Arthritis / Joint Pain Remedies 0

White Willow Bark For Chronic Pain: A Review

white willow bark

The reason why we are discussing white willow bark as an alternative remedy for arthritis and chronic joint pain is because it contains a chemical called salicin, which the body converts to something called salicylic acid.

Salicylic acid is a chemical “cousin” of aspirin.

Yep.

That little white pill with which we are all familiar.

And like aspirin, white willow bark seems to provide many of the same benefits; relief from muscle and joint aches, pain caused by inflammation including arthritis and other inflammatory joint diseases.

It also acts as a blood thinning agent.

Because of the way willow bark is converted to salicylic acid in the body, you can expect it to take longer to start “working” and providing pain relief.

However when it does, it remains effective longer than regular aspirin.

Why take white willow instead of aspirin?

The primary reason is because it does not seem to cause the stomach upset some people experience when taking aspirin.

What’s the Science Say about It’s Anti-Inflammatory Effects?

scienceA number of studies (see here) show that white willow bark displays moderate “analgesic effect in osteoarthritis.”

However, not all studies are in agreement.

For example, this one showed no such effect.

To muddy the waters further, another study showed that willow bark seems to be helpful in the treatment of low back pain.

Dosage: How Much White Willow Should I Take?

The most positive white willow studies used products standardized for 240 mg salicin/day.

If you use white willow as an alternative remedy for arthritis and joint pain, make sure you use a supplement that delivers a 240 mg dose at minimum.

Use the standardization data on the label to determine if this is the case.

For example, in the picture to the left, you can see that a 2-capsule serving of this product contains 800 mg of white whillow bark standardized to 15% salicin.

Here’s how the math works…

800 X 15% = 120

So a two capsule serving of this product delivers 120 mg of salicin.

Conclusion?

You need to take two 2-capsule servings daily to obtain the maximum benefits highlighted in the positive studies.

If the product you’re looking at does not include any standardization information, don’t buy it.

There’s just no way to be sure if you’ll receive any value from it. In addition, the lack of full transparency by the manufacturer is troubling… if this product is what it’s supposed to be, why not just let us know?

Personal Experience with White Willow Bark

As fate would have it, I was writing this article at the same time I was due to place my regular supplement order.

So I figured what the heck?

So I ordered a properly standardized product from the NOW brand from iHerb.com (shown here on my kitchen counter).

Within a few days it arrived at my front door, and I was ready to give it a shot.

And I knew exactly what I was going to use it for, too!

Almost everything I do workwise involves sitting in front of the computer. So it’s pretty common that my neck – right at the base of the skull – is killing me after a long day.

My normal solution for this is two 400 mg ibuprofen (Advil).

I figured I’d try this instead.

The first time I tried white willow (I two capsules delivering 120 mg of salicin) it worked incredibly well.

I’d rate the relief it provided right up there with my usual 800 mg of ibuprofen.

8 out of 10, I’d say.

The next time I took it, however, it didn’t seem to work nearly as well.

5 out of 10.

At best.

The next time I tried it, I doubled the dose – 4 caps delivering 240 mg salicin.

This seemed to boost the relief factor up again.

Since then I have tried white willow for this various aches and pains, and while it definitely works, the amount of relief it delivers is inconsistent, and from my perspective, seems to work better for some things than for others.

It didn’t seem to do much for the arthritis pain and inflammation in my thumb, for instance.

Yes, it’s nice to have a natural alternative to “everyday” drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen, I  found the inconsistency in relief a little annoying.

And while I did like the supplement for the most part, I’m not 100% sure I’ll buy it again.

knee pain

Image Courtesy Esther Max (Flickr)

White Willow Safety and Side Effects

When used orally and appropriately in adults, white willow appears safe – at least for short term use (no long term studies have been conducted, as far as I can see).

One study abstract I reviewed stated…

“Adverse effects appear to be minimal as compared to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs including aspirin. The primary cause for concern may relate to allergic reactions in salicylate-sensitive individuals.”

If you’re “salicylate-sensitive” therefore, white willow is not something you want to take… otherwise, it seems to be pretty safe.

No studies have been performed on white willow`s safety with children, so caution is advised here, as well as with pregnant or lactating women.

Drug Interactions

Like aspirin, white willow should not be combined with blood thinners and anti-coagulent drugs.

It should also not be used along with any drugs or conditions that interact with aspirin.

Customer Reviews, Feedback and Testimonials

customer reviewsThe feedback I reviewed on white willow suggests the majority of people who use this supplement find it helpful.

I didn’t see many comments in regards to negative side effects, or even inconsistency with its effects, like I noticed.

And…

For those people who have experienced stomach issues with aspirin, white willow provides a welcome alternative remedy.

Recommendation: Should You Take White Willow?

On the plus side, white willow…

  • Is cheap as heck.
  • Is backed by some clinical science.
  • Appears to be safe for most people.
  • Has hordes of satisfied users.

On the negative side, one clinical study showed it didn’t do much, and my own experience suggested that while it definitely “works”, the relief it offered seemed to be inconsistent.

As a result, I’m going to say this… if you’ve got $5.00 (or so) burning a hole in your pocket and you want to try this stuff, by all means go ahead.

You’ve got very little to lose.

I’d recommend the Now Brand White Willow pictured above.

Remember, you’ll need to take 4 capsules daily to obtain the full benefit from this alternative joint remedy.

Your Thoughts?

whisperingAlright.

We’ve come to the part of the article where I ask you for your opinion.

Yes, I’m asking you to share your experiences with taking this supplement.

Have you used White Willow for arthritis and joint pain?

Perhaps for stiffness and soreness?

Did it work for you? A lot? A little?

Love to hear what you think.

Let us know. Just scroll down and leave a comment below.

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