It is late winter and my favorite herbal medicine to harvest now is the resinous, aromatic buds of eastern cottonwood trees–Populus deltoides and Populus balsamifera. The trees lose many branches in the winter winds from which buds can be collected, and I consider them a gift, as the trees are up to 80 foot tall with few low-hanging branches. The sticky buds contain a balsamic resin used to make liniment, salve or cream by soaking them in oil or alcohol. The scent is incredible and the buds are considered anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and pain relieving. Bees use the resin to make propolis, a sealant used in their hives. Native Americans called the cottonwood the Tree of Life and used it for healing. Early Americans called the tree Balm of Gilead. The oil has traditionally been used on arthritic joints, strains and sprains, or other painful musculoskeletal conditions or as a wound salve. I am filling jars with cottonwood buds and covering them with grapeseed oil and will use the oil in a few months in my herbal prepartions.
How to make cottonwood oil: http://www.learningherbs.com/balm_of_gilead.html