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White Willow Bark Extract Reduces Low Back Pain

James Meschino DC, MS, ROHP

White willow bark extract has been shown to produce analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects, primarily due to the presence of its phenolic glycoside content. One of these phenolic glycosides includes salicylic acid, which differs from acetyl salicylic acid (ASA) in that ASA is synthetically produced and inhibits platelet function, whereas salicylic acid is naturally-occurring, more slow-acting and does not impair platelet function. (1)

Reporting in the American Journal of Medicine in 2000, Chrubasik, S. et al published findings to show that patients who took a standardized grade of white willow bark had significant recovery from chronic low back pain compared with patients given the placebo. Thirty-nine percent of patients given the white willow bark extract realized a significant degree of pain reduction (usually within the first week), compared to only 6 % of patients in the placebo group. Only one patient reported any adverse side effects to the treatment with white willow bark, which involved swollen eyes and itching, consistent with an allergic reaction. (2) These findings support the work of other investigators who have published reports indicating that white willow bark extract is effective in the treatment of low back pain and other inflammatory musculoskeletal conditions of mechanical origin (i.e., Shmid, B. Fact 1998, 3:186). As such, holistic health care practitioners involved in the treatment of low back pain may consider the inclusion of a supplement containing white willow bark extract as a part of the complementary treatment in the management of chronic and acute mechanical low back pain. White willow bark should be standardized to 15% salicin content and a daily dose of 100-240 mg is typically recommended. If it is taken in conjunction with other natural anti-inflammatory agents (i.e., curcumin, boswellia, etc.), a daily dose as low as 100 mg is usually sufficient.


  1. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy, Mills S and Bone K. Churchill Livingstone 2000: 22-25.
  2. Chrubasik S, et al. Treatment of low back pain exacerbations with white willow bark extract: A randomized double-blind study. Am J Med 2000;109: 9-14
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