Risk assessment of white willow (Salix alba) in food

Salix alba, cortex, White willow, bark, risk assessment, food, food supplements
First published in the EFSA Journal
28 agosto 2018
6 luglio 2018
Special Issue

This report is funded by EFSA as part of the EU‐FORA programme.


This Technical Report contains a description of the activities within the work programme of the EU‐FORA Fellowship on the risk assessment of white willow in food. The bark of different varieties of willow has had a long history of medical use as a means to reduce fever and as a painkiller. Willow bark is also used in weight loss and sports performance food supplements. The labelling of these products usually does not mention any restrictions to the length of use. The recommended doses for foods differ, sometimes exceeding doses recommended for pharmaceuticals. A systematic literature review on adverse effects potentially resulting from oral exposure to white willow (Salix alba) was performed. The aim of the study was to assess the risk for humans when consuming white willow bark in food. The preliminary results show that despite the long history of use only very limited data on toxicity of white willow bark are available. However, anaphylactic reactions in people with a history of allergy to salicylates may occur. Some other adverse effects of salicylates are considered to be of low relevance for the long‐time consumption of white willow bark, mainly due to relatively low concentrations of salicin and the presence of compounds with gastroprotective action. However, it seems that the content of heavy metals, mainly cadmium, should be further addressed in risk assessment of white willow bark in food.

eu-fora [at] efsa.europa.eu
EFSA Journal 2018;16(S1):e16081