If you’d rather not imbibe harsh chemicals and think it might be a good idea to practice your survival skills, then you might try making bark aspirin.
If you’re in pain and there’s a stand of trees handy, you might be able to avail yourself of one of the more effective natural remedies out there: bark aspirin. This may sound just a bit hippy-like for some folks, but the truth is, all aspirin derives, ultimately, from tree bark.
You see, salacin, the chemical precursor to commercial aspirin, was originally isolated from willow bark, hence the name (the scientific name for the willow is Salix). It’s also present in the bark of poplar trees, which tend to be more common than willows.
Admittedly, commercial aspirin isn’t heinously expensive. But the bark variety is cheaper, it works great, and it’s a great trick to know in case you ever find yourself stuck in the middle of the woods and you need some pain relief.
If you twist an ankle when you’re miles from civilization, for example, or if you’re camping and come down with a migraine but forgot the ibuprofen, this survival tip can help you get by until you get home.
Collecting the Bark
We recommend poplar bark over willow bark, given the poplar’s greater ubiquity, but either will suit. First, make sure you positively identify the tree as to type; both are pretty easy to recognize, though. If you’re game, you’ll need to start with the living inner bark of the tree, the cambium, which lies right next to the heartwood.
In the spring and early summer, it’s fairly easy to peel the bark right off the tree. Otherwise you’ll need to use a sharp knife to score it before trying to peel it. The bark of younger trees is the most potent.
Incidentally, we’d recommend that you harvest small branches and collect the bark from them, since peeling too much bark off the main trunk might harm the tree.
It’s easy to use this natural aspirin. Just simmer about two teaspoons of grated cambium in a cup of water for 10-15 minutes to form a tea, strain the result, and drink it. You might want to add some sweetener, because it’ll be bitter.
In fact, you’ll find that this form of aspirin tastes, smells, and works just like the tablets you’re used to. Don’t drink more than 3-4 cups per day, because like commercial aspirin, it can have side effects, particularly stomach pains.
You can always make large batches of the salacin tea if you like and put it aside for later use. Similarly, you can store the bark for later use if you don’t happen to be near a ready source, but be aware that both bark aspirin and tea do tend to lose their potency over time.