Cottonwood Buds Salve

 Cottonwood Salve or oil or Balm of Gilead

Ah 2021.. if there has ever! been a year that you should be on top of getting your harvests on things that can only be harvested “ONCE” a year, this is the year.. I am going to be covering a number of things that I have posted on over the past 10 years on the blog, I will be doing new post but linking back to older posts at times.

One step at a time, as they come ready we are going to work on creating a number of healing salves, tea’s dried this and that and a number of other things.. If you never need to use them, wonderful.. but so many things are truly only ready for harvest in a very short window of time and if you do not get it into your herbal cupboard.. it will not be there till next year and this is not the year to count on being able to just “order” things or assume your friend will have extra? that they are willing to part with.

The common Cottonwood Tree holds a lovely secret.. its buds in Feb (in our zone) are filled with a sticky sap that can be made with olive oil into a amazing healing external salve

Some time in Mid feb or Late Feb here in Garden zone 5, the Cottonwood buds are going to start swelling in size getting ready for spring, they will plump up and if given a little pinch.. they will ooze a a bit of red to yellow colored resin.. if your buds are still smaller and very firm.. keep checking..

When you get your nose near them, they do have a lovely scent to them or at least I think so 🙂 They are sticky, so please expect that your fingers will have a good little goo/stick to them.


The Buds are used in ointments and skin treatments to reduce pain and inflammation, and to ease rheumatic pain. Salicin, a major constituent of this plant, is a painkiller, while bisabolol in the oil reduces inflammation and is antimicrobial

These tree’s tend to have a good amount of branches come down in the winds and you can very often collect what you need from the downed branches which is the ideal, not effecting the tree’s productive leaves to be. Lay out your buds and let them air dry if they were at all wet.. ideally you waited for a nice sunny winter day and collected in the warmest part of the afternoon.. if you picked carefully then you should have no issues with your buds

Once you have collected the amount your will need for your size of family, a jar full will normally get the job done, fill your jar with your buds, then cover with a good qaulity olive oil and give it a shake, into the cool dark cupboard for a min of 6 weeks but up to a year before making the salve itself..

Farmgal hint.. reuse the same jar over and over again, it is just easier to use the same one as its very hard to get it clean lol


Its a very basic salve, strain out the buds, measure out your oil, I use raw beeswax to thicken it into a stiff salve that will melt at body temp and I use a small 4oz canning jar, I pour my hot Salve into the clean dry jar and then store it in the fridge once opened.

You can make it is as thin or as thick as you like by controlling the beeswax percentage.

Side Effects: If you are sensitive to aspirin, you should use care in regards to using Balm of Gilead.

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15 Responses to Cottonwood Buds Salve

  1. Best stuff ever! It also smells wonderful.

  2. valbjerke says:

    Very good point you are making….many people don’t realize how many things they may have in their backyard that they can put to use.
    I use poplar buds for a similar salve like you make, spruce buds make a really nice small batch jelly for eating with game meats. Just don’t strip the poor tree.
    I make plantain ointment, dry it and use it for a stiptic in the first aid kit. Even the lowly chickweed can be put to use, nettles, clover, pineapple weed. Dandelion of course (I leave most of mine for the bees until other pollen comes available) can be dug up and the roots roasted for a coffee ‘extender’.
    You’re right – this is the year for getting back to some serious basics.

    • Oh, tell me more about the dry the ointment and use it as a steptic.. this highly interest’s me.. how are you drying the salve, and then are you grinding it into a powder, do you use the dydrator. if so herb temp, sun dry??

      • valbjerke says:

        Oh I didn’t make that clear. For a plantain stiptic, I just dehydrate the leaves themselves – usually in my dehydrator…in a ‘herb’ setting. Once they are dry I whiz them up in my coffee grinder a small amount at a time until they’re all finely ground. Kept in a jar in the first aid cupboard. A small amount of this powder stops bleeding. Works on cuts and scrapes for livestock too. Of course not if there are any stitches needed – as it will have to be cleaned out.
        Separately, I sometimes make a plantain ointment. I use that on the cow udders in place of bag balm – though I have a different recipe for bag balm I sometimes make instead.

      • Ah, got it now.. thank you so much for explaining 🙂 makes sense..

      • Love these kind of posts Val Johnstone and thanks for sharing all this info Val Bjerke! Have you either of you ever used Chicory Root? I remember Dad drying it for ‘coffee’ substitute back in the 70’s. (But then again, they also drank freeze-dried instant, so not sure how good it was; )

      • valbjerke says:

        I used to work at a German deli/butcher shop – they sold chicory root coffee extender there. I liked it, it was popular with the customers. Chicory grows wild in BC – but not near where I am.

  3. What bees use to make Propolis.

  4. Cricket says:

    What serendipity! The day before I saw your post, I was out walking at one of my favorite spots, and noticed these red-green sappy looking buds on the ground for the first time. I just made note and moved on and then read your post. Already long story shorter, we were back there and we’ve just had ice storms so many cottonwood branches down, and we collected a bag of the buds. Mmmm, the smell is amazing! Some of the buds have fuzzy-looking “flowers”? emerging. Are these still useful for the making of oil/salve? I see a few like them in the picture you posted.

  5. Dee says:

    Great read!! Thanks! I’ve recently received some buds but they are dry – like bone dry. How would use them to infuseoil? Blend first?

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