Willow is a very commonly used herb in Western herbal medicine. It is primarily used for inflammation, pain, and bleeding. While writing a monograph on this plant for my new book, I did a little research into how the Chinese view this medicinal. Here is a little about what the Chinese literature as to say about some of the Willow species used in Chinese medicine.
Chinese medicine uses a number of Salix species in medicine including S. alba, S. babylonica, S. cheilophila, S. matsudana, and S. sinopurpurea. The Chinese name for S. alba, or white willow, is bái liŭ (白柳), which means “white willow” the first character (白) means white and the second character (柳) is the name of the Latin genus name Salix, or in English, willow. This medicinal grows, and is sometimes cultivated, below 3100 meters elevation in the provinces of Gansu, Qinghai, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, and Tibet, where it is also used for timber, weaving baskets and for nectar for raising bees. As a medicinal it is considered bitter and cold. It clears damp-heat and disperses wind-damp. It is used for acute tonsillitis, upper respiratory tract infections, sore throat, pelvic inflammation, kidney inflammation, sores and boils. It is made into a decoction in a dose of 9-15g or by pouring boiling water over it and allowing it to soak.
S. sinopurpurea (水杨根) is considered bitter and neutral. It resolve toxin and disperses swelling and settles pain. It is used externally for mammary welling-abscess (acute mastitis) and incised wounds. S. matsudana (旱柳), the leaf and small branches are used, is considered bitter and cold. It clear heat and disinhibits dampness and, dispels wind and stops pain. It is used for jaundice, acute bladder inflammation, inhibited urination, arthritis, yellow water sores (impetigo), sore toxin, and toothache. It is used internally in decoction at 9-15g or pound and apply externally. The stem of this medicinal is used in the following formula to treat arthritis with swelling: hàn liŭ zhī (旱柳枝) 15g, jì shēng (寄生) 9g, sāng zhī (桑枝) 9g, tòu gŭ căo (透骨草) (Gaultheria yunnanensis) 6-9g, wŭ jiā pí (五加皮) 9g, taken as a decoction. (Note: see Translation of Available Sources under the wintergreen heading in the first book for more information on Gaultheria yunnanensis, which also goes by the name of tòu gŭ xiāng (透骨香)).
S. cheilophila (沙柳) is acrid, bitter and slightly cold. It dispels wind and clears heat, and dissipates stasis and stops pain. It is used for the onset of measles, macularpapular eruptions that have yet to outthrust, skin itching, furuncles and swollen welling-abscesses, and lumbar strain.
S. babylonica (柳枝) is bitter and cold, and enter the stomach and liver channels. It dispels wind and disinhibits dampness, and resolves toxin and disperses swelling. It is used to treat wind-dampness impediment pain, urinary strangury-turbidity.
It is interesting to see that Chinese medicine uses these species, including the main species used traditionally in Western herbal medicine. I think it is also interesting that they are, more or less used the same way.