Gosh, I am so ready for spring this year. Winter has felt really long. It started snowing in October in the mountains of Idaho where I live. It’s been cold, so cold. And, frankly, I’m over it. 

But, the birds are back, the sun is out (today at least), and I’ve heard a rumor that spring is coming. I’ll make it but not without a little whining.

For me, wildcrafting is a big part of the power of plant medicine.

It’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea but it has always been woven into my path. It connects me to the earth and the plants I love in a tangible way. I become part of nature instead of just an observer. And, I am always humbled by the gifts that are so freely given.

While much of the earth still slumbers beneath the snow it is possible to forage things like conifers, and maybe some of the last year’s rose hips and it’s actually the perfect time to forage for Cottonwood Buds. 

This is a foray that I simultaneously loathe and appreciate. It’s always cold and windy and picking the buds is tedious and time consuming. Every year I think I’m not doing this next year. And next year comes and I’m bundling up and heading back out in February to harvest. 

Why, you ask would I continue to torture myself like that? Because the medicine is worth it. Because doing hard things cultivates inner strength and resilience. Because it teaches me to lean into the discomfort and embrace it. Oh, and did I mention the medicine of Cottonwood Bud is amazing?

Since I’m in the Cottonwood state of mind I thought hey why not share the sticky gooey love? 

Cottonwood trees are native to North America and are the largest broadleaf tree in the Northwest. They can reach up to 100 feet tall. Cottonwoods are associated with water and can easily be found growing beside rivers. 

No Cottonwoods grow at the elevation I live (5000 ft) so I journey down to lower elevations near the river. 

Yes, yes I know some people are not at all fond of these trees when the seeds erupt into a Cottonwood snowstorm and cause allergic reactions and get all over everything. But, if you can get past the nuisance it really is a beneficial tree. No really!

The sticky resinous buds are the part of the tree that is harvested to make medicine.

You want them to be thick with resin but still tightly closed and firm. Timing is everything when harvesting plants and Cottonwood is no exception.

The buds of the female trees are 2-3 times bigger than the male trees and have a deep red sap which is also a little bit stronger. The sap from the male tree is orange to orange-red in color. I’m not picky and collect buds from both and mix them all together. 

The buds can be tinctured or infused in oil which is the way I use them. 

Cottonwood is rich in salicin (the main ingredient in aspirin) and can be used as an anti-inflammatory. It’s also antimicrobial so basically, it kills things that can infect you and it’s analgesic so it relieves pain. Boom, three important qualities all in one little bud. 

🌳 Cottonwood makes an ideal salve for healing cuts, scrapes, wounds, bruises, and swellings. 

🌳 It also works well for dry and scaly skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema. You can also try it on chapped lips, and all manner of rashes. 

🌳 Cottonwood Bud salve lessens the pain of burns, keeps the surface of the burn antiseptic, and stimulates skin regeneration. 

🌳 I haven’t ever tried it but it seems like it would be beneficial as a chest rub to help with coughs and break up stagnation. 

🌳 Overworked muscles, muscle pain, and even chronic joint pain can be helped by applying Cottonwood Bud salve. I also like to use it for relief from arthritis, rheumatic pain, and tendonitis.

Something to note:

If you are allergic to aspirin you might need to avoid Cottonwood and other plants and trees with salicylic acid like Willow, Aspen, or Meadowsweet. It’s always a good idea to start slow when using new botanicals. If you do get an adverse reaction then discontinue use.

If you are interested in picking your own buds and making your own oil click here for instructions. 

If you would like to try Cottonwood Bud Salve without the bother of harvesting and making your own click here.

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