Herbal sources of Salicin vs Aspirin

Salicin is phytochemical which is found in smaller amounts in food as well as in higher quantities in some herbs. When ingested, it is metabolised into salicylic acid, in the body.

Aspirin is actually made from acetylated version of salicylic acid. At normal doses, it is one of the safest drugs used for treating inflammatory related problems such as headache.

However, some people such as myself, prefer the natural source since it is safer version with lower risk of side effects.


There are couple of herbs with very high content of salicylates which are comparable to aspirin. This includes:

  • Meadowsweet
  • Willow Bark - the most used herbal source of salicylic acid, especially White Willow Bark
  • Wintergreen - contains very high amount of salicylates, especially wintergreen oil
  • Poplar tree
  • Sweet and White Birch

Besides these herbs there are many foods which are natural source of salicylic acid. However, quantity is very small when compared to herbs.

Food sources of salicylates include berries, olives, mushrooms, nuts, almonds, seeds, raisins, tomatoes, radish, chicory, green pepper, alfalfa, broccoli, spinach, sweet potato and some spices such as curcuma, curry, turmeric, cumin, thyme, oregano, rosemary and mustard.


Salicylates are natural blood thinners which work, by reducing production of prostaglandins and thromboxanes. By lowering these two enzymes, inflammation and potential of platelets to stick to one another is reduced which lowers the risk of blood clots, heart attack and stroke. 

However, platelets are essential to us since they seal the wound and prevent bleeding, by sticking together in case of injury. Only very high or low blood platelets can cause problems.

Salicylates are bitter compounds and natural oil cleansers which wipe up the greasy, sticky layer on the surface of platelets and reduce its production via prostaglandins and thromboxanes.

Salicylic acid has also shown to be helpful in treatment of rheumatic fever and pericarditis thereby preventing hypertrophy and damage of the cardiac muscle.

Besides, reducing the risk of myocardial infarction, it also lowers the risk of death and further tissue damage, after heart attack has already occurred.

Salicylic acid's blood-thinning properties make it useful even for people with coronary artery disease. If the blood is less thick, it will flow better through the clogged arteries.


Since salicylates are natural anti-inflammatories they have been used for treating headaches, relieving pain as well as for easing the symptoms of arthritis, acne, psoriasis and warts. 

Some studies even say that taking aspirin on regular basis, one to twice per week, may reduce the risk of cancer since chronic inflammation is associated with angiogenesis of cancerous cells.

Salicin also posesses anti-bacterial and antiseptic properties which makes it useful for treating high fever, flu, allergies, skin rash and other bacterial infections.

For instance, every summer I would get nasty rash on my forearms. Although I tried several remedies, nothing really worked until I bought skin cleanser which contained salicylic acid as the main ingredient. In a few days, I was rash free and my skin was cleaner then ever.


Salicin can be toxic, if consumed in high quantities, whether you are taking aspirin or the herbs. It can damage the kidneys and the stomach causing ulcers, diarrhea, bleeding or digestive discomfort.

Severe overdose can even lead to death, in some cases.

Other possible side effects include nausea, vomiting, rash, dizziness and breathing problems. Since salicylates are natural blood thinners, they can increase the risk of bleeding, especially if combined with anti-coagulant medications or in people with low blood platelet count.

Due to their chemical structure, they also shouldn't be combined with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, beta blockers, fish oil and diuretics. Some people may even be allergic to salicylic acid.

Also, pregnant and breastfeeding women shouldn't take salicylates.


Before taking the herbs or the aspirin, consult with your doctor, especially if there is a chance you might be allergic to salicylic acid.

I used to take Sinus and Respiratory formula made by New Chapter which contained salicin, among other herbs but the product is no longer available on iherb.

Since I can't get it from supplements, I keep some aspirin close by. However, I also get small amounts of salicylates from the foods I eat.

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