Many Americans experience chronic back pain or inflammatory conditions. They often don’t think twice about reaching for a bottle of Aspirin or Advil. Instead, reach for a bottle of white willow bark for pain.
With new research about the dangers of Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS), many are now looking for safer alternatives to help them alleviate their chronic pain and occasional aches and pains.
Using White Willow Bark for Pain
White willow bark has been found to work for multiple pain-related conditions. The Western Journal of Medicine notes that a 20 mL tincture of white willow bark is a good treatment for inflammatory conditions. White Willow Bark is effective in treating inflammatory conditions because it down regulates the inflammatory mediators, tumor necrosis factor-a and nuclear factor kappa-B.
There are many properties in the white willow bark that may be responsible for the pain fighting properties. Not only is the salicin (the active ingredient in white willow bark extract) thought to be effective, but other ingredients like the flavonoids and polyphenols may be contributing to the effects felt by those who take white willow bark.
In a study by Phytotherapy Research , the adverse effects of white willow bark are minimal. This is especially true when directly comparing the side effects of white willow bark to the side effects of NSAIDS. The area for the most concern may lie in the likelihood of allergy or sensitivities to the white willow bark.
White Willow Bark for Low Back Pain
Treating unspecified lower back pain can be hard to physicians and patients as well. Learning new and alternative treatments for lower back pain can help provide new options when patients do not want to take stronger medications.
White willow bark has been clinically tested against medications like Vioxx (NSAID) and against a placebo. The study was published on the National Library of Medicine  and showed that white willow bark was more effective than placebo and it was as effective as Vioxx.
Considering that white willow bark has fewer complications than NSAIDS, this can be good news for patients who have been on long-term NSAID therapy.
Talk with your physician about switching to white willow bark if you are currently taking a NSAID like Vioxx or Aspirin. You do not want to make a switch without talking to your doctor in case there are other reasons that they have you on a NSAID.
Availability of White Willow Bark for Pain
While white willow bark is available in teas and powdered forms, the extract is typically, what is used to get a therapeutic dose of white willow bark. Web M.D. recommends that white willow bark is taken in either a 120 mg or 240 mg dosage. If you are looking to relieve lower back pain,then the higher dose of 240 mg will likely provide you with more pain relief.
White willow bark should not be used in pregnant or breastfeeding women. Also, children should not be given white willow bark because there is a risk of developing Reyes syndrome. If you have a bleeding disorder white willow bark may increase the risk of bleeding. Those with kidney disease or with sensitivity to Aspirin should also avoid using white willow bark.
Because of the effects that white willow bark can have on bleeding and blood clotting, you should stop using this herb at least 2 weeks before surgery. Let your doctor know if you have been taking white willow bark so that they can be aware of the possible complications during any medical procedures.
Now you have all of the information you need to make an informed decision about whether or not you should consider using white willow bark to handle your inflammatory condition or lower back pain.
This herbal remedy has been clinically shown to be effective and may be a good alternative to NSAIDS. For those concerned with the risks associated with taking white willow bark make sure to discuss any interactions or side effects with your physician.
- Mohd Shara, Sidney J. Stohs Efficacy and Safety of White Willow Bark (Salix alba) Extracts https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.5377
- Chou R, Deyo R, Friedly J, et al. Noninvasive Treatments for Low Back Pain [Internet]. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2016 Feb. (Comparative Effectiveness Reviews, No. 169.) Appendix D, Excluded Studies. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK350267/