White Willow Bark
Names: common willow; Ak Sogut, Safsaf Abyadh, Sauce Blanco, Sugut Aghaji, Vrba, Vitpil, vanlig vitpil (Swedish); Kvitpil (Norwegian); Hvidpil (Danish); Valkopaju, Hopeapaju (Finnish); Silber-Weide (German); Saule blanc (French)
Properties: alterative, anodyne, febrifuge, astringent, antiperiodic, vermifuge, Antiinflammatory; Antiseptic; Diaphoretic; Diuretic; Hypnotic; Sedative; Tonic.
History: Willow bark has been used since the first century AD to reduce pain and inflammation. The tree also has an ancient reputation in folk medicine for reducing the temperature in fevers. In the 1820s the active ingredient responsible for willow’s medicinal properties, which is also found in meadowsweet, was isolated and named salicin, after the Salix genus. Around 70 years later, after salicin had been synthesized into salicylic acid, the drug aspirin was formulated and marketed. According to medieval folklore, witches used willow to treat rheumatism and fever and the old word for witches, wicca, may be the origin of the term wicker, applied to baskets woven from willow twigs. ‘Pussy willow’, the fluffy silvery grey catkins, were reputed to turn into witches’ cats. In Elizabethan England, wearing a sprig of willow in your hat signified rejection by a loved one.