Wildcrafting for Poplar Bud Salve
This is the time of year that we look forward to foraging for newly emerged buds of the Balsam Poplar of northwestern Canada. The essence of spring in a jar, the resin of the buds are infused with a carrier oil and beeswax to create a botanical salve that has been used as an anti-inflamatory and antibacterial topical treatment for generations.
We collected these buds in early April, just as the temperatures started to stay above freezing through the night. We can often pick buds from branches that have recently fallen to the ground after strong winds.
If you do harvest directly from the trees, be respectful to ensure only harvesting a modest amount from each branch, from multiple trees and to only pick what you would use in one year.
Although there are many types of poplar trees from region to region, we forage from the Balsam Poplars (more aromatic) as well as the Black Poplar that grow along the river bank of the farm.
Balsam Poplar buds contain natural salicin so use them with caution if you’re allergic to Aspirin. Once collected, you have a few different methods to infuse the resins. Some of the buds can be placed in a jar until it is half full, and the jar can be filled with olive oil, the lid tightened and the jar placed into a cool dark pantry for a few months. Other foragers will freeze the buds to use later in the year as needed.
We mix 1 cup of fresh buds with 1 cup of warm olive oil or coconut oil on the very lowest setting of a crockpot for a few hours stirring occasionally.
This batch was warmed mid-week, left to cool overnight then rewarmed the next evening for a few hours. The buds began to open as they soaked in the warm oil allowing the resins to blend slowly.
On the second day of warming, we added 2 teaspoons of shaved beeswax to help solidify the salve once cooled. To create a denser mixture, use 3 teaspoons of beeswax.
After the beeswax has melted, we pour the mixture through a cheesecloth into a measuring cup to remove the buds.
While the mixture was still warm in the measuring cup, we added a half teaspoon of vitamin E oil to act as a preservative. Other options include adding a few drops of essential oils of your choice in moderation.
The solution can then be decanted into individual dry jars and set aside to solidify as they cool.
Once cooled, the jars can be stored to be used over the next 2 to 6 months. If you decide that the mixture is not the right consistency, you can rewarm the salve in a double boiler and add a little more wax to create a denser product or add a bit more oil to soften. Once mixed, pour the solution back into glass storage jars.
Many generations and cultures have used this medicinal salve to treat a variety of ailments. It has been used most commonly for muscle aches and arthritic joint pain as well as on the chest or under the nose for colds or congestion.