Botanical Harvest: Willow (Salix spp.)

In the desert, willow means water.  It is the guardian of our rivers that safeguards soil and purifies contamination with a fierce mesh of roots.  Willow is home to the little willow flycatcher, food for beavers and shade for the waterways.

Willow is also resilience.  Coppiced by chainsaw or beaver, these amazing trees bounce back strong and vibrant.  In traditions worldwide, willow’s regenerative super-powers are associated with the underworld and used both to call spirits and drive off ghosts. Willow makes the traditional binding on a witches’ broom, herbal aspirin, ancient beauty remedies and a very bitter survival food.

Willow bark is best harvested in the spring

Willow bark is best harvested in the spring

Willow stimulates new cell formation, resulting in glowier skin for all

Willow stimulates new cell formation, resulting in glowier skin for all

For those of us with scant dealings in the underworld, willow is still regenerative. Compounds in this riparian plant gently exfoliate the skin -- helping clear pores, erase fine lines, lighten acne scarring and renew dry skin.  It is effective acne control as well helping dry or mature skin better absorb moisture.  There is considerable research showing that willow stimulates new cell formation, resulting in glowier skin for all.

Willow bark and leaves going into the distiller

Willow bark and leaves going into the distiller

The fragrance of willow changes with the seasons. In the fall it is more mellow and sweet.  Walk down into the bosque, find some willows, sit on the riverbank and inhale.  Warmed by the sun, willow releases a musty, sweet and spicy perfume that lingers in the cool shade like an offering to the river or maybe the smell of quietness itself.

Whether you are repelling ghosts, feeding beavers or beautifying your skin, willow is pretty cool.  There are around 400 species worldwide so it's not a hard plant to find.  In the spring, we harvest the bark and leaves of local Coyote Willow to make our willow perfumes and hydrosols. 

Next time you’re out for a walk by the river, stop and smell the willow.  Scoop a handful of willow leaf mulch, chew a twig -- or come check out willow’s wild perfume in our soaps, beauty oils and plantwaters.