Last updated: August 11, 2021

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Willows belong to the willow family. Their preferred habitat extends over the northern temperate zone. The willow is a recognised medicinal plant whose ingredients are mainly found in the willow bark.

The two most popular species for extracting the ingredients are the silver willow and the purple willow. Willow bark can be used especially for fever, rheumatic complaints, arthritis and headaches.

With our willow bark test 2021 we want to help you find the best willow bark product for you. We have compared several product variants of willow bark with each other and listed the respective advantages and disadvantages. This should make your purchase decision as easy as possible.




The most important

  • Willow bark contains plant salicin, which is converted to salicylic acid in the body and acts similarly to the synthetically produced acetylsalicylic acid used in aspirin tablets, for example. Willow bark can reduce fever, relieve pain and inhibit inflammation.
  • Willow bark products are particularly suitable for adults who are plagued by arthritis, joint pain, back pain, rheumatic complaints or fever. Willow bark is ideal for chronic illnesses, but not for acute pain.
  • Children, pregnant women and people allergic to salicylates should definitely avoid willow bark products. The same applies to asthmatics and bronchial sufferers.

Willow Bark: Our Selection

Buying and evaluation criteria for willow bark

If you search for the perfect willow bark product for you on the internet, you will come across a variety of product forms and offers. In the following, we will show you which aspects you can use to decide between these many possible willow bark products.

The criteria that you can use to compare the willow bark products with each other include:

Product form

As you have already noticed in the presentation of the best types of products, there are a variety of willow bark products. These include willow bark extracts, willow bark capsules, drops, tea or globoli. In order to keep track of all the product forms, we have compiled a table with the most important advantages and disadvantages:

Type Advantages Disadvantages
Extract Good bioavailability (this indicates how quickly and to what extent the substance is absorbed) High dosage
Capsules More efficient than powders and liquids Difficult to take (hard to swallow)
Drops Easy to take Less efficient than capsules
Tea Easy to take Less efficient than capsules, often difficult to prepare
Globoli Easy to take For the uninitiated, the dosage is often unclear

As you can see, there are pros and cons to each type of product. If you have no problem swallowing capsules/tablets, then they are probably the best way to quickly integrate the intake into your daily routine. They are also more efficient than powders or liquids.

For external pain, ointment is of course very suitable and helps to relieve pain. For tea lovers or experienced globoli takers, these alternatives are of course also possible. There is certainly a suitable type of willow bark product for every person and every animal.

Effect

Willow bark has a high content of so-called salicylates. As already mentioned, salicylates are converted into salicylic acid in the body. The synthetic drug acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) was developed on the basis of salicylates and has a similar mechanism of action.

The salicylates are the main reason for the antipyretic, anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effect of willow bark. Willow bark has thus been recognised medicinally for the treatment of the following diseases:

  • Headaches
  • febrile illnesses
  • rheumatic complaints
  • Arthritis pain

Many people also use willow bark for flu-like illnesses, minor aches and pains, toothache, bad healing wounds or external foot sweat.

Particularly noticeable is the good tolerance of medicines.

Willow bark can therefore also be used to treat pain after operations, as aspirin, for example, is contraindicated (not always applicable in treatment) due to the accompanying thinning of the blood.

Willow bark medicines can relieve pain in the long term.

Ingredients

Willow bark contains - depending on the type of willow - up to 11 percent of salicylates. These are a group of plant substances. Salicin and salicortin also belong to this group. Salicin has comparable effects to the chemical drug acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin). It is therefore a natural painkiller that belongs to the chemical group of salicyl alcohol glycosides.

The exact composition of the ingredients varies for each species.

However, for the healing effect, the willow bark must contain at least 1.5 percent salicin. The salicin is converted to salicylic acid in the body.

The healing effects of the herbal salicylic acid are somewhat weaker than the effects of acetylsalicylic acid. Willow bark is therefore often used in addition to the standard therapy against back pain, rheumatism and arthrosis. Studies have shown that the positive effects usually do not appear immediately, but only after a certain time.

In addition, willow bark has abundant tannins and phenol heterosides. They can have a repellent effect on pests and fungi.

Tolerance

The positive thing about willow bark is that it is considered to be well tolerated. The side effects that often occur with acetylsalicylic acid do not normally occur with the herbal willow bark. The herbal alternative has only a slight blood-thinning effect. Before taking it, however, you should talk to a doctor about your plans and clarify with him or her whether it makes sense to take blood thinners.

If you are allergic to salicylates, you must not use willow bark products.

This also applies to children under 12 years of age, as well as pregnant women and nursing mothers.

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a product with willow bark

Before buying a willow bark product, there are several factors you should consider. In the following sections, we have summarised and detailed some of these factors for you.

What is special about willow bark and what benefits does it offer?

The special thing about willow bark is the salicylates it contains. They are mainly responsible for the analgesic, antipyretic and anti-inflammatory effect of willow bark. Willow bark is medicinally recognised for the treatment of feverish illnesses, rheumatic complaints and mild arthritis pain.

As already mentioned, it is similar to the synthetic substance acetylsalicylic acid, which has an analgesic effect and is also present in aspirin. Willow bark has comparable effects, but significantly fewer side effects.

In the following, we have compiled an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of willow bark to give you a better impression:

Advantages
  • Natural herbal product
  • antipyretic, relieves headache, backache, toothache
  • helps with chronic diseases
  • few side effects
Disadvantages
  • not suitable for acute pain
  • long duration of action, not suitable for pregnant women, nursing mothers, children and allergy sufferers, also not suitable for people with certain diseases

Willow bark is a highly recommendable natural product for the above-mentioned diseases. However, it should be kept in mind that despite this, it is a medicine that is not universally applicable and that not everyone can tolerate.

What types of willow bark are there?

There are many different types of willow. It belongs to the plant genus of willow plants, of which there are 450 different species. The different types of willow offer different benefits. The Salix viminalis, for example, is used to make wicker baskets, as is the purple willow.

Weidenrinde-1

In the picture you can see a beautiful willow with its branches hanging down by the pond.
(Image source: David Veksler / Unsplash)

The purple willow (Salix purpurea) and the silver willow (Salix alba) are among the most popular willow species for extracting the healing substances from the willow bark.

Silver willow (Salix alba)

The silver willow is a branched deciduous tree whose crown grows up to 2 metres in height every year. Mature silver willows can grow up to 30 metres tall. The branches of the tree have a silver-grey colour, hence the name silver willow. Silver willows prefer wet and humid regions and can survive in flooded areas due to their dense and shallow root system. It originates from Europe, but is now at home in the north temperate zones of the world.

Weidenrinde-2

The picture shows the silver catkins of a willow.
(Image source: Irina Iriser / Unsplash)

The silver willow is best for treating pain, due to its high salicylate content.

Purple willow (Salix purpurea)

The purple willow owes its name to its strikingly purple-coloured shoots and catkins that turn reddish. This willow species is much smaller and can only grow 6 metres high. However, its branches are also very strongly branched. It is more of a small shrub. The purple willow also feels most at home in wet and flooded areas. It prefers wet gravel, gravel and sandy soils.

The silver willow has 4 percent more salicylates than the purple willow.

The purple willow is also very suitable for extracting the healing ingredients of the willow bark. Although it contains about 4 percent less salicylates than the silver willow, it can still have a very healing effect.

The purple willow can not only be used for healing purposes, but is also, as already mentioned, excellent for weaving willow baskets.

Who is willow bark suitable for?

The willow bark products are mainly suitable for adult people who are plagued by certain chronic diseases. These mainly include people who have back pain, arthritis, fever, headaches or toothache. These products can also be taken for rheumatic complaints.

Weidenrinde-2

The picture shows a man who is being examined by a doctor because of his pain.
(Image source: Jesper Aggergaard / Unsplash)

The natural product is not only suitable for humans. Dogs, cats and horses with inflammation and joint problems can also take these products. However, it is better to discuss this in advance with the vet in charge to be sure about the application.

Who is willow bark not suitable for?

If you are allergic to salicylates, willow bark products are not suitable for you. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you must also avoid these products. The same applies to children under 12 years of age.

Salicylic acid can delay birth or cause malformations of the cardiopulmonary system in the unborn child. It can also cause premature birth or general malformations.

If you are affected by the following diseases, we strongly recommend consulting a doctor:

  • Asthma
  • constricted bronchial tubes
  • Gastrointestinal ulcers
  • Kidney or liver dysfunction

Make sure it is safe for you to take willow bark products.

What do the ingredients of willow bark do?

Salicylic acid is the most important ingredient in willow bark. As already explained, the acid has an anti-inflammatory effect and is supposed to help stop bleeding wounds by contracting the cells through the willow bark treatment. Furthermore, willow bark has antiseptic (germ-reducing), antipyretic and analgesic effects.

Willow bark is also known as "produg". This refers to pharmacological substances that only become active when they react in the body with other substances in the metabolism. This property is supposed to support the better absorption of active substances of the medicines in the body.

The transformation of the substance of salicylic acid can take up to 14 days in the human body. Therefore, willow bark is less suitable for acute pain, but rather for chronic pain.

What side effects can willow bark cause?

One reason why willow bark is so popular is that the side effects are very manageable. People who are sensitive to salicylate are most affected by the possible side effects. We have listed the possible side effects for you here:

  • Hives, reddening of the skin, rash
  • Itching
  • Asthma, bronchospasm (difficulty breathing, shortness of breath)
  • Rhintitis (severe inflammation of the mucous membranes of the nose)

In addition to these side effects, stomach problems can also occur. However, it is not the intolerance to salicylate that is responsible for these, but the tannins in the bark. The associated complaints are usually: nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, heartburn or diarrhoea, as well as general digestive disorders.

What are the alternatives to willow bark?

If you experience side effects from the willow bark products, we have selected two alternatives with similar effects. One is the synthetically produced aspirin and the other is the herbal meadowsweet.

Type Description
Aspirin Aspirin is a synthetic product containing acetylsalicylic acid. It is a blood-thinning agent that helps against pain, fever and inflammation.
Meadowsweet Meadowsweet is a plant that contains the active ingredients salicylaldehyde and salicylic acid methyl ester, which are also a precursor of salicylic acid. Meadowsweet is effective against headaches, migraines and fever.

However, if you knowingly cannot tolerate salicylates and salicylic acid, these products are probably not suitable either. In this case, you should consult your doctor or pharmacist and ask for information about other alternatives.

Conclusion

In summary, willow bark is a very good, naturally herbal product. The application and intake is not very elaborate and simple. The cost of the product varies and is high or low depending on the differences in quality.

For adults with the above-mentioned diseases and pains, willow bark is certainly a gentle alternative compared to synthetic medicines.

We recommend this product especially to chronically ill people who are neither allergic to salicylates nor suffer from bronchial or asthmatic diseases. Caution should also be exercised in the case of problems with the stomach and intestines. Before deciding to take willow products, we recommend consulting a doctor or pharmacist.

Picture source: gioiak2/ 123rf.com

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