2,400 years ago, Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, found many uses for a powder made from the bark of a tree. It was his remedy of choice for everything from headaches to fever to gout to the pain of childbirth.
It wasn’t until the 1800s that scientists identified the active ingredient in the powder. It was a compound called salicin. And they used it to develop aspirin, the wonder drug of the 19th century.
Now the tree bark offers hope for people suffering from lower back pain.
Earlier this week, NHD introduced you to Dr. Sigrun Chrubasik. She’s a researcher at the University of Freiburg in Germany. She’s in the Department of Forensic Medicine. And she is Research Coordinator of the Herbal Drugs Working Group.
Dr. Chrubasik is an expert on natural remedies for back pain. We told you about one of those remedies – a natural anti-inflammatory from the root of an African plant. Today, let’s look at what she discovered about the tree bark. Her findings appeared in the American Journal of Medicine.
An All-Natural Alternative to Aspirin
Dr. Chrubasik and her team enrolled 210 patients in the trial. They all had chronic lower back pain. They were randomly selected to receive either a tree bark extract or a placebo. Some were given a low dose of the extract (120 mg). Others were given a high dose (240 mg). The trial lasted for four weeks.
By the end of the fourth week, 39% of those on the high dose were pain free. That’s compared to only 21% in the low-dose group and 6% of those on the placebo.
In another randomized trial, Dr. Chrubasik’s team compared the effects of the tree bark extract to rofecoxib. Robecoxib is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that was marketed under the name Vioxx. The six-month trial involved 228 patients with acute lower back pain. Half were given 240 mg of the extract. Half were given the NSAID.
The result: About 60% of those in both groups responded well to treatment. After just four weeks, about 20 patients in each group reported being pain free. So the effects were virtually the same. But the NSAID was 40% more expensive than the extract.
Eurasian Tree Bark Used for 3,500 Years to Relieve Pain
The extract comes from the bark of a tree native to Europe and Asia. It’s the white willow, also known as Salix alba. Its medicinal use was first recorded in the Ebers papyrus, an Egyptian document dating back about 3,500 years.
The ancient Egyptians and Assyrians used the leaves and bark of the tree to treat pain and inflammation. It’s also been used through the years to treat toothache, menstrual cramps, sore throat, and influenza. And though we don’t hear much about it in the U.S., it continues to be an all-natural solution worldwide.
What makes it so effective? The salicin in white willow bark is a precursor to salicylic acid in the body. That reduces the production of prostaglandins, which are released when cells are injured. The prostaglandins induce inflammation and, thus, pain.
Like aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid), willow bark can cause stomach discomfort. But, according to the Natural Standard, an authority on integrative medicine, that is unlikely to be a problem if you stick to a dose of 120 mg – 240 mg. It is safe to take the willow bark at that dose for as long as eight weeks. Still, you should use it under the supervision of a health care professional.
As Dr. Chrubasik has proven, willow bark extract could be your solution for back pain. It’s all-natural, inexpensive, and an effective alternative to prescription drugs.
To your best health,
Managing Editor, NHD “Health Watch”