Willow Bark / Salix Species: Overview

Modified on 2009/10/14 21:44 by admin
Willow bark has long been used for its analgesic (pain killing), antirheumatic, and antipyretic (fever-reducing) properties. Willow bark is widely promoted as an "aspirin-free" analgesic, including in dietary supplement products for children. Because it shares the same chemical properties and the same adverse effects as aspirin, this claim is highly misleading. The "aspirin-free" claim is particularly dangerous on products marketed, without warning labels, for use by children and other aspirin-sensitive individuals.

The pharmacologically active component in willow bark is "salicin," a compound that is converted to salicylic acid by the body after ingestion. Both willow bark and aspirin are salicylates, a class of compounds that work by virtue of their salicylic acid content. Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) is also converted to salicylic acid after ingestion.

All salicylates share substantially the same side effects. The major adverse effects include irritation of the gastric mucosa (a particular hazard to individuals with ulcer disease), adverse effects when used during pregnancy (including stillbirth, bleeding, prolonged gestation and labor, and low-birth-weight infants), stroke, and adverse effects in children with fever and dehydration. Children with influenza or chickenpox should avoid salicylates because their use, even in small doses, is associated with development of Reye syndrome, which is characterized by severe, sometimes fatal, liver injury. Salicylate intoxication (headache, dizziness, ringing in ears, difficulty hearing, dimness of vision, confusion, lassitude, drowsiness, sweating, hyperventilation, nausea, vomiting, and central nervous system disturbances in severe cases) may occur as the result of over-medication, or kidney or liver insufficiency. Hypersensitivity, manifested by itching, broncho-spasm and localized swelling (which may be life-threatening), can occur with very small doses of salicylates, and may occur even in those without a prior history of sensitivity to salicylates. Approximately 5 percent of the population is hypersensitive to salicylates.

See your doctor if you have experienced serious health problems after taking willow bark. In addition, it may be important to contact an attorney who can help you protect your legal rights. Please keep in mind that there may be time limits within which you must commence suit.

See Also

  1. Other Supplements: Overview
  2. Balance Problems: Overview
  3. Blindness
  4. Delirium: Overview
  5. Headaches
  6. Hearing Loss
  7. Liver Problems
  8. Nausea: Overview
  9. Sleep Disorders: Overview
  10. Stroke
  11. Sweating: Overview
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