Willow Bark vs Aspirin
Willow (Salix) has been compared to aspirin when talking about headache remedies, and is known as the forerunner to aspirin as the original source of salicylic acid. But there are key differences between the two.
First: if you take a decoration of willow bark to treat a headache, it’s not really going to work the same as if you had taken an aspirin. Why? The salicylic acid in willow bark has to be processed through the liver before it becomes acetylsalicylic acid. So you’re going to be waiting a long time for any pain relieving effects. This means it’s just not the best choice for an immediate pain reliever when you’ve got a headache you need to treat *now.*
Second: Aspirin is straight acetylsalicylic acid. That’s it’s active ingredient. Now, here’s the thing. Aspirin is really hard on your gut and has been known to cause ulcers when over-consumed. It can also negatively affect the liver. Conversely, willow bark will give the anti-inflammatory effects eventually, and it won’t bore any holes in your stomach either. Willow also doesn’t thin the blood like aspirin does.
How Willow is Often Used
High strength extracts of willow bark have shown to be effective for treating other painful conditions like osteoarthritis and lower back pain in clinical trials. Willow provides fewer potential side effects than NSAIDs, and can be effect for arthritis, hot flashes, and managing high fevers.
What Are My Other Options?
There are a variety of herbs that can be specifics for easing headaches, but which ones are best for you depend upon the root cause of your pain and your energetic constitution. The herbal options available to you will work through indirect pathways, rather than as direct pain blockers. This is because the only plants that are able to directly block your experience of pain are low dose botanicals that are illegal, like opium poppy.
So what you’ll find when working with an herbalist is that we will find the right plants to address the cause of your pain such as relieving tension and reducing inflammation while also addressing other factors that may be contributing to your pain (perhaps liver function needs to be addressed, or there are food allergies, too much caffeine, stress, emotional issues, and so on).
Willow bark has the potential to work as a preventative, but it won’t provide fast relief. If you have chronic headaches, it may be worth scheduling an appointment to get to the root of the problem to find long-term relief.
This post is for educational purposes only. The information provided in this digital content is not medical advice, nor should it be taken or applied as a replacement for medical advice. Jessica Jascha, the Jascha Botanicals, and their employees, guests, and affiliates assume no liability for the application of the information discussed.
Jessica Jascha is a Clinical Herbalist, Intuitive Consultant and writer in Owatonna, MN. Work with her for holistic consultations, intuitive consultations, monthly moon rituals.