How to Use Willow Bark for Medicine + Dosage Amounts

how to use willow bark

Willow bark is one of the oldest known medicines and has been used for at least 6,000 years.  It was mentioned by the Sumerians of Mesopotamia, ancient Egyptians, Hippocrates, and Pliny the Elder.  Like many ancient medicines, modern scientific research backs up the benefits of willow bark.  Not only is willow bark as effective as aspirin, it has many other benefits which make it a good natural remedy for various ailments. (1, 2)

There’s a lot of confusion about how to use willow bark medicinally though, especially about which type of willow tree to use and dosage.  If you want to take willow bark, here’s what you need to know first.

Have a willow tree growing near you? Read: How to harvest willow bark for medicinal use

Recommended: Swanson Standardized White Willow Bark Extract

swanson white willow extract

Willow Tree Bark Benefits

The first clinical study on willow bark was done in 1763 and showed that it could be used to treat malaria.  (3)  Since then, there have been hundreds of clinical studies testing the benefits of willow bark.  According to these studies, the main benefits of willow bark are for treating:

  • Fever
  • Pain
  • Arthritis
  • Joint pain
  • Headache
  • Other inflammatory conditions

There is also evidence that willow bark can treat other conditions, such as cancer and gut dysbiosis. (4, 5, 6). Willow bark has also recently become very popular for treating acne and is found in many skin products.

There has been lots of research into willow bark’s benefits


Willow Bark and Salicin

The benefits of willow bark are usually linked to a chemical called salicin. The body converts salicin into salicylic acid, which has the same metabolic pathway as aspirin. (7)  While salicin definitely does provide benefits like pain relief, numerous studies have shown that salicin alone doesn’t account for all of willow bark’s benefits.

In addition to salicin, willow bark also has numerous other health-promoting compounds such as:

  • Flavonoids
  • Tannins
  • Proanthocyanidins

(9, 10, 11)


Willow Bark vs. Aspirin

Aspirin contains acetylsalicylic acid, a synthetic version of salicin. By contrast, willow bark contains salicin and numerous antioxidants and health-promoting compounds.  This is why willow bark is linked to a wide array of health benefits that you wouldn’t get from aspirin alone.

Willow bark also does not damage the gastrointestinal mucosa like aspirin and does not impact blood clotting. (11)


Side Effects of Willow Bark

Willow bark is considered very safe.  Side effects are unlikely.  When they do occur, they are usually mild and include upset stomach. People who are allergic to aspirin should not take willow bark though as it could cause an allergic reaction.

There have been no studies on willow bark side effects in children or pregnant and breastfeeding women.  Because of this, willow bark isn’t recommended for these groups. (12, 13, 14)


How to Take Willow Bark

willow bark picture

Willow bark medicines come as tea, extracts, powders and capsules.  While willow bark tea is most popular, the tea has a very unpleasant bitter taste.  It is much easier to take willow bark as an extract.  Powders can be mixed in smoothies to hide the taste but the taste is still bad.  For this reason, the powder is usually put in capsules but the downside is that they are more expensive.

Willow Bark Tea Instructions

  1. Boil one cup of water
  2. Remove water from heat
  3. Add 1-3 grams of dried willow bark to the water
  4. Let infuse for 10-30 minutes

*See below for info on how much tea to drink.


Willow Bark Dosage

The recommended dosage of willow bark is set to provide 120-240mg of salicin per day, divided into 2 or 3 doses. One gram of dried willow bark typically contains 40-60mg of salicin.  That puts a typical dosage of willow bark at anywhere from 2 to 6 grams per day.

Note that the amount of salicin in a willow bark product can vary drastically.  For example, purple willow bark usually has much more salicin than white willow bark.  Willow bark dosage also changes based on how to you take the supplement.


Tea Dosage:

For pain relief, a typical dosage of willow bark tea is 3 to 5 cups per day, with each cup being made with 1-3 grams of willow bark.  Alternatively, some recommend making the tea with 6-12 grams of willow bark and taking it in two divided doses.   As an alternative to low-dose aspirin, you would only need to take 1 tablespoon of tea four times per day before meals.



Willow bark extracts come as alcohol or glycerin extracts.  The recommended dosage for these extracts can vary drastically.  However, it is usually listed as 1 to 6ml of extract taken three times daily.


Capsule Dosage:

Many willow bark capsules are standardized to contain 60mg of salicin.  The dosage is usually two capsules taken two times per day to give a total of 240mg of salicin.  However, some sources recommend taking two to three 379mg willow bark capsules every 3-6 hours.

(15, 16, 17 ,18, 19, 20)


Where to Buy Willow Bark?

Willow bark is a popular supplement and is fairly easy to find.  Make sure you choose a brand which lists which species of willow was used to make the medicine.  If you are using willow bark as an alternative to aspirin, then you’ll also want to choose a product which is standardized so you know exactly how much salicin you are getting.


Best Willow Bark Tea and Extracts

1. Swanson Standardized White Willow Bark Extract

swanson white willow extract

  • Capsules containing willow bark extract
  • White willow (salix alba)
  • Standardized to 25% salicin
  • 500mg willow bark per capsule/125mg salicin
  • 60 capsules per bottle
  • Vegetarian friendly
  • Buy here


2. Frontier Dried Willow Bark

  • Dried willow bark
  • Contains Salix alba, S. Fragilis, S. daphnoides, and S. purpurea.
  • Certified organic
  • Buy here

3. Secrets of the Tribe Willow Bark Extract

  • Glycerin liquid extract
  • White willow (salix alba)
  • 1:3 menstruum ratio
  • 333mg herb equivalent per 1ml
  • Certified organic
  • Buy here

4. Nature’s Answer Willow Bark Extract

  • Glycerin liquid extract
  • White willow (salix alba)
  • 1000mg herb equivalent per 1ml
  • Buy here

5. Bulk White Willow Bark Powder

  • Dried powder
  • White willow (salix alba)
  • Standardized to 15% salicin
  • 1lb and 11lb sizes
  • Buy here

6. Nature’s Way Standardized Willow Bark Extract

  • Capsules containing willow bark and extract
  • White willow (salix alba)
  • Standardized to 15% salicin
  • 400mg of willow bark per capsule/30mg of salicin
  • 60 capsules per bottle
  • Vegetarian friendly
  • Buy here


Image credits:
willow bark” (CC BY-NC 2.0) by kelpenhagen,
160725 424 Chi Bot Gdn Sensory Gdn – Sal” (CC BY 2.0) by cultivar413

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