Natural Pain Relief – Willow Bark

Natural Pain Relief – Willow Bark


weeping-willow-263099_640Natural pain relief will be a series of posts. Each post will cover one natural pain reliever. Not everyone will be able to use every natural pain reliever due to allergic or other adverse reactions.

Although everyone experiences pain at some time, as we age, we tend to feel it more often. Joint, muscle, neck, and back pain tend to become constant companions. While there are both prescription and over the counter pain relievers available, most of them may cause serious problems over time, when used continuously. As well, in the event of a long term disaster, you may not have access to prescription or over the counter pain relievers.

Natural pain relievers are generally safe, with no long term side effects. Allergic reactions are the number one side effect, so do not use any herb or other natural substance to which you know you are  allergic.

If you find one or more remedy that works well for you, most of the ingredients may be purchased in bulk for very reasonable prices. You may be able to forage some of these ingredients, if they grow locally. Many of the ingredients may be easily grown at home, either in pots or in your garden. Foraged and home grown ingredients may be dried for future use. Whether purchasing, foraging, or growing your own, make sure to stock up on what you need to make your own pain relievers.

Simple Drop Test For Allergies

If you aren’t sure whether you have an allergy to a remedy or ingredient, there is a simple test you can use. Rub a drop of a prepared remedy on the inside of your arm, at the elbow. Wait a couple of hours. If you are allergic to the remedy, you will get a rash.

To test fresh or dried individual herbs, simmer a small amount in water for 10 minutes, then allow to steep for 20 minutes. Allow to cool, then proceed with the drop test.

To test essential oils, mix one drop of essential oil in a tablespoon of carrier oil, then proceed with the drop test. As a carrier oil, I recommend olive oil, almond oil, avocado oil, or camellia seed oil. Note this is a higher concentration than you would use in most remedies.

Caution: Any younger women, of child bearing age, should use caution when using natural remedies, as with any other medication, during pregnancy. Although generally safer than prescription or over the counter drugs, some natural remedies may not be safe for pregnant women. They, also, may not be safe for young children, so they may not be safe while breast feeding.

Willow BarkDo not use if you are allergic to aspirin.

Willow bark contains salicin and is the original aspirin. It has been used for pain relief for centuries. Like aspirin, it is mainly used to treat inflammation, the underlying cause of most of your aches and pains. Willow bark may also be used for headaches and to reduce fever.

Willow bark may be easily prepared as a tea or a tincture. Dried willow bark may be purchased online. Use chopped dried willow bark, not powdered. If you have access to willow trees, you can use the freshly cut inner bark and small twigs. These may be chopped and air dried for later use. Although white willow bark is most commonly recommended, other willow varieties, such as pussy willow and purple willow, also contain salicin.

General Dosage: The amount of the dosage will depend on the preparation. Take every four hours.

Keep in mind, willow bark preparations may start working more slowly than aspirin, but the effects last longer.

Precautions: Willow bark does have similar side effects as aspirin. It may cause stomach irritation, although many people whom experience this with aspirin do not experience it with willow bark. Long term continuous use may cause damage to the kidneys. Salicin is an anticoagulant, so do not take if you are on any other anticoagulant medications, or suffer from bleeding ailments. Do not use during third trimester of pregnancy or while breast feeding. Do not give to children under the age of 12.


Willow Bark Tea
makes 1 quart/four doses

2 1/2 tablespoons dried willow bark
1 cinnamon stick
1 quart water + 1/4 cup water (the extra 1/4 cup allows for absorption by bark)
honey to taste (I recommend¬†Cox’s Honey)

Place first three ingredients in a pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and steep 30 minutes. Strain. Pour 8-ounces into a cup. Add honey to taste.

8-ounces equals one dose. Take one dose every four hours.

cinnamon-73778_640The tea may be re-warmed for additional doses. Re-warm before adding honey.

Honey should never be overheated/boiled. It will lose all those good healthy and healing qualities when exposed to high heat. Always allow your tea to cool to drinking temperature prior to adding your honey.

The cinnamon and honey both have anti-inflammatory properties and they will improve the taste of the tea. The taste isn’t terrible, but it is tree bark and that’s what it tastes like.

The tea turns a beautiful red color. This is normal.

The tea will not act as quickly as aspirin. Although it will immediately begin to relieve inflammation, it may take two to four doses before you really begin to feel the effects. Do not exceed one dose every four hours in an attempt to get quicker relief.

See precautions above.

Willow Bark Tincture Using Dried Willow Bark
number of doses will depend on size of jar

willow bark
lavender (optional)
vodka or rum

Fill a glass jar that has a tight fitting lid (I usually use a pint size mason jar) 1/4 full with willow bark. Add a layer of lavender to cover the bark. Fill to one inch from the top with vodka or rum. Put the lid on the jar.

Put the jar in a cupboard, but keep it within easy reach and where you’ll see it. During the first week, turn your tincture over a couple of times two or three times a day. During this time, you will notice the bark will swell as it absorbs some of the alcohol. Add more alcohol to keep the jar filled to within one inch of the top, as needed. After the first week, turn your jar one to two times a week. Allow it to steep for four to six weeks.

Strain the extract and bottle in amber or blue glass bottles with dropper lids.

Take one to two full droppers (1 to 2 ml or scant 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon) every four hours.

lavender-1521774_640If your jar has a metal lid, cover the jar with a double layer of plastic wrap, prior to putting the lid on. This will keep the alcohol from corroding the lid.

Lavender has mild anti-inflammatory properties and will improve the flavor.

I always steep my tinctures for a minimum of six weeks and usually longer.

Start a new batch as soon as you finish bottling the previous batch. This will keep you from running out.

The tincture will give you noticeable results more quickly than tea, but it may still take longer for you to see results than with aspirin. As with the tea, it will begin to reduce inflammation immediately, even if you don’t feel the results immediately.

See precautions above.

Willow Bark Tincture Using Fresh Inner Willow Bark or Small Twigs

Fill your jar 3/4 full with fresh inner willow bark or small twigs. Add about one tablespoon of lavender per pint. Follow the remaining directions for making tincture with dried willow bark.

See the notes for making dried willow bark tincture and the precautions above.

More Natural Pain Remedies to Come

If willow bark isn’t for you, don’t despair. We will be looking at a number of other pain remedies over the next several posts.

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