Historical Background - The use of Willow Bark (Salix Nigra) dates back to the time of Hippocrates when patients were advised to chew on the bark to reduce fever and inflammation. Willow bark has been used throughout the centuries in China and Europe and continues to be used today for the treatment of pain, headache, and inflammation.
Ancient Egyptians used the bark of the white willow to treat pain and inflammation. Hippocrates and Dioscorides recommended willow bark as a remedy for gout and rheumatic joint diseases, but it fell into disuse in Europe during the Middle Ages. Kuan-Yin, the bodhisattva of compassion, is often depicted holding a willow branch as a symbol of healing.
Native American healers also relied on willow for its analgesic properties. The English clergyman Edward Stone rediscovered the therapeutic value of willow bark in 1763. Willow bark has been used to treat many different kinds of pain, including rheumatic pain, back pain, toothache, headache, and menstrual cramps. It is also used to relieve sore throat, fever, and headache associated with upper respiratory tract infections and influenza.
The bark of the willow contains salicin, which is a chemical similar to aspirin and is thought to be responsible for its pain‐relieving and anti‐inflammatory effects. Willow Bark Extract is derived from the bark of both the black and white willow tree.
How is Willow Bark useful for my skin?
Willow bark extract contains anti-inflammatory salicin, a type of salicylate, willow bark is a source of salicylates (specifically, salicin), which may then be chemically converted into salicylic acid, but is not salicylic acid itself but a related substance. Salicylic Acid is classed as a 'Phenolic Aromatic Acid' PHA not a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) as commonly stated. PHAs (Polyhydroxy Acids) carry similar effects of AHA without the possibility of skin irritation, PHA is more compatible with sensitive skin, has better moisturisation activity and enhances skin barrier function.
- Natural anti-inflammatory - Properties alleviate acne and irritation - Salicin has been shown to diminish wrinkles.
- Salicin - Helps to reduce the appearance of pores, evening out skin tone while promoting increased firmness.
- Active Ingredient - Providing consistent levels of salicylic acid (standardized to an equivalent of 10% Salicylic Acid)
- Help to enhance cell turnover - Natural salicylates (0.5% to 1% in formulations) enhance skin cell renewal without irritation.
- A natural exfoliant - Salicin sloughs off dead skin cells and clears pores to reveal a more radiant, clear complexion
- Acts as a natural anti-microbial agent - Can be useful as a remedy for problem skin conditions.
- In vitro tests (meaning: in the glass) - Have shown Willow Bark Extract to have activity against Staphylococcus aureus and Propionibacterium acnes, the two strains of bacteria implicated in the formation of acne.
- Natural Plant-Based - Alternative for synthetic salicylic acid.
- Helps to protect - Collagen and aids in the restoration process.
Botanical Name: Salix Nigra
White Willow Bark: Potentially Active Chemical Constituents
- Glycosides (1.5-11%): salicylates (salicin, salicortin, populin, fragilin, tremulacin)
- Tannins (8-20%) a higher concentration than in almost any other plant
- Aromatic aldehydes and acids: salidroside, vanillin, syringin, salicylic acid, caffeic and ferulic acids.
- Salicyl alcohol (saligenin).
- Flavonoids Antioxidant.
/ Tannins / Are phenolic compounds found in many herbs, by direct protein interaction, condensed tannins have shown to protect collagen and elastin against degradation, these are two important dermal matrix proteins in the dermis that form a mesh-like layer providing flexibility, stretch and strength to your skin. You can read more about Tannins on my blog "Why Tannic Acid is important for skincare".
/ Flavonoids / Are a type of polyphenol, high in antioxidant properties helping fight free radicals, flavonoids help diminish the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. Effective in protecting the skin’s barrier from environmental damage, think UV Rays preventing DNA damage. Flavonoids have even been shown to inhibit photodamage after UV exposure.
/ Salicin / Named after the willow tree genus itself, salix, salicin (natural salicylic acid) has excellent anti-inflammatory properties. Salicin alleviates acne and irritation and is suitable for most skins, along with anti-inflammatory properties which have been shown to diminish the appearance of wrinkles, reduce the appearance of pores, even out skin tone while promoting increased firmness. Salicin acts as a natural exfoliant, sloughing off dead skin cells and clears pores to reveal a more radiant, clear complexion. Salicin is non-irritating and gentle and can be used daily.
As both the Founder and Formulator of Fifty 7 Kind my main focus is sourcing the highest quality, purest, most efficacious, active ingredients from plant-based sources, which are certified organic, biodynamic, wildcrafted and sustainably sourced and grown. Willow Bark Extract is a source of natural salicylic acid-like ingredient, which has been shown to contribute effects similar to those seen from synthetic salicylic acid with none of the drawbacks associated with its use. Incorporating Willow Bark Extract into our Hero [face] serum is a safe and gentle way to enjoy the benefits of an Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) but without the potential skin irritation.
Until next time.
be human, be kind, be you.
REFERENCES:Działo, M., Mierziak, J., Korzun, U., Preisner, M., Szopa, J., & Kulma, A. (2016). The Potential of Plant Phenolics in Prevention and Therapy of Skin Disorders. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 17(2), 160. http://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17020160