Herb: Grey Willow

Latin name: Salix cinerea

Synonyms: Salix cinerea oleifera

Family: Salicaceae (Willow Family)

Medicinal use of Grey Willow:

The fresh bark of all members of this genus contains salicin, which probably decomposes into salicylic acid (closely related to aspirin) in the human body. This is used as an anodyne and febrifuge. The bark of this species is used interchangeably with S. alba. It is taken internally in the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis, gout, inflammatory stages of auto-immune diseases, diarrhoea, dysentery, feverish illnesses, neuralgia and headache. The bark is removed during the summer and dried for later use. The leaves are used internally in the treatment of minor feverish illnesses and colic. The leaves can be harvested throughout the growing season and are used fresh or dried.

Description of the plant:


5 m
(16 feet)

to April

Habitat of the herb:

Fens etc in E. England, it is often dominant in carr. Occasionally found in damp woods in other areas of England.

Other uses of Grey Willow:

Plants have an extensive root system and are used to stabilize waste tips and old slag heaps. The seeds are very light and so can travel some distance in the wind. The plant is therefore able to find its way to areas such as cleared woodland where the soil has been disturbed. Seedlings will grow away quickly, even in exposed conditions and the plant will provide good shelter for the establishment of woodland plants. Thus it makes a good pioneer species and, except in wetter and moorland-type soils, will eventually be largely out-competed by the other woodland trees. Its main disadvantage as a pioneer plant is that it has an extensive root system and is quite a greedy plant, thus it will not help as much in enriching the soil for the other woodland plants as other pioneer species such as the alders, Alnus species.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - must be surface sown as soon as it is ripe in late spring. It has a very short viability, perhaps as little as a few days. Cuttings of mature wood of the current year's growth, November to February in a sheltered outdoor bed or planted straight into their permanent position and given a good weed-suppressing mulch. Plant into their permanent positions in the autumn. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, June to August in a frame.

Cultivation of Grey Willow:

Fens etc in E. England, it is often dominant in carr. Occasionally found in damp woods in other areas of England.

Known hazards of Salix cinerea:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.