The philosophical perspective of the significance of the willow tree has been elaborated since the Assyrians (4000 BC) and Sumerians (3500 BC), who were aware of its medicinal merits.
[During the time of] the time of Hippocrates (400 BC) when people 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). In fact, in the 1800s, salicin was used to develop aspirin.2
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 show several other components of willow bark, including plant chemicals called polyphenols and flavonoids, 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. Scientists think that may be due to other compounds in the herb. More research is needed.
The Cree, Chippewa, Huron, Mohawk, and other [Native American] tribes used white willow bark in the same way as the modern day aspirin when treating fevers headaches, arthritis, and other painful inflammations. The Mesquakie used the willow to treat diarrhea and the leaves to stop hemorrhaging. This tribe was also recorded as being able to distinguish from a lowland variety of willow. The Menominees used the galls to make medicines for spasmodic colic, dysentery, and diarrhea. The Blackfeet made a tea from the crushed fresh root to treat internal hemorrhages, throat constrictions, swollen neck glands, bloodshot or irritated eyes, and for symptoms of “waist trouble”. The Cheyenne fashioned a strip of willow bark around a cut to stop bleeding. Many tribes, including the Chicanos in new mexico, chewed the twigs to clean the teeth to harden the gums in cases of pyorrhoea. For centuries, the aztecs had been using the royal-plume-water willow to treat fevers.