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Herb of the week: Willow.

Botanical name: 

Photo: Salix 20. A short-short profile:

Latin: Salix-species.
Family: willow family, Salicaceae.
Parts used: Catkins, bark, leaf.
Taste: Bitter, astringent.
4 humors: Dry, cold.


  • anti-inflammatory
  • very good for various aches and pains
  • the catkins calm down hormonal excesses


  • It's a salicylate plant, which means that it'll suppress the immune system just like other NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) do. The bark really is quite like aspirin.
  • Internally, I much prefer meadowsweet as a pain killer: that's the salicylates with extra mucilage. That, too, comes with the usual "don't take it if you have a full blown flu!" warning of all NSAIDS.
  • For external use, willow is a tad milder than balm of gilead buds (= sticky poplar buds).

Other uses:

  • Willow whistles.
  • Willow rooting hormone.
  • Willow baskets.
  • Willow fences ...
  • (I'm sure I've forgotten oodles of willowy things here, but ... your turn!)


  • Use the leaf, if you don't have the bark on hand and want a nice soothing hot bath after a day of really using your muscles. The "Ouch, do I have muscles there too?" pains that usually ensue the next day -- won't.
  • Use the bark and/or leaf in your oils and salves for various aches, if you don't have an abundant supply of meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) or poplar buds (Populus balsamifera and similar poplar species)
  • Pick the catkins in early spring and tincture them fresh. Use them to curb excessive sex hormones: in puberty, and for oversexed lads and ladies (if they come asking for help for that problem). King's says to use just Salix nigra, but that doesn't grow here, and I don't have any glimmer of a clue of an idea how to differentiate various willow species in their spring catkin stage anyway ... so I've picked all and any I've found.

Comments on Facebook:

  • From Astrid A.:
    do not pick too much cause its the bees first food resource.
    30 May at 22:03
  • From Henriette's herbal:
    There is SO MUCH of it. It's impossible to pick too much ... and quite a lot of it is way too high up to pick.
    30 May at 22:04

Comments on the herblist:

None, unfortunately.

Willow is in my upcoming book "Practical Herbs 2". Go get the current volume, "Practical Herbs", if you haven't yet!

Please add your own experiences etc. in the comments.