Cottonwood buds (Populus balsamifera) are ready to harvest now as you will have read in my last blog post. And here, as promised in my last blog, is how to make a Cottonwood Bud infused herbal oil.
Cottonwood buds are used to make a Balm of Gilead - reminiscent of the Balm of Gilead in the Bible, though the Biblical balm is made from Myrrh. Cottonwood buds are rich in salicin and, used externally, are a pain relieving anti-inflammatory among other things.
I described in detail how to harvest the buds in my last post, so have a look at that if you haven't done so. Once you have your harvest safely home you are ready to make your oil. Once you have made your oil, if you have enjoyed your remedy making I would encourage you to come along to one of our Medicine Making Workshops where you'll learn how to make lots of different herbal remedies, syrups, tinctures, poultices, salves and balms.
This is a simple oil to make and you will need the following equipment:
I cup Almond Oil (you can use other oils see below)
3/4 cup of Cottonwood Buds
You will need:
A sterilized 250ml mason jar
1 slow cooker, or a wood stove, or other warm place.
A small piece of Cheesecloth to cover the jar
A Rubber band
Add the Cottonwood Buds to the jar, making sure that you leave at least two inches of space from the top of the jar.
Add the oil to jar making sure that the oil covers the Cottonwood Buds by an inch. You can use oils other than Almond Oil. But I'd recommend against using an oil with a strong smell because you might ruin the sweet smell of the Cottonwood Buds. Take care also to use organic oils if you are using them on your skin - you don't want to be massaging toxic chemicals into your aching muscles or joints.
It’s important that no air bubbles exist around the Buds once you have added the oil, so stir well with a chopstick. Make sure that all the buds are submerged below the level of the oil.
Cover the jar with a piece of cheesecloth, securing it with a rubber band.
Add warm water to the slow cooker - not too much, enough that it will go half way up the jar when you put the jar into the slow cooker. Place the jar into the slow cooker. Take care to make sure no water gets into the oil mixture, and take care not to let the cheesecloth touch the water because it will wick the water up into the jar.
Put the slow cooker on to low heat and let the jar of oil and Cottonwood buds stand in the warm slow cooker for 48 hours.
Ensure that the slow cooker does not get too hot, you never want your oil to boil. If you don't have a slow cooker you can also stand your jar in a pan of water on the wood stove, again making sure that it does not get too hot. Keep topping up the water in the slow cooker over the 48 hours so that it doesn't dry out, being careful not to get water into your jar of oil and buds.
After 48 hours remove the jar from the slow cooker. While the oil/Cottonwood Bud mixture is still warm strain the Cottonwood Buds out of the oil. Discard the oily Buds in the compost.
Pour the sweet smelling oil into a clean jar with a tight fitting lid, and store in a cool dark place until needed. Cool and dark is vital if you want the oil to stay fresh and to avoid it going rancid.
Ensure that the Cottonwood Buds have no rain drops or other water on them when they go into the oil
Ensure that there are no air bubbles at all around the buds once they are in the oil, these pockets of air can form mould.
Never put a lid on the mixture while it is infusing because the water that evaporates from the Buds will get trapped and mould will form in the jar. You should cover the jar with cheese cloth.
Don't be tempted to infuse the Buds in oil directly in the slow cooker or in a pan - the Cottonwood Buds are very resinous and you will have a hard time getting rid of the resin out of your slow cooker or pan afterwards! You will also have a much greater likelihood of burning your oil and Buds which will destroy the healing properties of your oil.
How to use the Oil
Cottonwood Bud oil is sweet smelling and is pain relieving and anti-inflammatory when used to rub into aching muscles and joints:) It brings relief not only for arthritis sufferers, but also for hikers, skiers or gardeners who have aching muscles. The oil can be rubbed into an aching back, knees, hands, elbows, feet, shoulders or anywhere you have pain.
The oil also lifts the Spirits and gives a feeling of ease and wellbeing, relaxation and joy. For me the smell takes me immediately to Spring Days, and it fills me with hope and happiness.
The buds themselves can also be added to boiling water for use in steam inhalations to bring sweet relief for those suffering with congested sinuses or lungs.