Cottonwood Bud Salve

Linda Bittle
Linda Bittle Posts: 1,500 ✭✭✭✭✭
edited November 2020 in Wild Edibles & Medicinals

I use this salve for everything from dry skin(feet!) and lips to abrasions, cuts, painful joints - not for deep or puncture wounds, though.

I start by watching for fallen cottonwood limbs in the cold winter months - black cottonwood (Populus balsamifera) is my favorite, but any of the cottonwoods will do. What you want is the plump, sticky buds that smell so wonderful and make your hands gooey. I pick the buds and generally just lay them out on a clean, but old, tea towel for a day or two to let them dry well. It's not necessary to wash them. I put them in a clean glass canning jar, cover with olive oil, and stir with a dedicated chopstick once or twice a day for at least a couple of weeks. Put a dish under the jar, and cover loosely because it might run over the top. I just leave the chopstick in the jar during this time. I generally use this winter's oil in next fall's salve making.

When I'm ready to make salve, I run the oil through cheesecloth in a dedicated strainer into a large, dedicated glass measuring cup. (Everything for cottonwood salve is dedicated. You will NEVER clean off all the cottonwood sap!) I gently heat the infused oil by placing the glass measuring cup into a pot of boiling water (try the pot out for size before you start!) I use roughly an ounce of bee's wax pellets or chopped bee's wax, adding a bit more for a more solid product. After the wax melts, I take the measuring cup out of the hot water and carefully pour into clean jars or tins.

There's no need to add any preservatives. And that's all there is to it!

I add this label if I'm giving it as a gift.

Cottonwood Salve    

Winter cottonwood buds soaked in food grade olive oil, with natural bee’s wax added.

Use on minor cuts, bruises and chapped skin. Can use as a lip balm and on dry feet, elbows and hands. Do not get near eyes. Do not use if allergic! Do not use on deep or puncture wounds!

Merry Christmas from Linda Bittle!


  • VickiP
    VickiP Posts: 586 ✭✭✭✭

    This sounds awesome! I don't have any cottonwood trees but I could maybe locate some. Thanks for sharing.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,501 admin

    @Mary Linda Bittle

    This is exactly how I make mine. It is also good as a chest rub when you have a cold. A little bit around each nostril will help prevent dryness and cracking from too much nose blowing and help open up the sinus'. It is great in combination salves as it helps preserve the other oils. The salicylic acid in the Cotttonwood helps with arthritic pain. I use a combination 50/50 cayenne oil and cottonwood bud oil to make a joint and muscle salve. Truly a multi-purpose oil to make.

    A harvesting tip: Take a small bottle of Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) with you when you are picking to clean your hands. You will be covered n resin. If you have had to drive to get to your location you will have a very sticky steering wheel by the time you get home.

    Thanks for starting this post. Its a great topic!

  • Linda Bittle
    Linda Bittle Posts: 1,500 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Good tip about the alcohol to clean hands! It's a wonderful plant to have on hand, but sure is sticky!

  • Desiree
    Desiree Posts: 255 ✭✭✭

    I harvested a bunch last year to make a salve when I first learned about their use and benefits. Here I had been throwing them away not knowing what a gold mine I had from my cottonwoods. I have many regrets now that I have learned more about the plants/trees/weeds growing around me. :0

  • Linda Bittle
    Linda Bittle Posts: 1,500 ✭✭✭✭✭

    This is the time of year that I see downed cottonwood limbs around after a snow or windy day. Check the buds to make sure they are sticky with the resin. That's when they are ready to put in the olive oil!

  • SherryA
    SherryA Posts: 314 ✭✭✭

    I collected a bunch of fallen cottonwood branches this fall, but the buds were all completely dried out. They weren't sticky at all and had no sap. I thought I'd try again in the spring.

  • Linda Bittle
    Linda Bittle Posts: 1,500 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @figsagee It's the winter buds that you want. They start to swell, and get very sticky before the leaves start to emerge. The fall ones are too old, and if there are leaves starting to come out, it's probably too late. Winter into late winter is the best time.

  • SherryA
    SherryA Posts: 314 ✭✭✭

    Thanks! I will definitely be watching for that.

  • Amy
    Amy Posts: 35 ✭✭✭

    I gather buds in the early spring. I have a couple of cottonwood trees at my place but most are dying away as they are probably very old. You can find cottonwoods along rivers and small farmsteads around here. The problem is being able to reach the branches. I don't need much so the trees I have are sufficient but this coming spring I plan to search out more so I can infuse more oil and make more salve . Who knows, maybe even market it!

    @Mary Linda Bittle - I am looking forward to trying your 50-50 Cayenne Cottonwood blend! Sounds like just what I need. Thank you for sharing that.

  • Linda Bittle
    Linda Bittle Posts: 1,500 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @JoAnn the 50-50 blend is from Torey! I've not tried that one yet, but it's on my list of new ideas.