Balsam Poplar

The buds of the poplar tree are one of my favourite things to harvest. This is a plentiful tree growing here around Edmonton and across Canada. We can gather a great deal of buds from a few trees by just taking the buds off the windfall branches in Spring and Autumn.

The resinous buds are sticky and fragrant. A beautiful warm, mellow, earthy smell of the forest. The scent and the resinous properties is what makes it a great thing to infuse into oil to use topically as is or to add to balms, body butters, etc. The resin is emollient which helps soften, soothe and protect the skin. They are also vulnerary helping heal cuts and wounds and demulcent, helping soothe and protect irritated/inflammed tissue.

The buds can also be simmered as a tea to help alleviate cold symptoms. This is one of the ways they were used by the indigenous peoples was to simmer the buds in water and to drink as a tea. Any resin that collected on the sides of the pot was often mixed with spruce pitch to make glue.

Latin Name: Populus balsamifera

Indigenous Name: T'oo (Gwich'in)

Common Name: Balsam Poplar, Cottonwood

Parts Used: buds, catkins, inner bark, leaves. 

Energetics: Bitter

Actions: analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, antiseptic, astringent, bitter, tonic, vulnerary. 

Medicinal uses: The resinous buds, leaves, and bark can all be used medicinally. Being in the Salicacae (willow tree) family, the poplar contains compounds that help reduce pain and inflammation. 

Topical: infused oil, balm, butter, liniment, tea, or tincture.

Internal: A tincture can be made with the inner bark. Tea can be made from the fresh buds

Used In: Ah-mazing balm, eczema balm, pain in the ... balm, pain relief body + bath oil, herbal lip balms, dry skin poplar stick (Autumn 2022)! 

1) Gray, Beverley (2011). The Boreal Herbal - Wild Food and Medicine Plants of the North.
2) Pursell, JJ. (2015). The Herbal Apothecary. 100 Medicinal Herbs and How to Use Them.
3) Fehr, Alan. (2001). Gwich'in Ethnobotany. Plants used by the Gwich'in for Food, Medicine, Shelter, and Tools.