Willow

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Medicine[edit]

The leaves and bark of the willow tree have been mentioned in ancient texts from Assyria, Sumer and Egypt[15] as a remedy for aches and fever,[16] and inAncient Greece the physician Hippocrates wrote about its medicinal properties in the fifth century BC. Native Americans across the Americas relied on it as a staple of their medical treatments. It provides temporary pain relief. Salicin is metabolized into salicylic acid in the human body, and is a precursor of aspirin.[17]In 1763, its medicinal properties were observed by the Reverend Edward Stone in England. He notified the Royal Society, which published his findings. The active extract of the bark, called salicin, was isolated to its crystalline form in 1828 by Henri Leroux, a French pharmacist, and Raffaele Piria, an Italian chemist, who then succeeded in separating out the compound in its pure state. In 1897, Felix Hoffmann created a synthetically altered version of salicin (in his case derived from the Spiraea plant), which caused less digestive upset than pure salicylic acid. The new drug, formally acetylsalicylic acid, was named Aspirin by Hoffmann’s employer Bayer AG. This gave rise to the hugely important class of drugs known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Willow has been listed as one of the 38 substances used to prepare Bach flower remedies,[18] a kind of alternative medicine promoted for its effect on health. However according to Cancer Research UK, “there is no scientific evidence to prove that flower remedies can control, cure or prevent any type of disease, including cancer”.[19]

Once you are absolutely sure that you have found a Willow tree, you are ready to harvest the bark. Like all trees, the willow has an outer bark and an inner bark. The inner bark is what we want.So, get a good sharp knife out and cut a square into the tree:

Make sure to cut it good and deep. Remember, you are trying to cut through both the outer bark and the inner bark. Go over your lines a few more times with your knife and deepen the cuts. If your knife has some saw teeth on it like mine does, this is a good time to use them.

Now, stick the point of your knife into one of the lines and gently pry outward.

Go around the whole square, gently prying outward so as to gradually pull your square away from the rest of the tree.

Remember not to pry too hard. If you do, you will just make the bark fly off in chunks, scattering the material that you are after. Instead, you want it to come off in one or a few large pieces.

So, keep going around the square, prying a little farther each time, until finally your square starts to come loose in the desired fashion.

Now, just keep doing what you’ve been doing. When three sides are lifted free, you can just peel it like this:

Notice that some of the bark is white, and some of it is pinkish. The pinkish bark is what we want. As you can see, my square has come off in two pieces, which is fine. Now let’s just cut the last side off:

At this point, I still have some little shreds of pinkish bark clinging to the tree.

Of course, these need to be cut off as well. Cut or scrape off all the pinkish bark you can see. Here is what I ended up with:

Two big pieces and a few little shreds. Here is what the tree looked like:

Now, just in case you think that I have terribly damaged this tree, let me enlighten you. This little scar will heal rather quickly, and will not do any lasting harm to the tree whatsoever.

In case you don’t believe me, check this out. This is a willow tree that I cut a square from, about six months ago:

As you can see, it is already healing up nicely. It has an ugly scar, but in time that will also be gone.

While we’re on the subject, I want to talk about sustainable harvesting. When taking materials directly from nature, it is vitally important not to use more than you need. It is also vitally important to avoid destroying the source. In this case, you can avoid doing any harm to nature by following these two simple rules:

  1. Never take from the same tree twice in one year. In other words, whenever you take a square from a willow tree, you should not go back to that specific tree again for another year. This gives the trees time to heal themselves so that the stress upon them is minimized.
  2. NEVER cut a ring all the way around the bark. Just take a square about as big as your palm, that is all you need for a single dose. If you take too much bark at one time, it can kill the tree. If you cut out a ring around the tree, it will definitely kill it.

Now, just wrap your pieces of bark in a napkin and head home.

Step 3: Making Willow Tea

This is, of course, a very simple and basic thing. First, put your pieces of bark on a coffee filter.

Now wrap it all up in a nice little bundle. Put this bundle on top of another coffee filter.

Wrap it up again, and secure it with a bread-bag tie.

You have now created a teabag. You don’t really have to use two coffee filters, but I do. One filter will do it, but two will do it better.

Now, you just throw your teabag into a pot of boiling water just like any other teabag.

Stir it periodically, and keep an eye on the color of the water. It will slowly begin to take on a deep reddish-brown color, almost like the color of blood.

After about 20 minutes, the tea should be ready. Don’t overcook it or you will burn the medicine out of it. Once it is done boiling, let it steep a few minutes.

Now you just have to filter out any remaining solids. There are many ways to filter a liquid, of course, but this is the way I do it.

First, I get my filtering screen. This was half of a device called a “tea ball”:

It’s just a fine metal screen. If you don’t have one of these, a small cup with holes poked in the bottom will also work. I like this thing, though, because it fits neatly into a glass like so:

Once again, if you don’t have anything like this, just put a small cup inside of a bigger cup, and make sure the smaller cup has many small holes in the bottom. I’m sure you can figure that out without a picture.

So, now we put another coffee filter into the screen:

And slowly pour the tea onto the filter as shown:

Pour it slowly so that it doesn’t get clogged. If you think the filter is clogged, lift up the filtering container and look for the drip:

This one has stopped dripping, so I need to take the coffee filter in my hands and squeeze the liquid out, so that it drips into the glass.

Once you have squeezed all the liquid out, change filters and keep going until all the liquid has been filtered into your drinking glass. All you have to do now is add some sugar (if you want to) and drink the stuff.

You might be surprised when you find out that it tastes pretty good.

That’s all there is to it. You just identify your tree, cut out a square of bark, make tea from it, and drink it.

As I said, this tea is excellent medicine for minor pains. I wouldn’t recommend using it too often, as you can build up an immunity to it. I also would not recommend drinking more than one glassful at a time. As I said before, salicylic acid can be troublesome if you take it in large quantities, but you don’t need to take it in large quantities, anyway. This one glass should be all you need. Of course, this crude aspirin is not that strong, as painkillers go.

If you are experiencing truly severe pain, this treatment probably won’t make it go away (although it will probably help). This treatment will provide quick relief for minor aches and pains, just like its commercial counterpart, but it has the advantage of being 100% free and 100% natural.

I hope this little pearl of wisdom will be helpful to all of you in the future, when dopeheads have made it impossible for honest folk to get pain medicine.

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