How Aspirin and Willow Bark are Similar


If aspirin were developed today, it probably would be a prescription only medication because of its many uses. Aspirin, also known as acetylsalicylic acid, is often used to relieve minor aches and pains, to reduce fever, and as an anti-inflammatory medication.

Aspirin also is an antiplatelet.  Aspirin is also used long-term, at low doses, to help prevent heart attacks, strokes, and blood clot formation in people at high risk of developing blood clots.  Low doses of aspirin may be given immediately after a heart attack to reduce the risk of another heart attack or of the death of cardiac tissue.  Some people take a daily aspirin to reduce their risk of heart attack or stroke.  New evidence suggests that aspirin may be a powerful tool in cancer prevention as well.

The main undesirable side effects of aspirin taken by mouth are upset stomachs, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears), especially in higher doses.  In children and teenagers, aspirin is no longer recommended to control flu-like symptoms or the symptoms of chickenpox or other viral illnesses, because of the risk of Reye’s syndrome.

In general, aspirin works well for dull, throbbing pain; it is ineffective for pain caused by most muscle cramps, bloating, gastric distension, and acute skin irritation.

When aspirin becomes old it will develop a strong vinegar odor, this is a sign that it is decomposing and needs to be thrown away.  I recommend that you smell a new bottle which will have a slight vinegar odor so that you can tell the difference.

Willow Tree

Aspirin is a plant extract made largely from willow bark, of which salicylic acid is the active ingredient.

The leaves and bark of the willow tree have been mentioned in ancient texts as a remedy for aches and fever, and the Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates wrote about its medicinal properties in the fifth century BC.  Native Americans relied on it as a staple of their medical treatments because it relieves headache, stomachache, and other body pain.

The University of Maryland Medical Center states the following


“The use of willow bark dates back thousands of years, to the time of Hippocrates (400 BC) when patients were advised to chew on the bark to reduce fever and inflammation. Willow bark has been used throughout the centuries in China and Europe, and continues to be used today for the treatment of pain (particularly low back pain and osteoarthritis), headache, and inflammatory conditions, such as bursitis and tendinitis. The bark of white willow contains salicin, which is a chemical similar to aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid). It is thought to be responsible for the pain relieving and anti-inflammatory effects of the herb. In fact, in the 1800s, salicin was used to develop aspirin. White willow appears to bring pain relief more slowly than aspirin, but its effects may last longer.”

“The willow family includes a number of different species of deciduous trees and shrubs native to Europe, Asia, and some parts of North America. Some of the more commonly known species are white willow/European willow (Salix alba), black willow/pussy willow (Salix nigra), crack willow (Salix fragilis), purple willow (Salix purpurea), and weeping willow (Salix babylonica).”
“Willow bark is used to ease pain and reduce inflammation. Researchers believe that the chemical salicin, found in willow bark, is responsible for these effects. However, studies have identified several other components of willow bark that have antioxidant, fever reducing, antiseptic, and immune boosting properties. Some studies show willow is as effective as aspirin for reducing pain and inflammation (but not fever), and at a much lower dose.”

“Because of the danger of developing Reye syndrome (a rare but serious illness associated with the use of aspirin in children), children under the age of 16 should not be given willow bark.”

“General dosing guidelines for willow bark are as follows:

  • Dried herb (used to make tea): boil 1 – 2 tsp of dried bark in 8 oz of water and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes; let steep for a ½ hour; drink 3 – 4 cups daily.
  • Powdered herb (available in capsules) or liquid: 60 – 240 mg of standardized salicin per day; talk to your doctor before taking a higher dose.
  • Tincture (1:5, 30% alcohol): 4 – 6 mL 3 times per day.”

“Interactions and Depletions:

Because willow bark contains salicylates, it might interact with a number of drugs and herbs. Talk to your doctor before taking willow bark if you take any other medications, herbs, or supplements.

Willow bark may interact with any of the following:

Anticoagulants (blood thinning medications) — Willow bark may strengthen the effects of drugs and herbs with blood thinning properties, and increase the risk of bleeding.

Beta blockers — including Atenolol (Tenormin), Metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol-XL), Propranolol (Inderal, Inderal LA). Willow bark may make these drugs less effective.

Diuretics (water pills) — Willow bark may make these drugs less effective.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs — including ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve).  Taking willow bark with these drugs may increase risk of stomach bleeding.

Methotrexate and phenytoin (Dilantin) — Willow bark may increase levels of these drugs in the body, resulting in toxic levels.”

End of quote from the University of Maryland

I am not a Doctor nor do I have any medical training, this article is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical conditions.  It is for information only.  If you have, a medical need go and see a medical professional.


2 thoughts on “How Aspirin and Willow Bark are Similar”

  1. Practical Parsimony

    Aspirin is not a plant extract. It is a chemical formula that is not from the willow tree. Aspirin in made in a lab. The effects of willow bark led chemists to reproduce the compounds.

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