Making Aspirin in the Bush

Out in the bush we get many scrapes and bruises. It is not a foreign thought that one day you may sprain your ankle on a hike with no help around. Here is a method that could give you an edge to fight the pain and make it back alive.

Poplars contain a compound known as salicin in their inner bark. The marketed artificial substance many of are familiar with is acetylsalicylic acid; more commonly known as Aspirin. If you are allergic to aspirin do not use any form of it, including this method. The risks that apply to aspirin use still apply here and should not be taken lightly. The natural form is actually absorbed easier than the synthetic form, so do not believe that just because it is natural it is good for you. It is advised that you seek guidance from your medical doctor before using any herbal supplement or medicine. Overdose symptoms may include ringing in your ears, headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, confusion, hallucinations, rapid breathing, fever, seizure (convulsions), or coma and require immediate medical attention. The use of aspirin is not advised for people who are bleeding as it may cause them to bleed out.

Usually, a younger branch off of a willow or aspen tree is cut. From there bark is scraped off and collected making sure to get the white “slick” layer of inner bark just underneath and before the hardwood. Within this bark and cambium layer lies the pain killing properties of aspirin.

There are a couple methods of ingesting this drug to help fight pain and alleviate inflammation. The most simple is to take about a 2 table spoon dose of the shredded cambium and bark then chew on it. It is going to taste as one may imagine; like chewing on chalk. Swallow the juices that come from the quid.

The second method of ingestion is to make a tea. Once again, take about 2 table spoons of the cambium, let it steep for about 10 minutes in hot water. Be careful not to boil the water with the cambium in it as it may denature the aspirin. This drink is often bitter but can be spruced up by adding some mint or honey.

Stripping the bark comes more easily in spring and summer. It becomes more difficult to separate it as the months grow colder but is still very possibly and remains just as useful.

Here is a list of some plants that contain aspirin in the cambium and bark:

Populus tremuloides: Quaking, Trembling or American Aspen (northern & western North America)

Populus grandidentata: Bigtooth Aspen (eastern North America, south of P. tremuloides)

white willow/European willow ( Salix alba )

black willow/pussy willow ( Salix nigra )

crack willow ( Salix fragilis )

purple willow ( Salix purpurea )

weeping willow ( Salix babylonica )

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