An herb entry from the Ancient Herbs and Modern Herbs book by James K. Sayre, Copyright, 2001. All rights reserved.


Willow, White - Salix alba - family: Siliacaceae (Willow Family).

This is a deciduous tree that grows to about eighty feet high. It has lance-shaped slender pale green leaves. In the spring it produces pale yellow flower clusters (staminate catkins) on the male trees and pale bluish flower clusters (pistillate catkins) on the female trees. The female flowers are followed by capsular fruits. The buds and bark contains salicin, a form of salicylate, which is closely related to modern aspirin (Acetylsalicylic acid). Salicin is a bitter white crystalline glucoside with the chemical formula C13H18O7. The buds and bark have the highest concentration of the salicin. Known to the ancient Greeks for its medicinal uses against fever and pain. Traditional European folk use of bark as a remedy for arthritis, fevers and sore throats. Traditional American folk use of bark as a remedy for arthritis, diarrhea, dysentery, fever, gout, headache, pain, rheumatism. Also used in a gargle for sore throats. Approved by the German Commission E as a remedy for pain and rheumatism. Modern American folk use of bark as a remedy for congestive heart failure, heart disease, menopause, sciatica and stress. Modern American folk use as a remedy for inflammation and pain in bursitis, repetitive strain injuries, tendinitis and sprains. Traditional American folk use of bark in a poultice for cuts, rashes and skin ulcers. Traditionally added to bathwater for rheumatism. Note: side effects may include indigestion, nausea or tinnitus (constant ringing in the ears). Listed in the United States Pharmacopoeias from 1820 to 1880. Native to Europe, North Africa and Asia. Cultivated as an ornamental in North America. At least ten cultivars exist.




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Web page last updated on 25 May 2003.