Home Remedies - Facts or Quacks?
That's what I recently asked myself. Myths and legends often have their basis in a grain of truth. So I wondered if home remedies, alternative treatments, and folklore cures might also be based on truth. A little research provided this unusual perspective on one of our most frequently-used medicines.
Barking Up The Wrong Tree?
Not if it's a willow tree! Chewing on willow bark to reduce fever and inflammation dates back to the time of Hippocrates (400 BC). Willow bark was used as a medicine in China and Europe for centuries because of its ability to relieve pain and lower fever. Early American settlers even found Native Americans gathering bark from willow trees to treat the same conditions.
What's So Special About Willow Bark?
Willow trees, including the white, black, purple and violet species, contain a chemical called salicin. Chewing or pulping this bark releases the salicin, which the body converts to salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is still used today to treat fevers, decrease inflammation, and even help heart disease. There's no need to gnaw on a tree like a beaver every time you have a headache. Today this chemical is produced synthetically as acetylsalicylic acid. Perhaps you know it by its more common name...
That's right - centuries of chewing on willow bark led to the creation of one of our most widely-used medicines: aspirin. This is definitely one home remedy I would classify as a fact, not a quack.
It makes me wonder though: how many trees did they have to chew on before they found the right one?