Wild crafting, picking herbs or plant matter from the wild, is often thought of as an ideal way to supply yourself with needed herbs. Sadly it can also be a major way to destroy the source that we need and populations in the future. Wild crafting should be done with respect for the resource you are collecting. This means that you should never remove plant material from private land without permission from the land owner and you should never remove plants from state or national parks as these lands are protected. removing plant matter from those parks comes with a penalty.
Aside from the, where to collect, there is the, how to collect. Identify the trees using at least two print sources for information. Choosing bark from the wrong tree could, aside form being ineffective, create a health risk for anyone using the willow bark.
When collecting willow bark, one should never remove more than three switches from any one willow tree. If there is a stand of willow trees you should take just three switches from every other mature tree while walking through the grove in a straight line. Do not criss cross the stand of trees picking every other. Walk through, and from every other mature tree, remove three good sized long switches. Never, under ay circumstances, should you remove bark from the tree’s trunk. Trunk stripping is unnecessary and would leave the tree vulnerable possibly killing the tree with in a year. Occasional lost switches from the tree are expendable and the tree will be fine if they are taken wisely. Never take more than you can use in one year. Over collecting from any one grove will stress the trees and the stand may eventually die off and be lost, not just to yourself but to any future collectors.
When you get your batch of switches home, rinse them once in cool fresh water. Shake them dry gently and pat them with a dry towel to complete the drying process. Strip the bark from the switch by scraping it with a knife. This can be done by holding the switch in one hand by the thick end. Hold a straight bladed, sharp knife in the other hand. Put a cutting board or a bit of tough leather under the knife’s blade with the thick end of the switch, just beyone your hand, between the knife and the board. Angle the knife away from yourself anchoring it by the tip in the cutting board. Push down just enough to penetrate the bark. You do not want to scrape the white wood of the switch. Work towards the thin end of the switch. Gently pushing down on the knife, pull the switch back through the space between the knife and the board scrapeing the bark from the switch. This may take some practice but with time you will be stripping bark quickly with no major effort. Roll the switch one third around in your hand and repeat the scraping process twice more.
Spread your stripped bark out on a flat surface to dry in the air, it should dry out of the sun. It will curl while it drys. This curling is to be expected, especially if you have long peelings from the switches.
The resulting bark can be cut up and used as a tea to gently relieve mild pain and inflammation. This is a medicine that has been used for far longer than the over the counter aspirin of today. Most primitive cultures that developed where willows grow use willow the bark for this purpose. Willow bark was in reality the inspiration for Mr. Bayer’s original aspirin formula, back when he first patented in with the Bayer name. Unfortunately for him, he was a bit miserly and refused to pay the fee to patent the name, “aspirin”. This left him open to wide scale imitation and losses. Aspirin is now known as ASA or acetylsalicylic acid or just aspirin and is available over the counter in most countries.
My resource is my personal experience, I learned by doing.