The Medicinal Herb Info site was created to help educate visitors about the often forgotten wisdom of the old ways of treating illnesses. Many of today's drugs and medicines were originally derived from natural ingredients, combinations of plants and other items found in nature.

We are not suggesting that you ignore the help of trained medical professionals, simply that you have additional options available for treating illnesses. Often the most effective treatment involves a responsible blend of both modern and traditional treatments.

We wish you peace and health!


Scientific Names


  • Salix alba L.
  • Salix caprea L.
  • Salix daphnoides L.
  • Salix fagilis L.
  • Salix nigra L.
  • Salix purpurea L.
  • Salicaceae
  • Willow family

Common Names

  • Liu (Chinese name for S. alba)
  • Salacin willow
  • Willow bark
  • Withe
  • Withy

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Parts Usually Used

Inner bark
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Description of Plant(s) and Culture

The bark of the willow tree is the source of one of our most potent drugs, acetylsalicylic acid, known as the aspirin. Grows to 90 feet tall. Branchlets pliable, not brittle at the base; silky. Leaves lance-shaped, mostly without stipules; ashy-gray in color and silky or hairy above and beneath (use lens). Covered with rough, gray bark, in some parts of the world it grows also as a shrub. Male and female flowers occur on separate trees, appearing in catkins on leafy stalks at the same time as the leaves. The willows grow easily from cuttings and may also be grown from seed, which should be planted as soon as it is ripe.

S. nigra or pussywillow or black willow, S. purpurea, S. caprea, S. daphnoides, S. fagilis, are varieties of the willow. All have the same medical properties or closely to the same properties are found in all the varieties named here.
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Where Found

Unless your property is extensive, raising willow in your garden is not recommended. Thrive in moist locations, along stream edges, but will grow and naturalize readily in most situations. Native of Europe.

Found in moist places in North Africa, central Asia, and in Europe (from where it was introduced to the United States).
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Medicinal Properties

Alterative (gradually restores health), anodyne (relieves pain), febrifuge (reduces fever), astringent (stops capillary bleeding), antiperiodic (prevents periodic return of fever), anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antiseptic, tonic, and vermifuge (kills worms).
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Biochemical Information

Glucosides, salicin (salicoside), salicum, salicortine, flavonoids, and tannin. The European white willow is very similar in properties to the North American variety but contains more tannins.
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Legends, Myths and Stories

Native Americans used several varieties of the willow; they wove baskets with willow, used willow for pain and reducing fever; the gray willow (S. exigua) was called “Kosi tsube” by the Paiutes and the Shoshones. They used willow twigs with salt, steeped and drank for laxative.

Willow was one of the first herbs to be scientifically investigated. In the 19th century, the French chemist, Leroux, extracted the active ingredient “salicine.” By 1852 it was being synthetically produced, and by 1899 a less irritating acetyl salicylic acid was manufactured and marketed as aspirin. This was the first plant-derived drug of the modern generation.

The white willow bark was used to reduce fevers, relieve headache. Unlike the synthetic drug, acetyl salicylic acid, called aspirin which can cause stomach irritation, white willow bark contains tannins, which are actually good for the digestion.

The tea drug is peeled in spring from moderately large branches and dried. The bark comes from various willow species, including the white willow (Salix alba L.), basket willow or osier (Salix daphnoides L.), and brittle willow, or withy (Salix fagilis L.).

A strong tea made from the inner bark of the willow tree was once thought to be a “perfect cure” for venereal disease.

The framework of the vapor bath lodge of the Native Americans was made of willow poles, bent and tied with their bark. The willow was mystically connected with the departure of the spirit from the body at death. Willow twigs had certain uses in funeral rites.
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The Chinese use S. purpurea which they call Shui-yang. Used for chronic dysentery, cancerous sores, and dressing wounds, and smallpox ulcers.

Used in treating feverish diseases, chills, ague, pain, inflammations, neuralgia, headaches, gout, and rheumatic ailments, arthritic joints. Native Americans used for diarrhea, to staunch bleeding, and for dandruff. Taken for worms, gonorrhea, dyspepsia, dysentery, chronic diarrhea and edema. It may also be taken as a bitter tonic in small doses before meals, to hasten convalescence from acute diseases.

The tea made from the leaves or buds is good in gangrene, cancer, and eczema.

Wash is used for corns, cuts, ulcers, poison-ivy rash. Experimentally, delays cataract formation and risk of heart disease in males.
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Formulas or Dosages

Decoction: soak 1 to 3 tsp. of bark in a cup of cold water for 3-4 hours and then bring the water to a boil. Take a mouthful at a time of the unsweetened decoction, to a total of about 1 cup per day.

Cold extract: soak 1 tbsp. bark in cold water for 8-10 hours and strain.

Powder: take 1 to 1 1/2 tsp. 3 times per day.
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How Sold

Aspirin tablets

White willow bark in capsules: take 2 every 2 to 3 hours as needed. This is an excellent aspirin substitute.
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The active substances may irritate the mucous membranes of the stomach, and for this reason people with sensitive stomachs should refrain from drinking willow bark tea. This is quite uncommon due to the tannins, which are actually good for digestion, unlike the irritant of aspirin. No other side effects are noted. Aspirin has been known to reduce clotting time if taken often or on a regular basis.
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Buy It! Back to Eden, by Jethro Kloss; Back to Eden Publishing Co., Loma Linda, CA 92354, Original copyright 1939, revised edition 1994

Buy It! The Herbalist Almanac, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, copyright 1988, fifth printing, 1994

Buy It! Chinese Medicinal Herbs, compiled by Shih-Chen Li, Georgetown Press, San Francisco, California, 1973.

Buy It! Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician: Updated With 117 Modern Herbs, by Nicholas Culpeper, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1990, (reprint of 1814)

Buy It! Earl Mindell’s Herb Bible, by Earl Mindell, R.Ph., Ph.D., Simon & Schuster/Fireside, Rockefeller Center 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020

Buy It! Indian Uses of Native Plants, by Edith Van Allen Murphey, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, copyright 1958, print 1990

Buy It! The Complete Medicinal Herbal, by Penelope Ody, Dorling Kindersley, Inc, 232 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, First American Edition, copyright 1993

Buy It! The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.

Buy It! Prairie Smoke, by Melvin R. Gilmore, Minnesota Historical Society Press, St. Paul, Minnesota 55101, copyright 1987.

Buy It! Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke., Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10000

Herbal Gardening, compiled by The Robison York State Herb Garden, Cornell Plantations, Matthaei Botanical Gardens of the University of Michigan, University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley., Pantheon Books, Knopf Publishing Group, New York, 1994, first edition

Buy It! Planetary Herbology, by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., O.M.D., Lotus Press, PO Box 325, Twin Lakes. WI 53181., Copyright 1988, published 1992

Buy It! Indian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens, Shambala Publications, Inc., Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, 1973

Buy It! American Folk Medicine, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1973

Buy It! Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023

Buy It! How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts, by Frances Densmore, Dover Publications, Inc., 180 Varick Street, New York, NY 10014, first printed by the United States Government Printing Office, Washington, in 1928, this Dover edition 1974

Buy It! An Instant Guide to Medicinal Plants, by Pamela Forey and Ruth Lindsay, Crescent Books (January 27, 1992).

Buy It! Secrets of the Chinese Herbalists, by Richard Lucas, Parker Publishing Company, Inc., West Nyack, NY, 1987.

Buy It! The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine, by Dr. David Frawley & Dr. Vasant Lad, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, Second edition, 1988.

Buy It! The Rodale Herb Book: How to Use, Grow, and Buy Nature’s Miracle Plants (An Organic gardening and farming book), edited by William H. Hylton, Rodale Press, Inc. Emmaus, PA, 18049., 1974

Buy It! The Healing Plants, by Mannfried Pahlow, Barron’s Educational Series, Inc. 250 Wireless Blvd., Hauppauge, NY 11788, 1992

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