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Willow bark comes from the willow tree of the Salix species. The bark contains salicin, a compound similar to aspirin. Salicin is metabolized in the body to create salicylic acid, a precursor to aspirin.
The herbal extract has long been used in native and folk medicine to relieve pain, inflammation, and fever. In the late 1800s, chemists discovered a way to make a synthetic version of salicylic acid, called acetylsalicylic acid, which we today know as aspirin.
Willow bark's analgesic (pain-relieving) and antipyretic (fever-reducing) properties have been touted since as far back as 4th-century Greece when users would chew on the bark for rapid pain relief.1
The growing popularity of natural medicines has fueled a renewed interest in willow bark. It is considered by some to be a reasonable alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, Advil (ibuprofen) or Aleve (naproxen).2