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Willow bark and green tea to replace aspirin/caffeine pills.  RSS feed

 
Matthew McCoul
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Location: Southeast Michigan
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I get some pretty bad tension headaches. A better description involves long chains of cuss words.

I also don't like pills much. They're a last resort for when they're warranted.

I've got some corkscrew willow that I'm told is one of several kinds of willow I can make tea out of to get the salacin. I'm thinking about mixing that with green tea for the caffeine. Does anyone know if that combination is safe? I expect it is, but best to ask.
Also, do i use the green smooth bark of younger growth or the greyish woody bark of older growth? The partway between kind?

 
Michi Harper
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Location: Denton, TX
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Matthew McCoul wrote:I get some pretty bad tension headaches. A better description involves long chains of cuss words.

I also don't like pills much. They're a last resort for when they're warranted.

I've got some corkscrew willow that I'm told is one of several kinds of willow I can make tea out of to get the salacin. I'm thinking about mixing that with green tea for the caffeine. Does anyone know if that combination is safe? I expect it is, but best to ask.
Also, do i use the green smooth bark of younger growth or the greyish woody bark of older growth? The partway between kind?



Not sure about that species. White willow is most common used medicinally. The bark part You want to harvest will be the INNER bark layer. This combo is in a lot of OTC migraine meds, so it's relatively safe. Willow bark tea tears up some ppl's stomachs though, just like asprin.
 
Hal Hurst
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Location: Willamette valley, Oregon.
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Little do I know about making willow bark tea, but I do know that aspirin is one of the easiest analgesics to OD on. Since the concentration of drug in a particular brew would no doubt vary, I suggest you get a dose of aspirin (2 pills), dissolve it in a cup of water, and taste it. If you remember the sourness/ bitterness level in that, you can try to duplicate that strength with your willow bark tea, and get an approximation of the dose you will need. Note there are bad effects from too much usage, like intestinal bleeding, and you should not take a dose that is too high, nor should you take a maximum dose day after day, as the damage will build over time. I'm one of those people who has been banned from taking all drugs of that sort (NSAIDs) because of sensitivity and a life-threatening episode which resulted from trying to treat a sore back.

Bottom line for me is that medicine from herb teas can be just as dangerous as from pills, so caution and common sense is needed. For what it's worth.
 
Robin Katz
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I'd be very careful about harvesting and using willow bark until you've researched it more. The potency of the bark may vary with time of year it's harvested, how it dried and stored, etc. Not that I'm trying to discourage you by any means, but knowing more about the subject is always a good idea.

If you're getting tension headaches maybe something to try would be topical magnesium chloride on your neck/shoulders to see if you're headache is due to muscle cramping from magnesium deficiency. I use concentrated mag chloride daily on my skin (do NOT ingest this unless you want an epic case of the runs) since I seem to be chronically deficient and get muscle cramps if I don't use it regularly. I can give more details if you're interested.
 
Kim Arnold
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I know willow bark has the same chemicals as aspirin, so it should substitute nicely. I recommend copious research on prep methods, though. There's been good advice above.

My thing is headaches! I get them when I have a pinch in my neck. I get pinches in my neck when I'm under stress because I tend to carry tension in my neck and shoulders. Fairly typical from what I can tell. What I have found that really helps me is a combination of essential oils - specifically birch, wintergreen, and peppermint - well-diluted and applied to.any tense part - neck, shoulder, base of the skull. I like that combo for achy muscles, too. I'm not a doctor or anything, just sharing my experience. Good luck to you!

Also, green tea doesn't have all that much caffeine, does it? Pretty low compared to coffee, anyway. I'm not sure if it would help or not. BUT, the placebo effect is real. If you believe it will be fine.
 
Sher Miller Lehman
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Location: Hawaii
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All real tea (Camilla sinensis) has caffeine but amounts vary wildly. Green tea has lower amounts, mainly because it is brewed at lower temperatures for shorter times than black tea-because it tends to get so bitter. Caffeine is water soluble. A strongly brewed cup of black tea is probably a better choice for headaches. However I find better relief from a half cup of coffee. Tea also contains theanine which is a relaxant and mitigates the action of caffeine. (This is why It's so popular with monks. The theanine relaxes and helps with meditation while the tea has just enough caffeine to prevent the monk from sleeping during meditation. )

An aside on health benefits of real tea: studies are showing that the health benefits of green tea come from antioxidants while as the tea oxidizes/ferments thru oolong to black tea the change in polyphenols benefit the cardiovascular system more and the antioxidant levels drop.
 
Juanita Colucci
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Location: Mohave Desert, AZ
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We use white willow bark tincture for mild to moderate pain relief. White Willow Bark tea tastes nasty to me. I would rather take a dropper of tincture instead of a whole cup tea that I don't like. It is also much easier when I am in pain to simply open the tincture bottle instead of heating water and boiling bark.

We often take it in combination with crampbark tincture (Viburnum Opulus) when muscle tension is also a factor.

It works for us.
 
BeeDee marshall
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Meadowsweet is what I use. It is actually what aspirin was derived from. " In 1897, Felix Hoffmann created a synthetically altered version of salicin, derived from the species, which caused less digestive upset than pure salicylic acid. The new drug, formally acetylsalicylic acid, was named aspirin by Hoffman's employer Bayer AG after the old botanical name for meadowsweet, Spiraea ulmaria. This gave rise to the class of drugs known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)." I make a tincture from it and drink it as tea. It is used for stomach upset as well. Easy to grow. Use the flowers and leaves. For migraine headaches, I recommend feverfew. The flowers and leaves. They are bitter, but eating one or two every day will get rid of migraines. It cured my husband's migraines and he still eats a flower or leaf most every day. Also easy to grow.
 
Jamie Chevalier
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I see that while I was writing this, the above post came in. I respectfully acknowledge hers and am leaving mine as I wrote it:
A much better alternative to willow is meadowsweet, Filipendula ulmaria. It used to be classified as a Spirea species and that is where the name aspirin came from. aspirin was conceived of as a chemical substitute for spirea. The big and wonderful difference is that while aspirin is an acid that tears up your stomach, the active principles in meadowsweet are soothing to the stomach, and it helps de-acidify the system. Perfect.

There is a native Filipendula, queen of the Prairie, Filipendula rubra. It is a larger--indeed, very large--plant, with flower stalks of great loveliness to 6 or 8 feet in good soil. It may not be quite as strong as ulmaria, but there is more of it, it loves any american climate with adequate summer water, and it spreads to make a nice patch. It can be bought from Prairie Moon nursery, among others. I got it years ago from white flower farm.

Now, as to the caffeine part. It is effective against certain kinds of headaches, but usually those of the migraine type, cluster headaches, etc. Tension headaches are a different animal. Unless you are having a withdrawal headache because you are dependent on caffeine, I'd not worry about trying to work it in.

I would suggest crampbark, Viburnum opulus, for the muscular cramping that often is in the neck and shoulders, resulting from the pain and causing more in a sort of vicious circle. Then I would add in some kind of sedative, like california poppy. Actually, my top choices dont seem to be readily available on the market. they are:
Indian Warrior, Pedicularis densiflora. It has wonderful ability to relax skeletal muscles. Dried herb available from Bouncing Bear botanicals
Wood Betony,stachys officialis, which is very active against pain, especially headache pain.

Looking this up makes me realize that I should be making them available. I am in the process of getting a little store going, Eel River Herbs, and will get up a website as soon as I can. It is distressing that such effective botanicals are not readily available. The big companies are pushing ever more exotic herbs from China and South American, when the source of our health is all around us, as it has ever been.
 
Michi Harper
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Location: Denton, TX
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Here is some info about the chemistry of salicylic acid http://www.pharmacopeia.cn/v29240/usp29nf24s0_m74300.html

There must be a simple chemistry test for this compound to determine how strong your infusion or tincture comes out.

Any chemists around?

Asprin is acetylsalicylic acid, I think.

I am another one of those ppl who can no longer take NSAIDS. Years of prescription strength ibuprofen and naproxyn have left my gut unable to tolerate them anymore. I take turmeric for inflammation and sometimes Pain-Eze (meadowsweet and Ca. poppy from Rainbow Light). Pain-Eze works about as well for me as a regular strength ibuprofen used to. It's especially good for muscle pain.

If you get migraines, and can tell when they're coming on, Feverfew is most excellent for stopping them in their tracks, but you have to catch it in time.

Michi in Denton, TX
 
Raven Sutherland
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Location: MAINE
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use ginseng instead of caffeine
consider having a Jacuzzi instead
if there's no significant other
to give you a massage when needed
 
Dave Bennett
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Matthew McCoul wrote:I get some pretty bad tension headaches. A better description involves long chains of cuss words.

I also don't like pills much. They're a last resort for when they're warranted.

I've got some corkscrew willow that I'm told is one of several kinds of willow I can make tea out of to get the salacin. I'm thinking about mixing that with green tea for the caffeine. Does anyone know if that combination is safe? I expect it is, but best to ask.
Also, do i use the green smooth bark of younger growth or the greyish woody bark of older growth? The partway between kind?

I would suggest reading "Grain Brain" by David Perlmutter M.D. Perhaps your headache problems can be corrected by importaby alterations to your diet. If not it is important to understand that White Willow Bark is much less destructive to the digestive mucosa than is aspirin when used as a tea. I personally prepare White Willow Bark capsules to use when needed. I do use camellia sinensis senensis as a caffeine source. If care is used when nurturing camellia it can be grown as far north as zone 4 but must be protected from deep freezing. The frontline here on the south side of the Mohawk Valley in upstate NY is around 4 feet and I have 4 plants heading for their 3rd year. I did start out with 10 plants losing 6 to a long very cold winter. Anyway, you might have success altering your diet and not need White Willow Bark at all.
 
Cris Fellows
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Yes to what BeeDee and Jamie said. In answer to question about overdosing on salicylic acid, " A safe and effective dose of Black Willow could be 8 fluid ounces of tincture a week for some people, since unlike drug anti-inflammatories, these herbs are safe in large doses as they are in the dilute and balanced form designed by nature." from The Complete Herbs Sourcebook by David Hoffman. Recommended doses however are 1-2 tsp of inner willow bark in My cup water, boil and simmer for 10 minutes 3x/day, or 2-4 ml of tincture. Also effective are compresses or foot soaks.
 
Rick English
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I used to get tension headaches almost every day. I used to take over the counter pain meds all the time to help deal with them. It turns out that was only trying to treat the symptoms and not the cause of the issue. For me, the issue was the stress of living in a place I was not happy, and a job I did not like.

Switching jobs and moving helped immensely. Until the new job stress level started to escalate, and then another job switch reduced the stress level to the point I can't tell you the last time I had a true tension headache.

Another things that helps me is to stretch my arms and shoulders in my morning shower each day. Nothing elaborate. Maybe two or three different stretches for a few seconds each. I notice a difference when I forget to stretch.

Reducing stress and stretching might help prevent the headaches enough that you don't need to to take anything to treat the symptoms
 
Rick Valley
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Don't know so much about headaches, but the worst pain in my life has been rotator cuff inflammation, which set in during the years I had a jaw infection from a bad root canal (I heard the endodontist say "Ooops!" when he left off chatting to his nurse and checked the screen to see how the drill was doing) I was under lots of stress to get any bamboo stock out of my nursery plot and set my life record for number of clumps dug in a single day: over 200, enough to fill 2 2-ton trucks. Nurse Practioner Mary at the rural clinic is a softball dyke, and knows her rotator cuff stuff. She advised me the best anti-inflammatory would be aspirin if it agreed with me. I told her I was doing better on 2 aspirin w/caffeine, even sleeping some finally, her reply was I could do up to 3 aspirin at 6' & 180lbs. So I was back to disc golf 2 months later, but by the 9th. tee my shoulder was screaming at me. 25ft. in front of me, tight on the side, is a fat Salix scoulerii, (fire willow, a non-riparian willow, found Baja to Anchorage AK, this was in E. Lane Co. Oregon, W. Cascade Foothills) So remembering the medicinal properties of Salix, I sallied forth and with, cut a young green shoot (@2 ft./1/2 M. long) and stripped the bark like a famished moose. The flavor was astringent, sour, but with some sugars and vitamins too, and juicy. (late springtime) The pain in my shoulder dropped precipitously, and I made a fine, albeit cautious, drive, and finished the 18 in fine shape. After reading Michael Moore on the subject of herbs, I had already internalized that there will be variations between individuals of a species in medicinal properties and flavor to be conscious of. I tried many other Salix species and individuals soon after, as my rotator cuff problems lessened. Among the nastiest tasting and certainly with the least medicinal benefit was Salix alba 'Bamboo Bill Hennesey's Italian Basket Willow" clone. Nice basket willow but sucked for inflammation pain. Salix Scouleri generally rated a "B" to "C" rating, other willows, incl. Salix lasiandra "Nehalem" (which does basketry and restoration plantings for us, a W. Oregon selection) I'd rate "C" to "D". Salix alba gets "F". Never had any problem with adding caffeine to the mix, and I think local W. China and Crimean selections rock. I vote for greens and oolongs, probably not the darkest. Hierba Mate, Guayusa, or our SE N. Am. native Ilexes, are OK. Wouldn't think twice about an Ethiopian seedling small-bean light roast coffee too if I felt like celebrating with an import. When I am really hurting- broken rib, sutures, rotator cuff inflammation- after too little sleep, the combination of aspirin and caffeine relaxes me and I can sleep. I would never add alchohol to that mix, is my feeling, but as a hepatitis veteran, I do know about altered states of the liver, and I haven't felt any "quivers". So some years later I was talking with a friend who has worked for Bio--- an international herb concentrate business of the first rank" as their American rep, and after he offered me a few pills of a Salix extract, I asked him about the Salix species involved. He said S. purpurata and another he couldn't remember. When I mentioned S. scouleri, his ears perked up. Listen to your body, start slow & low, pay attention. Check the literature, and compare notes with friends with knowledge.
The sweet'n'sour astringent taste is the medicine, IMHO, and fresh herb is the best, way finer than acetylsalicylic acid, which is, IMHO, too acidic, messes my tummy up.
 
Susan Lafferty
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Tumeric is an excellent anti-inflammatory. It can be added to a glass of warm milk. Heating the milk activates tryptophan which can also help you relax. Tryptophan is also in dark meat on turkey. Peppermint essential oil can be applied to nerves in neck and shoulders or temple area to deaden the pain.

PS Magnesium malate or magnesium citrate powder will not give you the runs. I use the ionic magnesium ditrate powder by Calm or the Sisu mag. caps in 250 mg. My doctor recommended a 1000mg a day as most everyone is mag. deficient. Other forms of magnesium will give you the runs.Take 250mg at four different intervals during the day not all at once.
 
Larry Koelsch
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Matthew
I would say to write down what you eat daily. This will pinpoint what foods that cause inflammation.(bread, anything that has large amounts of sugar, cookies cakes pies) Then take those out of your diet. This may sound a simple, but it is a big deal.
I have had these tension headaches, and have taken all processed foods from my diet. I am always reminded when I eat the wrong things, such as when I attend a picnic, or a gathering, the headaches return with a vengeance. I try to think "is this few minutes of pleasure worth hours, and sometime days of pain? Also a good hot shower directing the hot water on your neck, and shoulder always helped me. Also a good massage in your neck, and shoulder area is worth the price. This may not answer your original question, but maybe getting to the root of the problem is worth your consideration. I feel your pain. I truly hope this is of help to you
 
Steven Feil
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Caution is good but willow is actually very safe. You can use it green or dried. It does take a bit more to reach effectiveness, especially if you are using whole plant material instead of the tedious inner bark scraping. My primary concern is herbicide and pesticide spraying. While it is true that chemical concentrations vary, this is true with ALL home remedies. There is only so much you can do to control that without a lab. But who wants to do that. For each batch you will need to start at a low dose and work up to what works for YOU.

Feverfew is a good Migraine medicine. It will need to be used as a tonic rather than as an acute symptom medication though.

For tension headaches there are other herbs that will work better than willow: lobelia, valerian, chamomile, cramp bark and many others that work on the nervous system.

Also for your information there are many willow type plants that can be substituted: aspen, poplar, birch are most of them. Others have been mentioned above.
 
Lisa Allen
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Matt - you don't mention what CAUSES your headaches. Was it a head injury? Is it that your system is blocked or backed up (yes, THAT can cause headaches)? Sometimes herbs that clear your colon and the liver/gall bladder system help immensely. Look into herbs that do those functions instead of just making the pain signal go away. Then, you can repeat the cycle of gentle herbs every springtime (if liver) and see if you have less headaches. I have a sensitive system, so I take gentle herbs for like 3 months when I am doing this. Usually my blend has Cascara Sagrada, Turmeric, Burdock, Yellow Dock, Dandelion Root and Fennel (or Cardamon) and if you have an excess-type constitution, see if Oregon Grape Root is a good addition too. Grinding up powder, mixing in raw unprocessed local honey (or grass-fed butter if you are diabetic) and take 1/2 teaspoon or more (or less) 2 or 3 times a day for 6 days a week for awhile. Drink lots of water, make sure your diet eliminates things you don't need but includes things you DO need - and see what happens, hopefully it is lessened somewhat if not been eliminated Then - if you still need nervine herbs for pain, Willow is only ONE to look at. Others are Wild Lettuce, Lemon Balm, Meadowsweet and as mentioned Cramp Bark, Valerian and even Mullein can have pain fighting properties. To send herb energy to the head, maybe adding some rosemary, gingko or (love!) gotu kola and even a small amount of lobelia (small amount will not make you want to throw up!) Please talk to a qualified herbalist if you can (yes, that is my disclaimer!) as your situation could be very individual. Some people use cayenne pepper for their headaches because that is what works for them, you know?
 
Alan Bowen
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This has been an interesting read.
I have been taking a pain reliever that we buy at our health food co-op.
It is called IbuActin.
It has Hops, Bromelain, White Willow, Papain, Ginger and Tumeric in it.
Next time there I will look at the other pain relievers they have.
 
Matthew McCoul
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Location: Southeast Michigan
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Thanks everbody, there's a wealth of information here. I'd never heard of meadowsweet, or several of the other suggestions.

Looks like I have a lot of reading to do.

And you're probably right, stress has a lot to do with it. Regrettably, I don't see that changing in the very short term
Eventually though part of the stress comes from doing this now that will lead to those changes in the long run
 
christie pont
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Isn't california poppy an opium poppy? And as such if you scar it for the goo you go to lock up?
 
r ranson
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christie pont wrote:Isn't california poppy an opium poppy? And as such if you scar it for the goo you go to lock up?


Different type of poppy.  I think it's a different family to the poppies that give goo.

I'm not comfortable telling you how to do it as it's illegal in much of the world.
Here's an article about poppies that explains some of the legal quagmire around this beautiful flower and how to make a soothing tea for pain relief
 
christie pont
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R Ranson wrote:
christie pont wrote:Isn't california poppy an opium poppy? And as such if you scar it for the goo you go to lock up?


Different type of poppy.  I think it's a different family to the poppies that give goo.

I'm not comfortable telling you how to do it as it's illegal in much of the world.
Here's an article about poppies that explains some of the legal quagmire around this beautiful flower and how to make a soothing tea for pain relief


Not much to it actually, but I grew them once a few years back as a back plant (that is they were behind another plant, and grew taller), I needed to plant a lot to look good and so I just chopped them down and moved on. I grew veggies not "pretties", although a carpet of thyme in bloom is rather stunning. I am more interested in Tea as a plant, but I think it is worse even then fig trees, but thanks fer responding!!
 
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