The OTC medicine Aspirin is actually a synthetic derivative of salicylic acid which is found naturally in the bark of the willow tree. However, like most things, when we isolate them, try to duplicate them or combine them in unnatural ways (with synthetics, etc.) we tend to see side effects and the risk of the ”medicine” becoming harmful grows exponentially. One reason for this is that chemicals, vitamins and such substances are meant to act as part of a whole. When we isolate a chemical for instance, it no longer works in harmony with it’s companions, but either becomes extremely strong with nothing to temper it, or isn’t assimilated as it would be, side effects grow and many problems can arise. There are of course exceptions to this, plants or chemical extracts that would otherwise be harmful are sometimes beneficial when extracted properly or used in homeopathic medicine.
But for a very common example of the general rule, take a look at table salt. It’s notorious for raising our sodium levels because it is basically isolated sodium! It’s not salt in it’s natural state, with all the other trace minerals alongside it (like sea salt or pink Himalayan salt, which can even be taken in small amounts as supplements). Instead of nourishing and healing, it becomes something harmful.
In the case of aspirin, we see a great increase in bleeding risk and gastrointestinal issues when we take the common OTC form. However, these risks are greatly reduced when we consume salicylic acid in it’s natural form, willow bark. Willow bark can take slightly longer to kick in, but it’s effects are also longer lasting than aspirin in most cases. So it’s a much safer pain reliever.
It is a great remedy for headaches, hangovers, and other minor pains and inflammation. The use of the willow tree as a mild pain reliever goes back to Chinese Medicine as well as many Native American tribes, and even the ancient Greeks.
Of course you can buy the white willow capsules or loose in bulk, (I linked a couple brands I like) either online or in most health food stores and places like whole foods, but if you’re interested in harvesting and making your own tea form I’m going to tell you how. Rather you want to be prepared in the wilderness, like doing things the most natural way possible, or prefer the potency of fresh bark tea to store bought this little tutorial is for you.
1: Learn to Identify Willow Trees. NEVER use a plant medicine unless you are 100% sure of what you are using.
There are basically four types of Willow trees: White, Black, Golden, and Weeping Willow. White Willow tends to be the most potent.
2: Cut a square of bark. Cut through both the outer bark and the inner bark (4 by 4 square). The tree will heal rather quickly.
3: Making Willow Tea
Put pieces of bark in a coffee filter or clean cheesecloth and boil, keep an eye on the color of the water. It will slowly begin to take on a deep reddish-brown color, almost like the color of blood. This takes about 20 minutes. Do not overcook.
Filter into a cup and drink. You can add a bit of honey or a few drops of pure liquid stevia if you need to, but I always suggest drinking it plain if possible.
You now have the benefits of aspirin with greatly reduced risk and it’s 100% free and 100% natural!
*TREE CARE NOTE*
When harvesting more than one square of bark, try not to take it all from the same tree if possible. Every cut is a wound the tree has to heal and can make it more vulnerable to pests.
You should only take a small amount and then either allow the tree to heal naturally, or if you have it available, brush on a mixture of orange oil and beeswax to cover the wound well. It will protect it from pests and fungus, etc, while still allowing the tree wound to breathe and heal naturally.