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Aspirin was first derived from white willow bark in the 1800s, so it has a history of being associated with quelling pain. To determine whether it could be used safely and effectively with or without other medications, the study authors invited 436 adult men and women to participate in a study of white willow bark extract* for chronic pain management.
For the majority of study participants (56.2%), pain resulted from osteoarthritis. The remainder were classified as having rheumatic pain—occurring in the vicinity of a joint or joints and worsened by motion; sore to the touch; stiff, especially after immobility; improves with mild exercise, but worsens with vigorous activity; improves when warmed; and/or worsens with climate changes, such as rising humidity. Typically, people with four or more of these symptoms are considered to have rheumatic pain.
Study participants took white willow bark extract providing the equivalent of 240 mg salicylic acid per day for six months. They used the extract alone (61%), in combination with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (29%), in combination with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and opioids (4%), or in combination with other pain medications, such as gabapentin (6%).
Patients kept study diaries to track pain, and both patients and physicians evaluated pain at 3, 6, 12, 18, and 24 weeks.
After six months, researchers noted the following:
This study was not a blind, controlled trial—the gold standard of research—and the dropout rate was high. However, even with these weaknesses, the study suggests white willow bark extract may be an additional tool to better manage joint pain.
Use our tips to keep your joints functioning well now, and into the future:
(Phytomedicine 2013; 20:980–984)
*STW 33-I (Proaktiv; drug-extract-ratio 16–23:1)