Back Pain and Willow Bark
Effect of Willow Bark on Back Pain
The bark of white willow has salicin, a chemical similar to acetyl salicylic acid or aspirin. This is the substance that produce for the pain-relief and anti-inflammatory effects of the willow bark.
Research Evidence on Willow Bark
The safety and efficacy of willow bark as a treatment for osteoarthritis has been confirmed by a study done in Germany. Findings of this clinical trial were published in Phytotherapy Research Journal on June 2001. A total of 78 patients took part in the study. The investigators compared the effects of willow bark extract containing 240 mg salicin with placebo in a 2-week, double-blind, randomized controlled trial. The outcome was measured using the pain, stiffness and physical function dimension of WOMAC Osteoarthritis index, a set of standardized questionnaires used by doctors to evaluate osteoarthritis. Daily visual analogue scales were also used by the patients. After 2 weeks of treatment the pain score of willow bark group was reduced by 14% while in the placebo group, the score increased by 2%. The data on the visual analogue scales confirmed the superiority of willow bark over placebo. The investigators then concluded that the willow bark extract showed a moderate analgesic effect in osteoarthritis and appeared to be well tolerated.
How to Use Willow Bark
General dosing guidelines for willow bark :
Dried herb (used to make tea): boil 1 - 2 tsp of dried bark in 8 oz of water and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes; let steep for 30 minutes, you can drink 3 - 4 cups daily.
Capsules or liquid: 60 - 240 mg of standardized salicin daily;
Tincture (1:5, 30% alcohol): 4 - 6 mL three times daily
Side Effects and Warnings
People who have known allergies to salicylates, such as aspirin, should not use willow bark. According to some researchers, willow bark should not be recommended to people with asthma, diabetes, gout, gastritis, hemophilia, and stomach ulcers. If you have any of these conditions, or if you're taking blood-thinning medications or NSAID's regularly, be sure to check with your doctor before taking willow bark.
The drug interactions associated with salicylates may apply to products that contain willow bark. You should not use willow bark with alcohol, barbiturates, sedatives, and other products that have salicylates because this may worsen irritant effects and adverse reactions. Willow may also interact with oral anticoagulants, seizure medications and other drugs such as methotrexate.
The side effects of willow bark are usually mild. Common side effects include: gastrointestinal discomfort such as nausea and stomach ache, dizziness and rash. Allergic reaction to willow bark has also been reported. Overdoses of willow bark may cause skin rash, stomach irritation, nausea, vomiting, kidney inflammation, and tinnitus or ringing in the ears.
- Schmid B, Lüdtke R, Selbmann HK, Kötter I, Tschirdewahn B, Schaffner W, Heide L. 2001. Phytother Res. Efficacy and tolerability of a standardized willow bark extract in patients with osteoarthritis: randomized placebo-controlled, double blind clinical trial.Pharmazeutisches Institut, Universität Tübingen, Germany.