Balm of Gilead buds are also known as Balsam Poplar or Cottonwood buds. Available fresh-frozen or expertly dried.
The buds of the Balsam Poplar tree (P. balsamifera) are pungent and powerful. They’re bursting with natural resins that are used for injury, pain-relief, skin conditions, burns, and respiratory ailments. Carpenter’s Herbal uses it in several salves.
We sell Balm of Gilead buds both fresh-frozen or dried. You’re currently looking at our listing for fresh-frozen buds.
We sustainably hand-harvest our buds in the very early spring, in Eastern Ontario. After the harvest, we immediately deep-freeze them and keep them frozen until we ship them to you. We wrap them lovingly to keep them cool for as long as possible. When you receive them, use them or re-freeze them right away.
Using Fresh-Frozen Balm of Gilead buds
There is some debate out there among remedy-makers and herbal enthusiasts about using the fresh buds as opposed to dried. We’ve made salves and infused oil with both fresh and dried Cottonwood buds, and we think both can be used well.
If you’re using fresh or frozen buds, we recommend doing a warm (or even hot) infusion. Fresh-frozen Balm of Gilead buds contain about 1/3 moisture by weight and a warm infusion will help drive some of that moisture away. If you press your infused oil, you will squeeze some moisture out of it. Be sure to let it settle out, and keep it from your salve.
All that said, it’s hard to get it wrong. Balsam Poplar buds are very forgiving. Their natural anti-bacterial powers are great.
Fresh-Frozen vs. Dried Balm of Gilead buds?
There are some folks who insist that all dried Balm of Gilead buds are worthless. We don’t agree. It’s true that there are dried Balm of Gilead buds available on the market that are of very little medicinal value. We’ve seen them. Unfortunately, they’re often dried and stored to the point that they’re empty husks.
Carpenter’s Herbal dried buds are different, because our slow-drying yields resinous, fragrant and sticky buds. You won’t be disappointed by their potency, and you can read more about them here.
From what we understand, the traditional preparation of Balm of Gilead buds was as dried buds boiled in bear fat. And we have several customers who are herbal professionals and insist on dried, rather than fresh-frozen Balsam Poplar buds. They prefer them for salves and oil infusions. With dried buds, there is no danger of moisture contaminating a long infusion.
It’s best to always store dried Balsam Poplar buds in a cool, dry location in a breathable container.
What is the real Balm of Gilead?
There are several North American poplars that bear buds that may be sold as Balm of Gilead. There is Eastern Cottonwood (P. deltoides) growing throughout the Eastern USA and in southerly parts of Ontario. While in Western Canada and the US, you will find Black Poplar (P. trichocarpa) buds used for their medicinal properties. Balsam Poplar is the more northern cousin. Herbalists and remedy-makers refer to any of the three species’ buds as the Balm of Gilead. In our experience, Balsam Poplar buds are more pungent and aromatic than the Cottonwoods’ buds. Not to mention, Balsam Poplar buds are a fair bit smaller than their southern and western cousins, which is why they can be so much more expensive per pound.
The original “Balm of Gilead” refers to a Mediterranean plant used for its aromatic and medicinal properties in biblical times. It seems that the reference first appears in the King James translations of the Bible. There is some controversy among botanists and other scholars about what plant it actually was. Over time, the term has come to suggest the idea of a universal, healing ointment.
Please note that Balsam Poplar buds contain natural salicin. As a result, you should not use them if you’re allergic to Aspirin.