Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Willow Gathering (Harrisburg, PA)

(courtesy of University of Texas)

There's a wind advisory today, and trees have been going down all over the place. I was dropping Dee's daughter off at daycare when we heard a giant crack!, followed by lots of smaller cracking noises coming from the wooded edge of the parking lot. One of the trees that lost a limb was an old Black Willow (Salix nigra), and I spent an hour or so harvesting bark from the fallen branches.
Common in eastern North America (especially New York and Pennsylvania), black willow's bark has the same analgesic, anti-inflammatary, anti-microbial, astringent, antiseptic, and blood purifying properties as its famous cousin S. Alba, though its roots carry a reputation as a powerful anaphrodisiac.
Taken as a tea, the bark has similar effects to aspirin, though less strong, longer lasting, and without the risk of internal bleeding that aspirin has. It's useful for back aches, headaches, arthritis, menstrual cramps, and muscle cramps, and is specific for lower black pain. The tea is also considered an effective blood-purifying tonic, and one that helps to clear up irritated skin.
Applied topically, the tea or tincture is an effective cleanser, toner, and purifier for troubled skin and acne, as well as an effective treatment for gangrene.

All these downed branches have me tempted to try my hand at basketmaking - maybe I'll make a basket to hold all the black walnuts I've been gathering.

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