Monday, May 27, 2013

Cottonwood Salve (or Balm of Gilead)

cottonwood bud salve

My friend Shauna invited me over the other night for wine and cottonwood salve production.  She'd recently stumbled upon a felled cottowood tree with gigantic buds, ripe for picking. (Tip: pick buds before the green leaves appear.)  Why should you collect cottonwood buds? Because they can be used to make a healing balm to treat abrasions, inflammation, soreness, and dry skin.

What you will need:

  • cottonwood buds
  • coconut oil
  • cheesecloth
  • beeswax
  • small glass jars
  • Vitamin E, essential oils (optional)

Once you've finished picking, place the buds and twice as much coconut oil in a double boiler situation (we used a metal bowl over a large pot filled half way with water) over low heat for about five hours.

cottonwood buds steeping

Your house will smell like sweet, fresh spring!

cottonwood buds

Strain the bud/coconut oil concoction through cheesecloth.

strain cottonwood buds

You will be left with what Shauna calls "liquid gold".

cottonwood bud resin

Next, grate a bunch of beeswax.  We used a 1:1 ratio of liquid gold and beeswax.

grated beeswax

Fill cute little jars with grated beeswax.

making cottonwood salve

Add liquid gold to the top of the beeswax line.

cottonwood salve preparation

Place jars in a couple of inches of hot water in a large pot.  Melt the mixture over medium high heat until only a beautiful amber liquid remains.

making cottonwood salve

cottonwood bud salve

Place on a rack to cool and stir in vitamin E and/or essential oils to your preference.  I tried a few jars with just vitamin E, a few with lavender, a few with sweet orange, and a few with lemon essential oils; about five drops per small jar.

The salve will cool to a hard substance, and will soften over time. In other words, make in May, and it will be ready to give as a gift in December.

cottonwood bud salve


Question: Do you collect any plants that can be used for medicinal purposes? 


  1. Beautiful! How fun is that? I had no idea cottonwood buds could be used for this. I sense a new craft on my horizon!!!!!

  2. Yes, crafty lady, you would love it! :)