Pollard willow not only adorns the Dutch landscape, but it is also a tree with medicinal properties against fever, flu, arthritis, insomnia and excessive sexual drive. If the tree is not pruned, it will fall over and start to grow again at the ends. When he grows up again he falls over again. In fact, this tree runs through the landscape, although each step takes decades. It is not true that trees only remain stationary in one place. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.
Botanical drawing of pollard willow or white willow / Source: Public domain, Wikimedia Commons (PD)
- Naming pollard willow
- Pollarded willow in ancient times
- Pollarded willow from the Renaissance to the 17th century
- Pollarded willow in the 19th century
- Active ingredient
- Pollard willow bark against pain, osteoarthritis and rheumatic diseases
- External application pollard willow bark
- Other medicinal effects of pollard willow bark
- The healing power of the male kittens
- Consult a herbal therapist
Naming pollard willow
The botanical name for pollard willow is Salix Alba . Salix is derived from the Celtic words ‘Sal’ and ‘lis’, which mean ‘By water’. A watery environment is preferred for the pollard willow. ‘Alba’ means white and is a reference to the white hairs on the leaf. In Dutch the tree has several popular names: Schietwilg, Witte willow, Pollard willow, Schotwilg, Common willow, Bindwilg, Zilverwilg, Kraakwillow, Knak, Windhoutboom, Fluitjeshout, Waai, Wulge, Wulvenboom, Whipboom, Native cinchona, Bindhout, Bindboom, Hoogstoven, Haystack, Bud Willow, Head Tree, Head Stove, Stumps, Willig and Stump Tree.
Pollard willow in Latvia / Source: Chmee2, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)
Pollarded willow in ancient times
The Sumerians were a people who lived between the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers 4,500 years ago. They used the bark as an antipyretic. Following the example of the Sumerians, the Assyrians and Babylonians also left recipes based on willow bark to combat fever. In ancient Egypt, an ointment was made from willow seed. This willow seed ointment was used for inflamed joints and bone fractures. The ancient Egyptians used wraps of roasted willow leaves in combination with rose oil to combat skin infections. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates prescribed an infusion of pollard willow bark for joint inflammation, pain and fever. He also noted that diarrhea was stopped when people drank willow bark tea. Dioscorides, pioneer of medicine and herbal science, saw, in addition to the diarrhoea-stopping, joint pain-inhibiting and gout-resistant effect, a sex drive inhibiting effect in pollard willow. The ancient Romans Pliny and Galen, both physicians by profession, prescribed pollard willow for joint pain.
Pollarded willow from the Renaissance to the 17th century
According to the signature teaching of Paracelsus, the supple willow twigs tell the fact that it makes the joints flexible and combats rheumatic pains. The willow also has its feet in the water and nevertheless has flexible branches. This emphasizes its joint-supporting effect, as people always get stiff joints more quickly when they are in a humid environment. There are willow species in North America that look a lot like the pollard willow. They contain the same active ingredients. The Indians of North America also used this tree for medicinal purposes against fever. It was also seen as a diaphoretic. Matthiolus saw in the 16th century that pollard willow has a calming effect; it improves the ability to sleep. In the 17th century it was a well-known medicine for headaches, joint pain and gout. It was also used against malaria until quinine was discovered, which fights malaria even better. For a long time, the willow was seen as a symbol of abandonment and heartache. People wore a crown of willow branches when they were abandoned by a loved one.
Pollarded willow in the 19th century
The name salicylic acid, which is very related to acetylsalicylic acid found in aspirin, is derived from the botanical name of pollard willow, ‘Salix’. The French pharmacist Leroux was the first to extract it from the bark of pollard willow in 1829 and convert it into pill form. An artificial version of salicylic acid was then created, but it did not work nearly as well as the natural version. It made people want to throw up quickly. The French chemist Charles Gerhardt invented the compound acetylsalicylic acid, which worked well, comparable to natural salicylic acid. It was subsequently given the name aspirin, a word derived from meadowsweet or Spiraea Ulmaria.
The bark of the three-year-old pollard willow is most commonly used for making medicines. It is sold as powder, mother tincture, extract, ointment and nebulisate. The leaves can also be used but have a weaker medicinal effect, just like the male catkins. Pollard willow contains the phenolic glycosides salicoside or salicin, salicortin, 2´-O-acetylsalicortin, salireposide, gentisic acid, tremulacin, triandrin and fragiline. The pollard willow then contains polyphenols in the form of flavanols, tannins and catechol tannins. It contains the following flavonoids: apigenin, quercetin, isoquercitrin, rutin, eriodyctol-7-glycoside, naringin and isosalipurposide. It also contains tannins, coumarins, aromatic aldehydes, aromatic acids, the salicylic alcohol saligenin, fibers, beta-carotene, vitamins B1, B2, B3 and C. It also contains the minerals calcium, chromium, selenium, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, sodium, cobalt and silicon. The catkins contain phytoestrogens; those are bioidentical hormones.
Pollard willow works within an hour for 75% of headaches.
Pollard willow bark against pain, osteoarthritis and rheumatic conditions
Pollard has an anti-inflammatory and analgesic effect and this is not only explained by the claim that it contains salicylic acid. It is due to a synergy of salicates, polyphenols and flavonoids plus the way these substances are converted in the intestines. Polyphenols also protect the cartilage. Furthermore, the catechins ensure that it works as an antioxidant to combat rheumatic diseases. In phytotherapy, medications based on pollard willow are prescribed for the following indications:
The white willow leaf / Source: MPF, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)
- Osteoarthritis, arthritis,
- Chronic low back pain,
- Mild headache,
- Gout, muscle pain.
External application pollard willow bark
The medicinal properties of pollard willow can be used externally in addition to internal use. It has an astringent, anti-inflammatory, haemostatic, wound healing and anti-infection effect. In addition, it breaks down the stratum corneum. The latter effect is especially good for warts. The medicinal properties of pollard willow bark mean that it can be prescribed by herbalists for:
- To swear,
Wounds and ulcers in the throat can be combated by using a gargle based on pollard willow bark.
Other medicinal effects of pollard willow bark
- The tannins in pollard willow bark provide an astringent effect. In addition, it is a natural antiseptic. This means it can be prescribed for diarrhea, gastroenteritis, chronic diarrhea, dysentery, and as an adjuvant for cystitis.
- It is an antipyretic and it also has a diaphoretic effect. That is why a herbalist can prescribe it for: fever, mild grippal disorders and colds.
- The diuretic effect ensures that uric acid is removed and the blood is purified. That’s why it becomes
The male catkins of pollard willow / Source: Willow, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-2.5)
prescribed for people with high uric acid levels, gout and as a support for cleansing treatments.
The healing power of the male kittens
Male pollard willow catkins are used as medicine, just like the bark. The phytoestrogens have a different effect than the bark, where these bioidentical hormones are missing. The cats are mainly a sedative. It has an antispasmodic effect on the uterus. Furthermore, it is a known anaphrodisiac. There are people who suffer from excessive sex drive. The soothing effect of willow catkins is a godsend for them. Due to these medicinal properties, a herbalist can prescribe pollard willow catkins for:
- Anxiety and insomnia,
- Uterine cramps,
- Exaggerated sexual urge.
Consult a herbal therapist
Anyone who wants to use pollard willow as a medicinal remedy is recommended to consult a herbal therapist. Pollard willow extracts and medicines in the form of mother tinctures, powders, nebulisate, liquid extract, ointment, cream and capsules should only be used on the prescription of authorized persons. A herbal therapist can tell you more about this, as well as about any side effects and interactions with other medicines or herbs. There are also beneficial combinations with herbs. All medicinal effects of this medicinal herb mentioned in this article are based on scientific research and come from Geert Verhelst’s Large Handbook of Medicinal Plants, a standard work in the field of healing plants. The book is used in phytotherapy.
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