cottonwoodIts time to harvest Cottonwood buds

February and early March are often the best time in the Pacific Northwest to collect the sap-filled buds of cottonwood trees for making an antiseptic, pain-relieving, skin-healing salve. The sweet-smelling sticky sap, also known as “Balm of Gilead”, has been used for centuries to treat a variety of skin troubles, from cuts and scrapes to minor burns and bruises.

The oil can be used on its own, mixed with other oils, or turned into a salve. Due to its analgesic (pain relieving) and anti-inflammatory properties cottonwood bud oil is wonderful to use externally for arthritis and other inflammatory and painful conditions. I often use it for my muscle oil rub in combination with Arnica and Comphry oil.

The tincture is known for its expectorant properties for the lungs. Can be used for bronchitis, laryngitis and loss of voice due to the inflammation. Once again the tincture is wonderful to add to first aid kits as it is a great anti-septic and can help with skin infections or the prevention there of.

Cottonwood Oil

Pick the buds that are large and swollen. They often glisten with sap and will break off from the branch easily. Fill a quart-sized glass jar about 2/3 of the way full with buds. Then fill the jar up to the top with olive oil (I prefer olive oil as it does not spoil easily). Put a lid on the jar.

Let the jar of buds and oil sit for eight to twelve months. Stir every few weeks if you get the chance, and make sure the buds stay covered by the oil (exposed buds will mold). When you are ready you can strain the oil through a cheesecloth.

You can now use the oil directly on scrapes, bruises, and minor burns, or turn the oil into a salve.

Cottonwood Tincture

The resin is best extract in high proof grain alcohol. Locate a spirit with the highest grain alcohol available to you.

Place alcohol and cottonwood buds in a jar and seal tightly with a lid. Allow the tincture to steep until the liquid become reddish and the cottonwood buds no longer feel sappy to the touch. This may be as little as a few days up to weeks depending on the quality of your buds and the percentage of alcohol in your menstruum.

Once your tincture is finished, strain with a fine mesh sieve line with 3 layers of muslin, wringing to extract all moisture. This will stain the cloth, take note. Place in a dropper bottle(s) and store in a cool, dark place.

For administration, use ½ to 1 dropperfull (15-30 individual droplets) in a small “shot” of water every 2-3 hours while symptoms persist.

Cottonwood Salve

  • 6oz organic extra virgin coconut oil
  • 2 oz extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 oz dried cottonwood buds
  • 1 tablespoon beeswax pastilles

I Gently warm oils together until the coconut oil is completely liquefied.
Place warm oils and the cottonwood buds into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the cottonwood is broken up.

To infuse the oils you can place the oils and cottonwood buds into a small crock pot and heat on the lowest setting for 24-36 hours. If a small crock pot is not available, place the oil mixture into a jar and place in a regular size crock pot with water up to the fill height on jar and heat on lowest setting. Once fully infused the oil will take on a sunny, orange-ish hue.

Strain the oil through a fine mesh sieve lined with muslin, wringing to extract all oil.

Add beeswax pastilles to cottonwood bud infused oil and gently heat until the beeswax dissolves.

Pour into small jars and allow to cool completely before placing a lid on the jar.

Please contact me if you have any questions about these remedies. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have about finding or working with the ingredients.