Learn how to Make Balm of Gilead (also known as Cottonwood Oil) from the buds of the cottonwood tree. It’s beautifully fragrant and an excellent form of skin support – anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and analgesic!
Many people [who don’t reside in Arizona] think that our state is just one bit pit of burning heat – when in fact, we have seasons here just like other parts of the country. Albeit – you have to drive an hour or two north to find those seasons, but they do happen.
In the summer, I gather up Creosote to make this fabulous creosote salve. And in the fall/winter, I make Balm of Gilead oil with one of my favorite botanical medicines – cottonwood buds.
If you have a cottonwood grace where you live, you likely are familiar with the incredible scent that the trees give off. The buds of the tree are available fall to late winter – it is those buds that exude a sticky resin that is referred to as “Balm of Gilead” (Cottonwood oil).
Those buds can be used to make a balm for skin support that smells absolutely divine!
First – Collect Cottonwood Buds
Here in Arizona, Cottonwood trees line rivers and bodies of water (as the roots require a significant source of hydration!)
Often times you will find cottonwood trees (Populus Balsamifera or P. Trichocarpa) growing right near or along a lake or river bank as the roots love and require lots of water.
You’ll want to wait until the trees drop their leaves – here in Arizona, that’s usually the early part of December. Wait for a good storm where the wind knocks the branches and look along the riverbank for cottonwood buds.
You certainly can pick the buds off the tree but.. I would suggest gathering the buds from the ground following a windstorm (as those buds will no longer turn into leaves come spring time).
Similar to Pinon Pine Resin, the resin from the cottonwood buds can be quite sticky – so prepare to have your hands and other collecting items sticky from the resin. Vodka works well to remove the sticky resin from items, as does lemon essential oil.
Make Balm of Gilead (Cottonwood Oil)
Once you have collected enough cottonwood buds, fill a quart mason jar half way with buds.
Pour olive oil on the top of the buds, and then cover with a mason jar band and lid. I would not suggest tightening that lid as the buds will expand over time. Just leave the lid and band sit a little loose.
You can also put a small cheesecloth over the top and let sit on the rear of the counter on a towel (as the jar may exude oil if the buds expand too much).
Make sure the buds are covered in oil so as to avoid mold. In the early stages of infusion, the buds will float on the top. Over time, however, they will sink – you’ll want to stir the jar daily or tighten the lid periodically and give the jar a shake.
Strain the buds out after 2 months, but feel free to leave the buds in longer. Some people soak the buds in oil for up to a year. Once you strain the buds, keep the jar (don’t rinse out!) and use it for the next batch.
Store your balm of Gilead infused oil in a dry, dark cabinet until you are ready to use (massage oil or salve).
Helpful Tips for Collecting Buds
- If you collect more buds than you can use quickly, you can freeze them or, dry them on a tray and keep them in an airtight jar out of direct sunlight.
- If you are short on time, you can also use your crock pot for an infused oil – simply fill a quart canning jar halfway with buds. Top off with olive oil. Then pour that mixture in your crock pot (that’s a 1:2 ratio) – set that crock pot on low for 1-2 hours, checking on it periodically. I
- Use the infused oil to make a salve – Divide the amount of infused oil you want to use for your salve by 4.5 and use that amount in beeswax. Combine the beeswax and the infused oil in your double broiler or, in a high quality glass measuring cup by microwave in 20-30 second increments. Once melted, pour into 2 oz tins (I love these tins here on Amazon!)
- No additional scents are needed for balm of Gilead oil – it smells absolutely wonderful.
Balm of Gilead is great for skin support – use the oil as an anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and analgesic (pain reliever!)
It is incredibly healing and wonderfully supportive for a variety of skin issues.
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