Herb: Black Willow


Latin name: Salix nigra


Synonyms: Salix falcata


Family: Salicaceae (Willow Family)



Medicinal use of Black Willow:

The bark is anodyne, anti-inflammatory, antiperiodic, antiseptic, astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic, febrifuge, hypnotic, sedative, tonic. It has been used in the treatment of gonorrhoea, ovarian pains and nocturnal emissions. 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 can be used as a poultice on cuts, wounds, sprains, bruises, swellings etc. 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. The fresh bark contains salicin, which probably decomposes into salicylic acid (closely related to aspirin) in the human body. This is used as an anodyne and febrifuge and as an ingredient of spring tonics.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Deciduous
Tree

Height:
12 m
(39 feet)

Flovering:
April

Habitat of the herb:

Found in a wide variety of soils, so long as they are wet, by streamsides, shores and rich low woods.

Edible parts of Black Willow:

Inner bark - raw or cooked. It can be dried, ground into a powder and then added to cereal flour for use in making bread etc. A very bitter flavour, it is a famine food that is only used when all else fails. Young shoots - raw or cooked. They are not very palatable.

Other uses of the herb:

The young stems are very flexible and are used in basket and furniture making. The twigs can be split in half lengthways, sun-dried and used as the foundation of coiled basketry. The plant is usually coppiced annually when grown for basket making, though it is possible to coppice it every two years if thick poles are required as uprights. A fibre obtained from the stems is used in making paper. The stems are harvested in spring or summer, the leaves are removed and the stems steamed until the fibres can be stripped. The fibres are cooked for 2 hours with lye and then beaten with mallets or put through a blender. The paper is red/brown in colour. The trees are often used in erosion control, their roots forming dense networks that stabilize stream banks. The bark is a good source of tannin. A decoction or infusion of the bark can be used as a hair wash to make the hair grow. Wood - not durable, light, soft and weak but does not splinter, warp or check. The wood is tough and fairly strong according to another report. It weighs 27lb per cubic foot. Used where strength is not important, for artificial limbs, barn floors etc. A good charcoal is also obtained from the wood.

Propagation of Black Willow:

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. Very easy. Plant into their permanent positions in the autumn. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, June to August in a frame. Very easy.

Cultivation of the herb:

Found in a wide variety of soils, so long as they are wet, by streamsides, shores and rich low woods.

Known hazards of Salix nigra:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.