Red willow bark is a popular medicinal plant used by Native Americans in many forms. It can be made into tea or tincture, or can be chewed raw. It can also be smoked or puffed like a tobacco or cigarette for effects in the lungs, air passage, stomach, eyes, ears and the bloodstream. Although the effectiveness and safety of red willow bark has not been proven, many Native Americans regularly make use of the plant.
Remedy for Coughs, Colds and Fevers
The red willow bark is often made into tea as a remedy for colds. It is also used as an emetic for coughs and fevers. The bark is boiled in water, then the decoction is strained and drunk warm. According to Fredda Paul, a member of the Passamaquoddy who practices traditional tribal medicine, smoking red willow rolled into a cigarette is effective in cleansing the body and relieving coughs and colds as it goes directly into the lungs and into the bloodstream.
Relieving Headaches and Migraines
As a relief for headaches and migraines, the red willow bark is usually mixed with wild sage, then smoked a couple of puffs at a time every two hours. It can also be taken as a tincture or tea. Apart from relieving headaches and migraines, its relaxing effects help those suffering from insomnia to get a good night's sleep.
Whether ingested or smoked, red willow bark opens the liver and digestive organs, allowing the settling of a queasy stomach almost instantly. A couple of puffs can help relieve nausea. It is also used by people who just underwent chemotherapy to relieve nausea and promote a better physical state.
Eye and Ear Medicine
Chewing on the dry bark of red willow can be an excellent medicine for the eyes. It can help heal pink eye or conjunctivitis, as well as improve eye function for those suffering from cataracts and macular degeneration. The bark can also be infused into extra-virgin olive oil. The oil mixture is strained carefully and refrigerated prior to use, then one drop is used to massage the eye or eyelid every morning and evening.
- Maine Organic Farmers and Gardenders Association: Nespihqamq is Red Willow
- Red Fox Trading Post: Red Willow Bark
- Native American Technology and Art: Willow Branches and Other Twigs and Roots
- Cabrillo College: Ohlone Medicine
- Henriette's Herbal Homepage: Medicinal Plants Used by the Cree Indians, Hudson's Bay Territory
- Photo Credit Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images
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