The bark of the willow tree has been used for centuries for pain relief and fever reduction. The principal active ingredient in willow bark is salicin, a compound from which aspirin is derived. However, unlike aspirin (and many other pain-relieving medications), natural salicin is not associated with any adverse effects such as gastrointestinal discomfort or bleeding.
Many low back pain (LBP) sufferers take aspirin and other pain-relieving medications to combat their pain. Herbal remedies have been suggested as effective alternatives because of their relatively low incidence of side effects. In a study designed to evaluate the effectiveness of willow bark extract in managing LBP, 210 patients received low-dose (120 milligrams of salicin) or high-dose (240 mg) extract or placebo for four weeks. A pain medication (“tramadol”) also was provided for all patients if necessary during the study period.
Of 191 patients completing the study, 39% of the high-dose group and 21% of the low-dose group reported being “pain-free” after four weeks, defined as having no pain for at least five days without the use of tramadol. Only 6% of the control group achieved such success, leading the authors to conclude that willow bark extract “may be a safe way for patients to diminish LBP compared to other drugs, especially when considering the low incidence of reactions.”
Talk to your doctor about the dangers of over-the-counter and prescription medications, and find out about the many nonpharmaceutical alternatives currently available for treating back pain and a variety of other conditions.
Chrubasik S, Eisenberg E, Balan E, et al. Treatment of low back pain exacerbations with willow bark extract: a randomized double-blind study. American Journal of Medicine 2000: Vol. 109, pp9-14.