Balm of Gilead – Materia Medica


The name Balm of Gilead is used to describe cottonwood poplar buds that are used medicinally. Maud Grieve, an herbalist, believed that the true Gilead came from the Commiphora species of small, thorny trees of Africa and Asia. The buds from this particular tree were used to make incense and perfume, besides being used for their medicinal properties. The buds can be infused in oil and turned into products for topical use for arthritis, cuts or inflammation to name a few. I’ve tried this plant in an extract form for a constant cough left over from the flu. Though there were other herbs in the mixture it tastes exactly like the buds smell, reminding one of spring time and warm weather.

  • Common Name: Balm of Gilead (Poplar Buds)

  • Latin Name: Populus spp.

  • Family: Salicaceae

  • Areas of Origin: North America, Europe, Asia, North Africa

  • Botanical Description: A tree which can grow to 70’ in height and 2-3’ in diameter. The buds are large and brown in color with a sticky, resinous sap to them which smell sweet and rich. The tree has flowering catkins, which can be male or female, and grow in a downward curving cluster of small flowering buds.

  • Parts Used: Leaf buds

  • Uses: Good for coughs, rheumatoid arthritis, cuts and wounds, sore muscles

  • Actions: Anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antirheumatic, astringent, analgesic, antiseptic, depurative, diuretic, expectorant

  • Preparations: Extract, oil infusion for balms/salves/ointments

  • Taste: Sweet, resinous

  • Safety: May not be suitable for use while pregnant or breastfeeding. Avoid if allergic to popular tree, aspirin, propolis or Peru balsam.

  • Contraindications (Plant-Medication Combinations): None known.

Until next time, discover the power of welcoming nature’s healing plants into your life.



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