White Poplar

Populus alba

Herbs gallery - White Poplar

Common names

  • Abele
  • Silver-leaf Poplar
  • Silver Poplar
  • White Poplar

White poplar tree is a deciduous tree (botanical name, Populus alba) native to the Eurasian region and grows up to a height of anything between 40 feet and 80 feet. The bark of the young white poplar trees is greenish-white and smooth and turns into gray and creased as they mature. The leaves of this species have a resemblance to maple leaves and are palmately lobed. Precisely speaking, the leaves of white poplar have an oval or spherical shape, having three to five lobes (each measuring five inches in length) appearing alternately. While the topsides of the leaves are glossy, deep green, the underside of the leaves are whitish as well as hairy. The leaves may also be bluish-green on the topside and wooly white in the underside. The leaves of white poplar have undulating edges and are roughly jagged.

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Trees of this species bear male or female flowers (dioecious) separately. Each white poplar tree produces minute reddish male and green hued female flowers that emerge in detached clusters known as catkins on separate trees - male trees and female trees, in April (during spring) and prior to the emergence of the foliage. The clusters of white poplar flowers are not flashy or ostentatious. The blooms in the female catkins yield little capsules that are dehiscent (fruits that burst naturally) when mature and generally break open during the later part of May, scattering plentiful of seeds that are cotton-tufted. The fruits of white poplar are minute, while the seed pods have bristles that help them to disperse by winds.

The branches of white poplar are extremely vulnerable to break when they are under pressure, for instance when there is profuse snow or ice. Trees belonging to this species yield profuse root sprouts. And as mentioned earlier, white poplar trees are native to the Eurasian region and develop as well as thrive best when they are grown in areas receiving total sunlight.

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White poplar is often cultivated as an ornamental tree mainly because its foliage, young branches, buds and even the young bark possess a silvery-green color. This species was introduced into North America for the first time during the mid-1700s and since then it has been grown extensively all over the United States. In fact, white poplar has also escaped cultivation and grows naturally in several regions, especially in the East.

White poplar is a deciduous tree whose growth is very rapid having a crown which varies from being asymmetrical to wide-rounded. The normal diameter of a mature white poplar is approximately two to three feet. Nevertheless, very often white poplar is seen growing as a multi-trunked tree. As in the case of American aspen, the leaves of white poplars also quiver even in slightest breeze, displaying its eye-catching foliage. However, the color of its foliage is very ordinary during the fall. The young white poplar trees have a smooth and greenish-gray bark, but it turns into deep gray-black with creases as it matures.

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Going by ancient Roman mythology, it is believed that the white poplar was dedicated to Hercules since he had obliterated Cacus, an Italian shepherd who lived in a cave and thrived on human flesh, in a cave close to the Aventine Hill that was covered with white poplar trees. It is also said that when Hercules overcame Cacus, he made a crown using a branch of white poplar as a mark of his triumph. Since then, people who offered sacrifices to Hercules always wore a crown made with the branch of white poplar tree. Imitating Hercules, in those times, everyone who had magnificently defeated their enemies also wore garlands of white poplar branches.

White poplar belongs to the botanical family of Willow trees. Compared to many other trees, white poplar is reasonably hardy and has the aptitude to tolerate an assortment of soil as well as climatic conditions. Although, it is a very striking tree, often it might turn to be a bothersome tree owing to the littering of its fragile branches. While the white poplar may not be the most favoured tree to augment the beauty of a landscape, the bark of this tree possesses numerous remedial properties.

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Parts used

Bark, leaf, leaf bud.

Uses

The bark of white poplar has been commonly reputed for possessing pain-alleviating and anti-inflammatory properties. Very often, preparations with the white poplar bark are used to cure arthritic and rheumatic pains and aches. In addition, the bark is also said to be effective in reducing fever, particularly when the condition is related to rheumatic arthritis.

As the bark of white poplar possesses tonic or stimulant properties, it works as an energizer medication while treating anorexia as well as other different conditions related to debility. The bark also possesses notable antiseptic and astringent attributes that makes it effective while treating diarrhea as well as symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (also known as IBS). It is useful in treating conditions which are somewhat below chronic diarrhea and it may also used as a substitute for quinine. White poplar bark products may also be used to promote digestion and especially augment the functioning of the liver and the stomach, mainly in cases where the patient suffers from loss of appetite.

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Other remedial benefits of white poplar bark include its usefulness in treating infections of the urinary tract. In addition, it may also be used as a tonic for the urinary system. The bark of white poplar is also considered to be effective in curing feverish cold as well as infections, for instance, cystitis. The other uses of the bark include treating the weakness of the female organs, urine incontinence, dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation) as well as discharge of mucus from the bladder.

White poplar is often grown as an ornamental tree owing to its attractive foliage. However, white poplar is not a suitable tree to be planted along the streets because its roots are shallow and are likely to crumple the sidewalks damaging sewers. The suckering tendency as well as the cluttered propensities of white poplar, such as littering its brittle twigs, quivering leaves and cottony seeds also makes this tree inappropriate for growing in lawns. On the other hand, the rapid growth rate of white poplar makes this species an interesting option for being used as a windbreak or screen in the case of property lines. White poplar is an excellent species for growing in sunny woodlands where it may grow naturally. Commercially, all-male or seedless and columnar/ conical cultivars of white poplar are available easily. The wood of white poplar is soft and ideal for making cellulose as well as inexpensive boxes.

Habitat and cultivation

White poplar is indigenous to the Eurasian region, especially the area extending from Spain and Morocco via central Europe (i.e. northwards to Poland and Germany) towards central Asia. This botanical species grows best in damp locations, generally along water bodies, in the regions having hot summers and cold to gentle winter conditions.

For proper growth, white poplar needs enough of light and dampness. Trees of this variety are able to endure flood water as well as somewhat acidic soils effectively. While the greenish-white leaves of white poplar render it to be a useful ornamental tree, the sucker roots of the tree are likely to create problems in a number of conditions. When grown in open spaces like water meadows white poplar is extremely appealing and owing to its widespread root system as well as its ability to endure salty conditions, this species may also be grown along the coastal areas with a view to fortify the coastal sand dunes.

Constituents

Chemical analysis of the white poplar bark as well as the different members belong to the Willow family encloses a chemical compound known as salicin - basically a salicylate, which possesses properties akin to those of aspirin. Nevertheless, the bark of white poplar is different from aspirin in a number of ways. It has the aptitude to alleviate the pain without bothering the stomach. However, here is a word of caution. Never take the bark of white poplar or any of its formulations as an alternate for a blood thinner.

Usual dosage

The bark of white poplar comes in the form of pill or tablet. In addition, it is also available in the liquid extract form. Since the bark of this tree has a bitter and unpleasant taste, most people prefer taking pills. It is advisable not to take any product of the white poplar bark in conjugation with any other non-steroidal or anti-inflammatory drugs, for instance ibuprofen or aspirin, as this may augment the risk of bleeding in the stomach.

Compared to several other medications, formulations prepared with white poplar bark is safer for ingestion. While you are taking white poplar bark to treat any condition, you ought to follow the same precautions which are applicable in the case of aspirin. While purchasing white poplar bark formulations, you should search for a product that encloses 40 mg salicin. As in the case of aspirin, white poplar bark products should also not be given to children below 16 years.

Side effects and cautions

Although taking white poplar bark products is comparatively safe, you also need to exercise certain precautions while taking this herbal formulation. In case you have allergic reactions to aspirin, you should never take white poplar bark, as it may result in skin irritation just when you get in touch with it. There are several drugs which can interact with herbal medications and, hence, it would be wise on your part if you consult your physician prior to adding a new herb to your list of medications.

Since the chemical composition of aspirin and the compounds present in white poplar bark are very dissimilar, it denotes that it is unlikely you would be experiencing the similar kinds of side effects that are common with aspirin - for instance, nausea and heartburn. However, when white poplar bark preparations are taken in very large doses, it may result in stomach disorder. Therefore, as in the case of any other remedy, always ensure that you strictly follow the dosage of white poplar recommended by your physician as this will help you to diminish your risks of side effects.

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Comments

From Richard Lewis
I just read recently in a "NOW" vitamin bulletin, that if you have bad knee pain from osteoarthritis and take "white poplar" 90mg, and "Feverfew" 110mg, as well as "Yarrow" 60mg, 3 times a day, that these herbs equal a dose of the NSAID: Ibuprofen without the side effects to your liver and the possibility of a stroke or a heart attack....The Germans were, and still may be selling this herbal formula under the name of: "Gitadyl."
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