White willow extract was used over centuries in Indian, Chinese and Native American medicine as a pain killer. The bark of this tree is rich in a compound called salicin and this is the compound that actually holds the key to pain relief. If one goes back to the root of one of the most popular pain killers, aspirin, then one will find that salicin was the compound which led to the discovery of aspirin. In fact it is the synthetic version of salicin.
Thus white willow is also called herbal aspirin and it is still used in herbal medicine to treat pain and inflammation. It is advantageous over aspirin in the area of side effects. White willow has no harmful side effects like affecting the digestive system, causing intestinal bleeding, etc. It also does not affect the blood platelets in any way as aspirin does.
Salicin, the main component of white willow turns to salicylic acid on entering the body and that lowers the level of the hormone like substance that promotes pain and inflammation. That is the reason why it can be used in any painful conditions, be it from arthritis or simple back ache. Since white willow is effective in treating both acute and chronic pain, it has proved useful in relief of pain caused by osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, headaches, toothaches, menstrual pain, etc and also helps in reducing fever that is related to cold and influenza. White willow is also used for treatment of migraine in combination with other herbs.
White willow is used for weight loss also. Though it itself is not capable of doing this, when it is taken along with other dietary supplements it can actually increase the activity of several thermogenic substances. They increase the energy release level and promote the metabolism of fat.
But like all other medicine and drug, excessive use may dilute the good effects. First of all, never take white willow while you are taking aspirin. It should not be used by children below the age of 16 as it makes them vulnerable to Reye’s syndrome. Those suffering from any type of ulcers in the stomach or suffering from gastritis should avoid this.