Ask any herbalist how they feel about cottonwood and you’d be met with a unanimous dreamy sigh. I think it goes without saying just how amazing these fragrant little buds are and they’re just so good for so many things! If you’re looking for a remedy renowned for its pain relieving, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties, look no further than cottonwood.
Cottonwood, or Populus balsamifera, is a large deciduous tree related to willow and aspen and is often found near water sources. It grows up to 200 feet tall and has heart-shaped leaves, craggy grey bark, a narrow frame, and a profusion of resinous buds during the late winter months and the beginning of Spring.
It is the resin from these buds that hold its most potent medicinal properties, most notably derived from the salicylates it contains which are known for reducing pain, inflammation, and fever. The resin from the buds also smell absolutely divine and invoke memories of rivers, lakes, and ponds where the tree tends to grow.
Once the buds exude their fragrant and resinous bounty when squeezed between the fingers, they’re ready to be made into medicine. I always look for buds that are still firm, tightly closed, yet give off plenty of resin when squeezed – these will have the highest amount of medicine.
Open unfurled buds have lost much of their medicinal qualities, so avoid using those.
Cottonwood buds contain anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anti-fungal, and fever-reducing properties. Infusing them in oil and applying it topically is an effective remedy for sprains, strains, arthritis, inflammation, and other sources of muscular and joint pain. The infused oil is also an amazing remedy for cold sores (just dab a drop over the affected area) and for easing a dry hacking cough when rubbed onto the chest.
Today, we’re learning how to make cottonwood tincture, which is one of my favorite companion remedies to use when treating pain. It works perfectly when paired with the infused oil or Balm of Gilead.
How to Make Cottonwood Tincture
High proof alcohol extracts the properties of cottonwood resin very well, so look for a proof of at least 80%. The higher, the better. I tend to use either vodka or Everclear when I can get my hands on it.
Once you have some high-proof alcohol on hand, you can start to make your tincture.
Here’s what you’ll need to make my cottonwood tincture recipe:
• A mason jar
• 1 part cottonwood buds
• 3 parts high-proof alcohol
Loving Preparation – Cottonwood Tincture
1. Measure out the cottonwood buds you want to use and add them to the jar. I used 2oz of cottonwood buds, but you can certainly make a larger batch.
2. Next, pour the alcohol over the buds. I used 6oz of high-proof alcohol.
3. Tightly seal the lid and label the jar with the contents and the date.
4. Allow the tincture to infuse for 4 weeks or longer. Be sure to swirl the tincture every so often to make sure all the plant matter stays under the alcohol. This will also help with extraction.
5. Once the tincture has finished macerating, strain it through a fine mesh strainer (I like this one) into the desired vessel. Be sure to squeeze out as much tincture from the buds as you can.
How To Use Cottonwood Tincture
Cottonwood tincture can be used in many of the same ways as white willow bark for pain relief and to reduce fever. However, cottonwood has the leg up when it comes to respiratory congestion and makes for a great expectorant when dealing with upper respiratory infections – even dry persistent coughs that keep you up at night.
It’s cooling, soothing, and pain-relieving nature is sure to alleviate your ills.
To use the tincture internally, take 15-30 drops of tincture up to 4x daily for acute conditions to help treat:
• Chronic bronchitis/unproductive coughs
• Digestive stagnation (take before meals to stimulate digestion)
• Dry hacking coughs
• Heartburn (this works best by infusing the bark in cider vinegar)
• Joint pain
• Mouth sores and infection (dilute in water and use as a gargle/mouth rinse)
• Muscular soreness, aches, and pains
• Sore throat (mix in an equal amount of honey)
• Urinary Tract Infections
To use the tincture topically, apply a few drops to open wounds to disinfect them or mix the tincture with honey to create a disinfectant ointment for all manner of minor wounds.
You can also use it to treat fungal infections by using a clean cotton swab or cotton ball to swipe the tincture over nailbeds or affected areas of the skin.
Apply it like a liniment to sore muscles and bruises to alleviate pain and swelling and increase circulation.
If you are unable to source cottonwood buds where you live, you may want to consider trying out Starwest Botanicals Balm of Gilead Buds HERE.
Have you ever made cottonwood bud tincture before? What do you use it for? Please share in the comments below!
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