Pain in the Bark Side!

MAN FLU!! There greatest atrocity to affect mankind anywhere!! (Or at least in my opinion). After recently contracting the deadly illness myself, as is the custom in our western world, I ran straight off to the nearest chemist to dose myself up with Lemsip and ibuprofen. A ritual that takes place every time one of our brother in arms is afflicted, which usually results in still feeling dreadful and lots of feeling sorry for one’s self for a few days after. But it needn’t be so!!!.

This time I made the courageous decision to forego the expensive and largely ineffective potions and pills from the chemist and try out some of the herbal alternatives that we have in abundant in the British Isles.

In this blog we will be discussing the very effective and largely underestimated analgesic (pain killing) properties of Willow.WILLOW TREE

Willow was first noted for its pain killing properties by Hippocrates in the Fifth century B.C.  Who used powdered willow bark to control pains and aches, especially headaches and used it for all most every kind of pain relief. It wasn’t until the 19th century when scientists discovered a chemical called ‘Salicin’ and identified that it was this chemical in Willow held the analgesic properties. Interestingly Salicin was first discovered in another plant called Meadowsweet from where it was extracted in the late 19th century and  synthesised in to the first form of Aspirin – a drug which is still wildly used to this day. The name aspirin comes from the old Latin name for Meadowsweet, Spirea.

Now this is all very interesting but I can hear every man reading this screaming ‘but how do I get to the Salicin, Joe?’

The answer is very VERY simple.

To use willow to for small pain relief such as headaches and tooth aches etc.  Simply cut a small willow branch no bigger in diameter than you finger and remove the bark.


Next step is to take the bark and scrape away the outer green bark as this contains other chemicals called tannins which are both very bitter and not at all good for your stomach in high quantities.


Use you thumb to split the inner bark.


Then peel the inner bark off of the wood.


And that’s it! Pop the remaining inner back in to your mouth and chew! The effect is almost instant! I used this just last week for my sore throat and head ache (which I had tried and failed treating with shop bought drugs) and it really is astonishingly affective. My throat was the main aliment, after 3 days of coughing felt like little elves were sanding my throat but the bark numbed my whole throat which was a massive relief.  Once the effectiveness wears off simply spit out the bark.

WARNING! Willow bark is very bitter and it can be an acquired taste. Thank fully I like the taste but I know many who don’t. You have been warned.



There are other ways to use and store this as well. This quick on the trail use is great but it also possible to air dry the inner bark and store It in a cool dry place all year round ensuring you have a supply of effective , pain relieving  treatment for whenever disaster strikes not to mention free!


CAUTION! As with all herbal remedies extreme care should be taken when administering. No more than 10g of dried willow bark should be take per day and for extended use professional advice should be sought. Do not take willow bark if you are allergic to Aspirin or if your breast feeding or pregnant. If you are taking aspirin as a blood thinner willow bark cannot be supplemented as it does not contain this property. Always consult your GP if you are concerned about any symptoms. This blog is by no means an alternative for professional diagnosis and treatments.          

Joe Phibin

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