- A 4,000 year old remedy for pain, inflammation and fever that has stood the test of time
- Have you tried ‘herbal aspirin’?
- New research suggest willow bark can keep you young!
Before the Ancient Egyptians, there were the Sumerians.
Have to say, I’m a big fan.
They built the first cities, invented the wheel, invented the concept of 60 as a measurement of time (which is why we have 60 seconds and 60 minutes)… and they began something known as ‘writing’ – even creating the world’s oldest known piece of literature, The Epic of Gilgamesh.
Let’s just say, these guys were pioneers of civilisation.
Most fascinating of all (for a health writer like me, anyway), they had their own form of aspirin to treat pain and other ailments.
You see, today’s aspirin is modelled on something known as salicin, which comes from the bark of the willow tree. The use of willow bark as a medicine is recorded on Sumerian clay tablets from 4,000 years ago. It is used to treat fever and pain, haemorrhages and colds.
The white willow tree (Salix alba) grows in Europe, North America, northern Asia and parts of Africa, so this remedy continued in subsequent civilisations, including ancient Greece and ancient China. For instance, in 100BC the Greek physician Dioscorides gave it to patients as an anti-inflammatory.
Western science eventually cottoned on to the power of willow bark. By the early 19th Century, Thomas MacLagan was demonstrating that it could ease rheumatism, relieve fever and reduce joint inflammation.
Around that time, a pure form of salicin was isolated in a lab by French pharmacist, Henri Leroux. This became the basis of a synthetic drug mass marketed at the end of the 19th century by the Heyden Chemical Company in Germany.
And so aspirin was born.
A fantastic drug in many ways, it has an enormous drawback. In many cases aspirin can cause stomach upsets. In severe cases, gastric and intestinal bleeding.
However, if you want the benefits of its pain-relieving power, going back to the original ancient source might be the answer.
Willow bark, known as ‘herbal aspirin’ still works as a remedy for pain and inflammation. Unlike aspirin it doesn’t have a negative effect on your blood platelets, meaning it won’t thin your blood or increase your risk of haemorrhages.
Here’s how it works…
The active compound in willow bark, salicin, is converted into salicylic acid in your body. It lowers your levels of inflammatory prostaglandins, the hormone-like substances that promote pain and inflammation.
It can be used to relieve both chronic and acute pain, helping ease conditions like lower back pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, menstrual pain and headaches. You can also use it to relieve the symptoms of cold and flu.
And research backs this up…
In a study at the University of Exeter, 82 osteoarthritis patients were given either white willow bark or a placebo. After two months white willow bark was found to be far more effective at reducing pain than the placebo treatment.
Another trial involving osteoarthritis patients found that 100mg of white willow bark over a two month period helped to considerably ease pain and improve joint function.
In addition, results from a study with people suffering from lower back pain showed that white willow bark was an effective painkiller. The trial lasted for four weeks and was based on 240mg of white willow bark taken daily.
But in recent years, some even more exciting research is being undertaken….
New research suggests that willow bark can keep you young!
In a 2015 study published in Oncotarget, Canadian have found six extracts that can delay the ageing process. They do so by affecting how information flows through your ‘signalling pathways’. “These pathways can delay ageing if activated in response to certain nutrients.
Vladimir Titorenko, senior author of the study, confirmed that one white willow bark extract of all of them.
And his co-author, Éric Simard, said:
“This study is an important step forward for science because these signalling pathways could eventually delay the onset and progression of chronic diseases associated with human aging…. these diseases include arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, liver dysfunction, stroke, neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases, and many forms of cancer.”
It’s early days for this research, but it could be really exciting. For many thousands of years, humans have sought the fountain of youth in creams and potions – and yet maybe it was under our noses all the time in a medicine used since the Sumerian civilisation!
Could be worth seeking some out. If my team can find a quality source of White Willow Bark Extract that we can recommend, we will be sure to let you know.
The only caveat is this…
You should not take willow bark alongside aspirin…
Some people can be sensitive to salicylate-rich foods like berries, currants, prunes and raison. If you are one of them, then avoid.
Also don’t give it to children under 16 years old.
If you use white willow bark extract successfully for pain, do write and let us know.
In the meantime, don’t forget to check out what’s new on The People’s Doctor website – use the handy search box tool to look for remedies or health problems – we have a lot of good stuff about pain, sleep problems, depression, cognitive decline, liver and prostate problems.
Until next time, stay healthy,