It’s Early February and the sun is shining here in Portland, Oregon. Spring is springing, and the swollen cottonwood buds are starting to drip with their sticky orange resin. It is time! Time for what, you ask? It is time to harvest cottonwood tree buds (Populus balsamifera or P. trichocarpa).
You may wonder why I am so interested in these sticky tree buds. Why I love their perfumed smell. Why I so carefully break the buds from wind-felled limbs. Cottonwood buds have anti-fungal, anti-microbial & anti-inflammatory properties. I make an infused oil from these buds that I can use directly on my skin and also make a salve that I use externally for pain relief from swelling, arthritis, strains and general muscle pains. It also works for cold sores and sunburn. And it smells sooooo good. Yes, “so” with multiples “o”s after it – it smells that good.
To make the infused oil, I take fresh cottonwood buds and put them in a sterilized glass jar leaving about an two inches of headroom. I then add organic plant oil (I use olive oil), making sure there are no trapped air bubbles and fill it to the brim. That’s it! Just let it sit for around 6-8 weeks (this is the cold-infusion method) and then press out the herb by pouring it through doubled layer of cheesecloth (you may need to do this twice) or by using a tincture press. Remember to label your new clean jar with the herb and the date processed. (For dried herbs only fill the jar half full, then fill to the brim with oil). Most infused oils will last for at least a year.