The other night I was reading Linda Runyon’s book Eat The Trees! when I came to a story she shared about one time when she accidentally got an aspirin overdose from nibbling on too many catkins from a willow tree. I, of course, was fascinated by this discovery. I’d never heard of aspirin coming from willow trees, so I thought I’d do a little more research into the matter.
Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia that I thought was interesting:
The Greek physician Hippocrates wrote in the 5th century BC about a bitter powder extracted from willow bark that could ease aches and pains and reduce fevers.This remedy was also mentioned in texts from ancient Sumer, Lebanon, and Assyria. The Cherokee and other Native Americans used an infusion of the bark for fever and other medicinal purposes for centuries. The medicinal part of the plant is the inner bark and was used as a pain reliever for a variety of ailments.
Although Salicylic acid, the medicinal component of willow extract, can be found in most plants in the willow family, White Willow seems to be the best choice when available. (As a side note, White Willow is also good for basket-making, and the charcoal made from the wood used to be used for gunpowder manufacture. The bark tannin can also be used for tanning leather.)
Willow Catkins Photo Willits Daily Photo
Linda Runyon says willow catkins can be eaten for natural aspirin, but she cautions that you shouldn’t eat more than 10-12 at one time. Catkins can be found in early Spring. New, inner bark, however, is most commonly used for pain relief.
The University of Maryland article suggests that you can make a medicinal tea by using the following preparation method: Boil 1-2 teaspoons of dried (inner) bark in 8 ounces of water, let it simmer for 15 minutes, and then let it steep for a half hour. Drink three to four cups of the result daily.
Natural aspirin takes longer to kick in, so don’t over do your dosage. Nausea and ringing of the ears are signs of an overdose. It is also milder than over the counter pain relievers, though its effects last longer. Some say willow bark is ineffective at reducing fevers, but is great for mild headaches and joint pain.
Precautions: If you are allergic to aspirin, you should not take willow bark. As with synthetic aspirin, children under the age of 16 are at risk of developing Reye syndrome, so it is not recommended that you give willow bark to young children. Pregnant and nursing women should not take willow bark.
Now I just need to plant a willow tree! As a forewarning, they are big time water drinkers, so don’t plant one anywhere near a well.
Please remember, I am not a doctor. This article is for informational purposes only.