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    How to Make “Homemade Aspirin”

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    How to Make "Homemade Aspirin"

    Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor and nothing in this article should be taken as medical advice. Please talk to your doctor before using any of the herbs and/or remedies mentioned in this article.

    With all of the sophisticated over-the-counter painkillers available today, aspirin can seem a little old-fashioned. And that’s because it is: Bayer began to produce aspirin in 1899 when chemists discovered how to synthesize salicylic acid.

    The process of making a synthetic version might have been new, but the medicine itself was anything but. Salicin, the active ingredient in Aspirin, was originally made from willow bark. Its use dates back to ancient Egypt and Sumeria, to hundreds of years BC.

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    Pile of Aspirin Tablets

    Today, some people still use willow bark instead of aspirin to relieve pain, especially folks who prefer a more natural form of pain relief. Far from the synthetic product, homemade “aspirin” can be either a tea or a tincture, and is gentle and easy to make at home or if you’re out in the woods hiking or camping far from civilization.

    This how-to applies to anyone outside of Australia, where willow trees are non-native and rarely found. Note: if you have an allergy to aspirin, you should avoid even this homemade version, as it probably won’t agree with you, either.

    Willow Trees By The Water

    To process willow bark for tea or tincture, the initial steps are the same. 

    Step 1: Locate a Suitable Tree in the Willow Family

    There are over 300 different willow species, so you have many suitable tree varieties to choose from whether you are at a high or low elevation, in mountains or wetlands.

    Suitable willows include bigtooth aspens, quaking aspens, black willows, crack willows, purple willows, white willows, and weeping willows. While the best time to harvest willow bark is in the spring when the sap is flowing, it is still possible to harvest off-season. 

    Willow Flower Up Close

    Step 2: Cut Several Small Branches and Strip Bark

    When you find your tree, resist the urge to remove bark from around the trunk, which can damage or even kill a tree. Instead, using a pair of pruning shears, remove several branches no bigger around than your index finger. With a sharp knife (even a pocket knife will do), cut carefully into the outermost bark and peel it away to reveal the medicinal inner bark.

    When stripping from small branches, the inner bark is attached to the outer bark. In the spring and early summer months, the bark should easily peel off in long strips. However, in the winter and fall months, it can be more difficult to remove. If it will not peel off in strips, use the edge of a sharp knife to scrape the bark off, saving the bark as you go. 

    Pile of Willow Bark Strips

    Step 3: Process the Bark for Later (Skip for Tinctures)

    Allow the bark you’ve collected to fully dry out and then cut or break it into chips so that it is easier to measure out for use. 

    Using Fresh Bark:

    Experienced survivalists suggest that peeling a quarter-sized piece of bark and chewing it is enough to ease a headache while camping or hiking—no processing required!

    To Make a Tea:

    1. Add roughly a tablespoon of bark for every cup of water.

    2. Boil the bark in the water for 10 minutes, then turn the heat off and let the brew steep for at least 30 minutes.

    Note: Because of the amount of evaporation that will occur during the boiling and steeping process, you’ll want to add about 50% more water than you want to finish with. So, for every cup of tea you want, boil one and a half cups of water and use one and a half tablespoons of willow bark.

    The final tea will have a bitter flavor, but it isn’t overly unpleasant. If you’re accustomed to making herb medicines, it will have a familiar medicinal taste.

    A cup of willow tea is considered an appropriate single dose for general aches and pains. Three to four cups of willow tea per day can be effective for pain relief, but avoid ingesting any more than that. If downing an entire cup of tea at a time is too much to ask, you’ll probably prefer a willow bark tincture that is effective at a much smaller dose.

    Glass of Willow Tea

    To Make a Tincture:

    1. Pack a glass jar about two-thirds of the way full with fresh willow bark.

    2. Fill the jar to the top with flavorless, clear alcohol like vodka or grain alcohol, then tightly close it.

    3. Shake it well and then store it in a cool, dark place for two to four months.

    4. Give it a good shake every few days, and when it is ready, strain out the bark and pour the tincture into amber glass bottles.

    Be sure to label and date the bottles—80 proof tinctures will last 5 years and 100 proof can last even longer than that. The general recommended dose is four to six milliliters of tincture up to three times a day. Because of the varying strength of a homemade tincture, you will have to use a bit of trial and error to find the dosage that works for you. 

    Making Willow Bark Tincture

    Nonalcoholic Willow Bark Extract:

    For those who are sensitive to alcohol, a glycerin-based extract, known as a glycerite, is a great alternative. This sweet decoction can help offset the bitterness of the willow and works best with fresh willow bark.

    1. Fill a jar one-half full with willow bark, then add three parts glycerine and one part water and shake vigorously.

    2. Place in a cool, dry location and give the jar a healthy shake daily.

    3. After six to eight weeks, strain out the willow bark by pouring the mixture through a sieve, and conserve the glycerite in amber bottles, away from sunlight.

    The shelf life of a glycerine extract is only two years, so label and date your extract. 

    Willow Tinctures in Jars

    Willow Bark Oxymel:

    For those seeking something a little different, an oxymel is an extract that uses raw apple cider vinegar instead of alcohol.

    1. To make this natural pain remedy, use one part dried willow bark, one part raw cider vinegar, and one part raw honey.

    2. Place them in a wide-mouthed jar together, shake them vigorously, and shake regularly for 8-12 weeks.

    3. Then strain out the bark and bottle as you would any other extract. The vinegar adds some probiotic qualities and the honey has antibacterial properties.

    This will be weaker than an alcohol-based tincture, so again trial and error will help determine the best dose.

    Willow Bark Oxymel

    While none of these are going to be the exact same chemical composition as lab-synthesized aspirin, they are gentler on the stomach and have been used to ease pain for thousands of years.

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      4 thoughts on “How to Make “Homemade Aspirin””

      1. Willow trees are more popular in Australia than you think. I grew up with a weeping willow in my back yard. In the house I now live in, near a tiny creek, there are six weeping willows. 23 kms from here there is a place that makes willow cricket bats from their own trees.


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