Willow species and aspirin: different mechanism of actions

Phytother Res. 2011 Jul;25(7):1102-4. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3386.


Many believe that willow is the natural source of aspirin. However, willow species contain only a low quantity of the prodrug salicin which is metabolized during absorption into various salicylate derivatives. If calculated as salicylic acid, the daily salicin dose is insufficient to produce analgesia. Salicylic acid concentrations following an analgesic dose of aspirin are an order of magnitude higher. Flavonoids and polyphenols contribute to the potent willow bark analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect. The multi-component active principle of willow bark provides a broader mechanism of action than aspirin and is devoid of serious adverse events. In contrast to synthetic aspirin, willow bark does not damage the gastrointestinal mucosa. An extract dose with 240 mg salicin had no major impact on blood clotting. In patients with known aspirin allergy willow bark products are contraindicated.

Publication types

  • Letter

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Aspirin / pharmacology*
  • Benzyl Alcohols / pharmacology*
  • Flavonoids / pharmacology
  • Glucosides / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Plant Bark / chemistry
  • Polyphenols / pharmacology
  • Salicylic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Salix / chemistry*
  • Species Specificity


  • Analgesics
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Benzyl Alcohols
  • Flavonoids
  • Glucosides
  • Polyphenols
  • salicin
  • Salicylic Acid
  • Aspirin