Aspirin is typically not the medication of choice for pain, as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories receive top billing despite regular use raising the risk of kidney and liver disease. Nowadays, aspirin is typically given to people who have had a heart attack or stroke due to its blood thinning qualities for preventing blood clots and its affect on inflammation and ability to decrease pain and fever. That being said, the forerunner to aspirin is willow bark. Willow bark comes from certain varieties of the willow tree. The active ingredient in willow bark is salicylates. Aspirin is made from salicylic acid. Willow bark has been used for medicinal purposes for over 3,500 years and became the go to medicine in ancient Egypt, Greece, China and South America. Willow bark was used as a pain killer, anti-inflammatory and fever reducer. The first clinical studies on willow bark were performed in 1763 and its fever reducing effectiveness was confirmed (FYI, not recommending fever reducers unless the fever is extremely high as fever is an important healing mechanism of the immune system). New research on willow bark shows that willow bark has broad spectrum antiviral effects against coronaviruses (colds, flu, covid-19) and enteroviruses (stomach bugs). Willow bark has also been shown to be helpful with arthritis, tendonitis, bursitis and headaches. Willow bark can be purchased in capsule or extract form. As with aspirin, if you are on blood clotting medications, willow bark is to be avoided. If you are on other medications, a discussion with your pharmacist would be prudent to check for interactions.
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