GAELIC NAME: Sáille
LATIN NAME: Salix alba sp.
COMMON / FOLK NAMES: Sally
MEDICINAL PART: The bark, produces a
compononent of the drug aspirin -
salicylic acid. On a herbal level,
willow bark has been used for its pain-relieving qualities for at least 2,000
The Salix alba contains salicin, which is converted to
salicylic acid in the body. Salicylic acid is closely related to aspirin, the
synthetic drug that has displaced willow bark from popular use.
bark reduces fever and relieves rheumatism, a common ailment in these damp
isles. A decoction can be used for gum and tonsil inflammations and as a
footbath for sweaty feet.
The bark is collected in the spring time, being
careful not to ring the tree or it will die. The decoction is made by soaking 3
teaspoons (15ml) of the bark in a cup of cold water for 2 - 5 hours. Then bring
to the boil. Strain and take a wineglassful each day, a mouthful at a time. The
bark can be dried, powdered and stored in an airtight container. The bark
contains up to 13 per cent of tannin as its chief constituent, also a small
quantity of salicin.
PROPERTIES: Goat willow or sallow willow (Salix
caprea) is used in very much the same way as the white willow, but sallow
bark tea is recommended for indigestion, whooping cough and catarrh. It can also
be used as an antiseptic and disinfectant.
PLACE OF ORIGIN: Europe - Asia, temperate
zones. Also grows across Canada and North America.
HABITAT: Wet soils along the banks of
rivers. Open areas - does not like shade.
DESCRIPTION: Can grow to a height of 50 to
70 feet in moist soils. Easily grows from off-cuttings, can be coppiced and will
grow quickly again. It has a rough greyish bark, the twigs being brittle
at the base; the leaves are pubescent on both surfaces and finely serrulate; it
hybridizes with other species of Salix.
FLOWERING PERIOD: Early Spring leaf buds
appear. Catkins appear in late spring to early summer.
Wind and insects
DISPERSAL: Wind and Water
Air pollution - Willows are sensitive to sulphur dioxide and tolerant of
The pliant stems are used to make baskets
and 'wickerwork', in neolithic
times they were used to make the walls of houses.
The bark could also be used for tanning animal hides to make leather, as it
LORE: Many Love songs include references
to the willow, such as the famous 19th century song 'Down by the Sally
The willow is an excellent tree for moon
rituals, use willow (or visualise willow) on a full moon night (the full moon of
february being the strongest), used for gaining insight and inspiration.
If you are suffering from a great loss, the energies of willow can help you
recover, sleep with willow leaves under your pillow. The 'weeping willow'
is particulary powerful for those suffering a loss.
Call on Brigit for inspiration in your life,
Morrigan or Macha to gain Strength of purpose, The Cailleach for wisdom,
and Badb for strong motivation or to overcome adversity.
The willow tree is the tree of enchantment,
sacred to the Moon and the Goddess in her aspect of death leading to spiritual
rebirth. The words “willow (wicker)” and “Wicca” are thought to be
derived from the same root meaning “to bend”, or “to be pliant.”
The willow, as crone, is the third wood of
the witch’s besom, being the flexible bark, which binds the maiden birch
rods to the mother ash handle. (The
flexibility of the willow means it can be either crone or maiden)
The Willow wand can be used to banish
long-held grief, It is also a favourite wand of poets and those seeking
inspiration and vivid inspirational dreams. Used in all moon or water
magic. It has a powerful feminine 'yin' energy. Can help a person
get in touch with their subconcious feelings and desires.
The Willow can be used to bind all spells
for greater efficacy.
It also is very good to use as a divining
rod for finding water.
Stories, Myths and Legends
associated with the Willow: