Side Effects and Drug Interactions with Willow Bark Supplements

by on October 22nd, 2014
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Willow bark supplements are given for inflammation reduction and for pain. There is good evidence that it can be helpful due to the chemical compound salicin. Salicin is very similar to aspirin and at one time in the 1800’s was used to help develop aspirin. It is being researched for even more uses.

Herbal Remedy Uses and Dosages

As a supplement, it is used for headaches, lower back pain, menstrual cramping, osteoarthritis, the flu, tendonitis, bursitis, and for fever. Because of the similarity to aspirin, it should not be given to children as it could make them develop Reye syndrome. Adults over the age of 16 years can take the supplement, after discussing it with their healthcare professional. No supplement should be taken without a doctor’s consent.

Side Effects

Typical side effects from willow bark are usually mild and include stomach bleeding, stomach upset, and ulcers. If there is an overdose of willow bark there may be a skin rash, nausea, vomiting, stomach irritation, tinnitus, and kidney inflammation.


Willow bark may interact with these types of medications:

Dilantin – The drugs methotrexate and phenytoin may be increased in the body when they are in the system with willow bark. This could lead to toxic levels. NSAIDs – Any nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory like Advil or Aleve can give an increased risk of a bleeding stomach. Blood Thinners – Any anticoagulant that is taken with the willow bark can run the risk of having increased bleeding. Beta Blockers – Willow could make beta blockers like Lopressor and Tenormin less effective. Water Pills – Diuretics can be less effective when they are given with willow bark.

Other Precautions

With the salicin levels of willow bark, those that are allergic to aspirin should not be given willow bark. Others with diabetes, gout, asthma, hemophilia or gastritis should not be given the supplement as well. It should not be given to those under 16 years of age.

Willow bark supplements may be known by other common names such as purple willow, European willow, Salix nigra, weeping willow, white willow, or Salix alba.

Source: University of Maryland Medical Center, Willow Bark

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