Harvesting and Recipe Ideas for Balsam Poplar

The Europeans used Balsam Poplar to make “Balm of Gilead”. This is an ointment or salve that is beneficial for bruises, sprains, sunburn, achy muscles and dry skin. Late January to early April is when the leaf buds are collected. You can make it as a clear oil, or use bees wax to thicken it into an ointment. The thicker version has been deemed more effective by a few friends of mine. They have used it for various issues from a broken ankle to muscle sprain. Perhaps as the beeswax ointment stays on the skin longer, slowly sinking into the muscles, and so is more effective.


What is your experience of the oil and the salve?


If you find a Beaver felled tree in March or early April, the leaf buds are more accessible, and the harvest is more sustainable. Since that tree won’t continue to live, the buds are going to a good use. Leave some for the Deer, Snowshoe hare and other mammals who eat the buds for late winter food. Or choose younger trees from which to harvest the buds, again only taking 10%. The terminal bud on every branch is the extension of that branch and should never be picked. Sustainable picking guidelines –

Be a friend to nature

Only harvest on land that you own or where it is legal to harvest. (Not in city, provincial or national parks).

Make positive identification of the tree.

Take only 1/3rd of the buds.

Leave the terminal tip on every branch.

Respect the growth needs of the tree.

Use what you take.


To infuse the oil out of the Leaf buds follow the directions below.

Preparing Balm of Gilead:


1 cup the Balsam buds

2 cups olive or other pure oil

Place in a large mason jar, then put the jar in a pot of water (a double boiler) and heat, keep the water just below the boiling point, steep the buds for about 1 hour.

Strain and cool.

Cap the jar tightly and label it with the date and contents, “Balm of Gilead Feb. 2020”  Put the cooked buds into the compost pile.

Add a ½ tsp. of natural source vitamin E oil to your final bottle of Balm of Gilead infused oil, this protects the oil from rancidity. If you keep it tightly capped and store it in a cool dry place, your harvest should last 2+ years. To add the

Add Beeswax to this ointment, see below.

Balm of Gilead Ointment

4 oz. of infused Balm of Gilead oil

½ oz. of pure beeswax melted

2 oz. of coconut oil

1 oz. of cocoa butter


Melt wax, coconut oil, and cocoa butter together until liquid.

Add the Balm of Gilead oil (previously made above) and heat until the mixture is fully melted. Don’t allow it to boil. Keep it just warm enough for everything to be liquid.  Let partially cool and pour into two 4 oz. glass jars.

Cap tightly while still warm.  Seal and label


Will you share your stories of friends who have used Balsam Salve? Do you have any questions about its use? Please share with us at info@full-circle-adventures.com

balm of gilead