritis, sprains and injuries, it may be mixed with gotu kola and comfrey. For a headache...particularly a migraine...it might be mixed with feverfew and lavender.
The bitter principle in willow can upset the stomach, so it's best if it is taken with food. An herb to coat the stomach might also be a good idea, particularly if stomach problems are already present. Licorice or marshmallow root are both good for this purpose, however those with high blood pressure should only use marshmallow. An important note: the marshmallows we roast over a camp fire do not contain any marshmallow root, they are made from corn syrup, and will probably not help.
Aside from its use as an important herbal remedy, willows are used to make pulp paper and the charcoal artists use. It has also been mentioned in Jewish ceremony of Sukkot, and in literature ranging from Shakespeare to The Lord of the Rings.
In the herbal remedy community, willow leaves and bark have been used by the Assyrians, ancient Greeks and Native Americans for centuries, used mainly for its pain killing qualities.
Herbs for Human Health contains more information about the uses for willow, with recipes and detailed preparation methods. It also contains many other alternative herbal remedies..
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