|Photo by Daisy Pliego.|
Willow leaves and bark contain salicin, which is metabolized into salicylic acid in the body and is the chemical aspirin was derived from. For thousands of years, willow has been used by cultures around the world in the same ways that people use aspirin today. Hippocrates advised patients to chew the bark to reduce fever and inflammation. The Chumash people, and other native Californians, also used willow for pain, aches and fevers - by making poultices, teas, or by eating the leaves.
Willow branches were also used by native Californians for the construction of their domed houses, bows, and acorn granaries. I chew willow bark occasionally on my trail runs so that I, like the willow branch, may remain strong and flexible - and hopefully pain free!
Willow in it’s natural form is a milder pain treatment that aspirin, although it can still upset the stomach if used in excess. The bark - which contains the highest concentration of salicin - may be bitter, but the taste is well worth the benefit of knowing how to use this wonderful, medicinal plant.
|Acorn granary made from willow branches.|