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Willow That Pain Away

Even Hippocrates used willow bark to help ease back pain.
THERE is an all-natural pain relief solution that is being shown to relieve lower back pain as effectively as a popular prescription drug, without the risk of side-effects.

When you have back pain, it affects everything you do. Daily activities like bending, walking and carrying things can become a major challenge. Mainstream medicine offers NSAIDs (Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs), which can be effective for short-term relief - but can also cause side-effects like gastrointestinal damage - stomach bleeding and ulcers.

The new prescription NSAIDs called COX-2 inhibitors are effective pain killers and designed to avoid gastrointestinal problems but carry a higher risk of of other problems such as heart attacks.

But there is an all-natural herb that is being shown to alleviate lower back pain. It's called Willow bark extract,

and it's been used throughout the centuries and continues to be used today for the treatment of pain (particularly low back pain and osteoarthritis), and inflammatory conditions such as bursitis, tendonitis and ankylosing spondylitis. The bark of willow contains active ingredients which are thought to be responsible for the pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects of the herb.

We know the ancient Egyptians used tree bark to treat inflammation. But it was the Greek physician Hippocrates, considered by many to be the "Father of Medicine", who really put it on the map. He found it was so effective in eliminating pain of all kinds that he felt compelled to write about it - way back in the 5th century BC.

Several clinical trials have supported willow bark's efficacy against back pain. Now a new study shows that Willow bark extract is just as effective as a popular prescription drug - at significantly less expense.

The German study tested the effectiveness of Willow bark extract against a COX-2 inhibitor. The researchers recruited 228 people between the ages of 18 and 80. All had experienced lower back pain for at least six months, and their pain couldn't be attributed to any identifiable cause, like arthritis, disc prolapse, or trauma.

Here's what they found: Willow bark extract was just as effective as the COX-2 at alleviating lower back pain. Both produced similar reductions on the various measurement tools used to assess the participant's pain.

There are many Willow bark extract preparations available worldwide, but most of them are manufactured to contain salacin alone, which is only one of the many active ingredients found in willow extract. Hence, these extracts have been found to be less effective when compared to the traditional willow bark product using the entire bark.

The other interesting thing to note is that not all willow species confer the same medicinal benefits or have the same anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties.

After years of research on the different species of willow, Frutarom of Switzerland found that three species of willow - Salix purpurea, Salix fragilis and Salix daphnoids have higher amounts of pain relieving and anti-inflammatory ingredients, eg flavanoids and procyanidines, compared to Salix alba (white willow bark).

Having said how effective willow bark is for pain relief and anti-inflammatory, another herb worth mentioning is Cat's Claw, which has been used for hundreds of years in South America.

Cat's claw (Uncaria tomentosa) is native to the Amazon, and South Americans have long used the bark and root of the cat's claw to alleviate health problems like arthritis and inflammation. Compounds in cat's claw are thought to block the body's production of inflammation-producing substances called prostaglandins and tumour necrosis factor (TNF). Clinical trials have reported that people suffering from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis who supplemented with cat's claw experienced significant improvement in their pain.

Researchers have determined that cat's claw contains a wealth of beneficial phytochemical compounds: alkaloids, proanthocyanidins, polyphenols, triterpines, and plant sterols.

Besides anti-inflammatory and pain relief action, scientists recently discovered that cat's claw may protect cartilage in joints. Loss of cartilage, which is a defining characteristic of osteoarthritis, occurs when the breakdown of cartilage is faster than it can regenerate. When human cartilage cells were exposed to joint-destroying interleukin-1 beta, cat's claw helped restore levels of joint-protective insulin-like growth factor-1. By suppressing inflammatory agents that can degrade cartilage, while activating a cartilage-protective biochemical, cat's claw may help to preserve healthy cartilage in ageing joints

This is a real advantage over conventional drugs as it not only relieves of the symptoms but also treats the cause of the problem. Hence, this combination of Willow bark and Cat's Claw are thus a better choice for long term pain and inflammation management as compared to conventional drugs as studies have confirmed its excellent safety profile.

When looking for the right natural pain relief supplement; ensure the following:

  • Right species of willow is used - look for one which uses Salix purpurea, Salix fragilis and Salix daphnoids
  • The herbal extracts used are standardised for potency
  • The Willow bark extract is manufactured using the patented Polyshield process to ensure perseverance of its active ingredients.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle is also important if you want to get rid of your back pain. Below are some tips to preventing back strain and pain. Traditional treatment may take a longer time compared to conventional drugs, but rest assured that you are well on the road to healing your "Ouch!"

Tips for preventing back strain:
  • If you must sit at your desk for long hours, break up the time with stops to stretch
  • Wear flat shoes or shoes with low heels (1 inch or lower)
  • Exercise regularly. An inactive lifestyle contributes to lower back pain.
  • Don't lift by bending over. Lift an object by bending your knees and squatting to pick up the object. Keep your back straight and hold the object close to your body. Avoid twisting your body while lifting.
  • Push rather than pull when you must move heavy objects.



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