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Ancient painkiller found in Colorado rock shelter

sherd

Traces of salicyclic acid have been found on a 1,300-year-old ceramic sherd found in a rock shelter in Colorado.

The ethnographic record is rich with accounts of native peoples throughout the West using the bark, leaves, and roots of willow trees as a topical painkiller and to reduce inflammation.

Particularly among Puebloan cultures and groups of the Great Plains, people were known to prepare infusions of the willow’s roots and inner bark, and make poultices that were applied to aches, some practices that continue today.

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Story: Western Digs | Photo: Denise Regan

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