Saille the Willow 15th April to 13th May

The British Druid Order Forums BDO Public Forum Saille the Willow 15th April to 13th May

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    david poole

      aille the Willow. April 15th to May 13th

      Also known as Salix alba, also known as white willow, withe, or withy

      Constituents: Willow contains the phenolic glycosides salicin, picein and triandrin, with esters of salicylic acid and salicyl alcohol, acetylated salicin, salicortin and salireposide, as well as tannins, catechin, p-coumaric acid and flavonoids, a substance which gives a chemical its flavour. Willow is an alterative (gradually restores health), anodyne (relieves pain), febrifuge (reduces fever), astringent (stops capillary bleeding), antiperiodic (prevents periodic return of fever), anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antiseptic, tonic, and vermifuge (kills worms). Willow can be used to relieve gout, lumbago, sciatica, neuralgia and ankylosing spondylitis. Willow is also a diaphoretic. Black willow (Salix nigra) is the pussy willow and has black bark as opposed to the light greens of the white willow. Its properties are much the same, but herbally it was used in the past as an aphrodisiac and sexual sedative. Goat willow or sallow willow (Salix caprea) is used in very much the same way as the white willow.

      Medicinal Properties

      For thousands of years the Willow has been seen as a great healing tree and was one of the first trees to be scientifically investigated. . Many traditional cultures throughout the world have used it to treat ailments and most of these treatments are well documented. It is thought that the White Willow has been prescribed in ancient British herbals for the healing of patients more often than any other plant in history. The Willow was greatly revered by the druids and the village wise women for its healing qualities and became known as the witches tree, leading strangely to a fall in popularity alongside a reputation for magick; possibly this insight may have come from later, Christian culture, which would have rejected an older, deeper wisdom. The Native Americans used to use several different varieties of the willow for purposes such as weaving baskets and reducing pain and fever. The framework of the vapour bath lodge of the Native Americans was made of willow poles where it was bent and tied with their bark.he Willow is well documented as being used for pain relief at least two and a half thousand years ago by healers and wise folk amongst the Greeks, Native Americans, Chinese, Japanese and Europeans where like England it became linked to witchcraft and cunning folk. The leaves and the bark have been mentioned in ancient texts from Assyria, Sumer and Egypt as a remedy for aches and fever. Medicinally, willow bark has been used as a remedy for soothing pain since Ancient Greece, where Hippocrates created the foundations for investigating the tree’s medicinal qualities in the fifth century BC. On a herbal level, willow bark has been used for its pain-relieving qualities for at least 2,000 years.

      In 1763, a well travelled doctor, the Revd. Edward Stone from Oxfordshire conducted five years of careful experiments in the use of willow bark. Its bitter taste had reminded him of Peruvian bark used extensively by natives of South America, which, like willow, grew close to water where damp conditions brought on many ‘agues’. He found that it worked equally well in reducing fever and pain and wrote a letter to draw attention to his findings to the then President of the Royal Society.

      “XXXII An account of the success of the bark of the willow in the cure of agues. In a letter to the right honourable George Earl of Macclesfield President of R. S. from the Reverend Mr. Edmund Stone of Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire. Read June ed. 1763, Among the many useful discoveries which this age hath made, there are very few which better deserve the attention of the public than what I am going to lay before your lordship.”

      In 1763 Willow’s medicinal properties were observed by the Reverend Edward Stone in England. He notified the Royal Society, which published his findings. In 1828 century, the French chemist and pharmacist Leroux and an Italian chemist called Raffaele Piria extracted the active ingredient and glucoside called salicine from the tree (this converts to salicylic acid once it is in the bloodstream) and isolated this to its crystalline form by separating out the compound into its pure state. By 1852 salicine was being synthetically produced. In 1897, Felix Hoffmann created a synthetically altered version of salicine derived from the Spiraea plant which caused less digestive upset than pure salicylic acid. This new drug was named Aspirin by Hoffmann’s employer Bayer AG, giving rise to the hugely important class of drugs known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). This chemical was in fact acetyl salicylic acid and is produced from a reaction of phenol with carbon-dioxode. It must be noted that some of willow’s active constituents, while sharing the pain-relieving effects of aspirin, have a more sustained action in the body and fewer side effects containing as they do tannins, which are actually good for the digestion. As a modern herbal medicine, a decoction of willow bark can be taken for pain relief instead of aspirin with the recommendation that the natural material doesn’t seem to irritate the stomach lining in the same way that aspirin does; this carries the important proviso that some people can react adversely to the natural material and can experience severe gastric discomfort. The effect of thinning the blood can cause internal bleeding if these drugs are overused. The benefits and side effects are the same whether using the natural bark of the willow or modern, synthetic aspirin.

      Willow has been prescribed in ancient British herbals for the healing of patients more than any other plant in history. The herbalist John Gerard recommends that : ‘The greene boughes with the leaves may very well be brought into chambers, and set about the beds of those that be sick of agues: for they do mightily cool the heat of the air, which thing is a wonderful refreshing to the sick patients.’ Culpeper once wrote: “The leaves are bruised and boiled in wine, and drank, stays the heat of lust in man and woman, and quite distinguishes it, if it be long used.” Culpeper used the plant to stop bleeding of injuries, as well as to stop any other blood loss, including nose and mouth bleeding and spitting of blood, and mentions that it can be used as an anaphrodisiac although he may have been referring to Black Willow (Salix nigra) as there seems to be some confusion over which variety of willow has this property. He also comments that the tree can be used as a diuretic, as well as commenting on the use of the sap to treat eye problems.

      The bark of the white willow can be used to alleviate pain, relieve headaches and reduce fevers, to treat rheumatism, arthritis, internal bleeding, inflammations, gout, heartburn, colds, nervous insomnia, digestive problems and stomach complaints. Pretty useful indeed. The bark and the young green twigs and the leaves can be chewed on to bring down fevers, as an anti-inflammatory in rheumatic joints, to relieve headaches and to relieve the pains of childbirth. The bark powders easily when dried, and can be stored in air-tight jars for several months before being used in the same way. Externally willow can be applied to burns, sores, cuts and skin rashes or used to treat ulcers, as a douche to treat leucorrhoea and as a scalp tonic to encourage the growth of hair.

      The most used species of willow has always been the white willow, Salix Alba, although all willow bark contains salicylic acid to a greater or lesser degree. Willows all have abundant watery bark sap, which is heavily charged with salicylic acid, soft, usually pliant, tough wood, slender branches, and large, fibrous, often stoloniferous roots. The bark can be dried, powdered and stored in an airtight container. The best time in which to do this is in spring, if you should though then please be careful not to ring the tree or it will die. Willow bark is gently bitter and can be added to prescriptions to stimulate the digestion and relieve gastroenteritis and diarrhoea related to heat and inflammation, and to relieve the symptoms of IBD. It can be used to relieve the pain of spasmodic dysmenorrhoea, ease menopausal night sweats and help women suffering from menstrual pain in general. The bark of White Willow can be for stiff joints because it is filled with water and brings improved movement.

      Willow bark tea is recommended for indigestion, whooping couch and catarrh. The same decoction can also be used as an antiseptic and disinfectant. Infusions from willow bark have long been used as a remedy for cholls, rheumatism, and fevers; the general opinion is that 6mls of the tincture three times a day is sufficient, or 2tsp in one cup of water, brought to the boil and simmered for up to 15 minutes, drunk three times a day.

      A decoction of willow bark can be added to hot baths to treat aches, pains and feverish conditions and can be used to treat gum and tonsil inflammations and as a footbath for sweaty feet. This is made by soaking 3 teaspoons (15ml) of the bark or a third of a cupful in cold water for 2 – 5 hours. Once done bring the mixture to the boil, lowering the heat and simmering for 20 minutes. Strain this mixture and take a wineglassful each day, a mouthful at a time or by the desert-spoonful to help with pain relief and/or a reduction of feverish symptoms.

      The leaves of willow can be as a tea to treat fevers or colicky pains, and as a wash to treat dandruff. The flowers once picked and still fresh will help with menstrual cramps and pains. The fresh leaves and flowers should be placed inside a pillow or mattress.


        Very interesting stuff David. You can also use willow to make a bushcraft whistle and with a bit of practice, you could even make a willow flute.

        Whatever you take from a living organism, remember to ask for permission, meditate perhaps a little alongside and thank it – as I do with the plants/herbs in my garden.


        david poole

          Willow is great for creating sculpture, and of course it will always renew itself when you take a cutting so it is a continuous and never ending resource. As well as its tremendous medical properties, which are extremely useful, it can also be used as a biofuel I understand. I don’t know how effective it is at this, or how much you need to plant; its effectiveness for this I cannot as yet attest to.

          Dave TheDruid-3X3

            david poole Wrote:
            “A decoction of willow bark can be added to hot baths to treat aches, pains and feverish conditions”

            Would that work if you took some Aspirins and crushed them up and Boiled them then mixing them into a Hot Bath?

            Willow and Sweet Meadow are Good Sources of Salic Acid that Aspirin is made from.




              I’d exercise caution and seek medical advice first. If I’m not mistaken, aspirin contains acetylsalicylic acid, not “pure” or “natural” salicin found in willow bark. Although I’ve read of different ways to use aspirin externally, I believe that both natural salicin and acetylsalicylic acid may also provoke reactions in some people’s skins and it certainly shouldn’t be used externally if someone is allergic/intolerant to normal use, asthmatics should be especially careful.

              david poole

                I was really learning when writing this article and doing the research, which took many hours and searching through scores of different source, all online I admit but I possess a very restricted library. Some things I would not doubt, like the history parts or the chemistry parts, which appear fairly convincing. The warnings and advisories which I discovered appear to be honest and accurate, I would take some care in using some of this advice. In spite of that, and this was the point of the research as I was trying to teach myself as well as others, Willow is an extremely useful tree that can do so much and I might be trying some of the medicinal recommendations at some point. Surely developing a knowledge of natural remedies and cures is better than perpetually using commercial alternatives, providing that there are no ill consequences and I tried to find out as much as I could about that while researching. Where I found warnings and advice I made sue to include those comments. I was trying to stretch myself into an area where I really need to learn more, plants and herbs and healing, so there may be some shortcomings. Dowrgi, thank you for pointing out this issue. I am hoping to cover all thirteen of the trees in the lunar calender at some point, maybe one for each lunar month. I am also hoping to do more on healing plants and trees and their properties. Please let me know if there are any more cautions. Dave, thank you for pointing out that Willow and Sweet Meadow are sources of salic acid. I think if I am not mistaken that standard aspirin also irritates the stomach lining?


                  Hi David.

                  You’re doing really interesting work. A good friend of mine is a retired herbalist, after running a business for over thirty years and I’ve learned many things from her. Another old friend of mine is a qualified herbalist too, and it’s fascinating to talk to people who really know what they’re doing – that way you can discern between the genuine, beneficial use of herbal remedies and the old chestnuts to be discarded. As with all things, there’s a science to it and herbs/herbal remedies can be pretty powerful, so it’s always best to err on the side of caution if you ask me. If you get a good dictionary of herbalism, or you can find a reliable online source, they will always tell you what, how, why and when not to. It’s probably best to learn about each herb or plant at a time and build up your repertoire so to speak. A tip from a botanist would be to find out what the scientific (Latin) and the old vernacular names of these plants actually mean, especially the ones known to the ancient world, as that can often, albeit it not always, given you an insight into their properties.

                  Good luck!


                  david poole

                    The subject of the willow tree has inspired writers and poets for many long years, as has much of our pagan heritage. As part of my research into this tree, I managed to cull some poetry from various sources and assembled it into one place.


                    The poor soul sat sighing by a sycamore tree,

                    Sing all a green willow.

                    Her hand on her bosom, her head on her knee,

                    Sing willow, willow, willow.

                    ~William Shakespeare, Othello


                    This old folk song, illustrated c1880 by Walter Cranehas the chorus:’Sing all the green willow, willow, willow, willow,Ah me, the green willow my garland shall be.’


                    The alders in the front line

                    Began the affray

                    Willow and rowan tree

                    Were tardy in array

                    From Robert Graves’s version of Cad Goddeu, the battle of the trees

                    “I am a willow of the wilderness,Loving the wind that bent me.” Ralph Waldo Emerson


                    This old folk song, illustrated c1880 by Walter Crane

                    has the chorus:

                    ‘Sing all the green willow, willow, willow, willow,

                    Ah me, the green willow my garland shall be.’


                    The Willow

                    Of all the trees in England
                    From sea to sea again
                    The Willow loveliest stoops her bows
                    Beneath the driving rain

                    Walter de LaMare


                    When furry buds are all about
                    Upon the pussy willows
                    The fairy folk soon find it out
                    And use it for their pillows
                    Then busy are the brown men
                    Those downy buds they take
                    And turn them inside out, and then
                    Such cosy caps they make
                    Those fluffy little buds of fur
                    An Elf’s wife simply loves
                    And so he takes them home to her
                    To make her winter gloves

                    Rhyme by H.G.C. Marsh Lambert from ‘Bo Peep’s Big Nursery Story Book’


                    There once was a Willow, and he was very old,

                    And all his leaves fell off from him, and left him in the cold;

                    But ere the rude winter could buffet him with snow,

                    There grew upon his hoary head a crop of mistletoe.


                    To determine if you will be married in the new year:

                    “Throw your shoe high up

                    into the branches of a Willow tree;

                    If the branches catch and hold the shoe,

                    you soon will married be.”


                    But water and willow are also sacred to the poet, to Orpheus who was allowed to enter the land of the dead to fetch back his beloved Euridice and who received his poetic gift by touching a willow tree. ‘Burn not the willow, a tree sacred to the poets.’


                    Listen to Steeleye Span singing the old folk song ‘All Around my hat I will wear the Green Willow’.

                    All around my hat I will wear the green willow

                    All around my hat for a twelve-month and a day

                    And if anyone should ask me the reason why I’m wearing it

                    It’s all for my true love who’s far far away


                    Fair Flora! Now attend thy sportful feast,

                    Of which some days I with design have past;

                    A part in April and a part in May

                    Thou claim’st, and both command my tuneful lay;

                    And as the confines of two months are thine

                    To sing of both the double task be mine.

                    Latin poet Ovid, Fasti, v, 185, for Flora (Floralia) Apr 28 – May 3


                    Willows whiten, aspens quiver,

                    Little breezes dusk and shiver.

                    ~Alfred, Lord Tennyson


                    The Leaf on the Waterby Ouan Tsi (1007-1072)

                    The wind tears a leaf from the willow tree;it falls lightly upon the water,and the waves carry it away.Time has gradually effaced a memory from my heart,and I watch the willow leaf drifting away on the waves.Since I have forgotten her whom I loved,I dream the day through in sadness,lying at the water’s edge. But the willow leaf floated back under the tree,and it seemed to me that the memory could never be effaced from my heart.


                      You’ve made a real connection with this, I can “feel” it from the passion in your writing and research. Herbalism and herbal lore is part of the Ovate course, I’m looking forward to that – if it be my destiny – and I hope you’ll be there too.

                      Perhaps you’ve made a special connection with this tree and life-spirit-form?



                        PS. Another name for a willow is the sallow tree. I think that’s a very old-fashioned word, though, however it connects to salix in Latin, helyg in Welsh and helyk in Cornish. You can often turn a Latin/Old Celtic/Gaulish “s” into an “h” and get the Brittonic word, an interpretation of the Gaulish Coligny calendar month Samonios would perhaps correspond to the summer month if we apply this rule – haf in Welsh and hav in Cornish. The word “willow” if Germanic, but I think it goes back to a root for that which “turns” or perhaps that which “sees”. I think there was an old folk belief that willows could stalk and hunt people at night too, although I must say I don’t where that may have come from!

                        david poole

                          In the place where we live there is a large willow tree just outside in our garden, it causes crack to grow in our walls because its roots have grown so large and so long that they go right underneath our housing. So yes, the willow is something which I am aware of practically every day. So yes, the spirit of this tree is very close to me.

                          I came across some commentary on the development of the name willow during my research. Apparently willow comes from the Anglo-Saxon and means ‘pliancy’. The Old French “saille” means to rush out suddenly and the Latin “salire” means to leap. The botanical name for Willow, Salix, comes from the Celtic word ‘sal’ – meaning near, and “lis” – meaning water. Note that this forms saille, the name we would call willow in Celtic terms. Robert Graves apparently suggested that the words witch and wicker are derived from the word Willow.

                          Thank you for your kind words Dowrgi, I have positive feelings about the directions in which my studies are going too.


                            There’s a really good resource online for etymology. I love looking into words and really getting to the heart of their meanings and the original ideas that went with them.


                            david poole

                              I am wondering whether I ought to try learning Latin, I think you need to know some Latin at least, it keeps coming up. I am really starting to become interested in learning more about languages, Gaelic would be a priority I think most definitely. I didn’t do very good at languages during my school days but maybe I would be better now.


                                I’m a firm believer that anyone can learn a language if they approach it the right way and put the time in, unfortunately many methods of the past were, in my opinion, the wrong way to learn a language. You don’t learn a language with lists of words and a dictionary, you learn a language by thinking in that language and to do that I believe you have to have a) the interest in the first place and b) immerse yourself in that language and its culture as much as you can. However, it’s also a bit like chess, you have to accept not being very good and “losing” before you get better! 😀


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