cottonwood bud medicine + harvesting + oil infusion making
Updated: Apr 16
greetings to you all + spring is here and i've been harvesting buds. so much loveliness packed into a tiny bud. the sweet red resin is abundant and here to share her pain-relieving qualities. i like to start my harvest in the early afternoon of a sunny day, not after a good rain. here in northwest montana which is the bioregion in which i reside, the weather is typically good for harvesting around march and april. i like to harvest when we have sunny warm days but still a hard frost at night. this wakes up the resin but allows for the bud not to burst forth quite yet. cottonwood trees are deciduous trees that like water. you will often find them near rivers and in crick beds. the cottonwood trees that grow in our corner of montana are black cottonwood trees, botanical name, populus trichocarpa.
gently pick the bud and squish it between your fingers, and if a red resin appears, they are ready for picking. the buds down low on the tree are rather small i will roam the forest looking for downed limbs and trees. even if the tree fell in the winter the buds are usually still good. the bud actually forms in the fall and waits for spring. i have a published youtube video all about harvesting and infusing oil, here it is.
every year i make more and more infused oil. i love the process of watching this oil turn a deep dark red. oil to bud ratios differ from person to person and the folk method isn't exact. since i sell my products i like to keep things as consistent as possible. i use one pound of buds for every gallon of oil. so that would be 8 ounces for a half gallon and 4 ounces for a quart jar. once home i dump out the buds on a piece of paper because these buds are sticky and get that red resin everywhere. i go through them and discard any less-than-desirable buds, old leaves, and twigs that may have gotten in the harvest buckets. i weigh out the buds and fill a clean bone dry glass jar. the oil is your choice i like olive for salve and avocado for body oil however there are no rules -use what you like and have access to. when pouring the oil into the jar i leave a good two or three inches at the top because as the buds infuse with the oil, they will expand and overflow if your jar is to full. i then place a breathable top on the jar. not everyone does this. a lot of folks cap their oil infusions and shake regularly. i don't do this with fresh plant oil infusions it's just to risky in my opinion. i then stir my jars of oil on a regular basis at a bare minimum of once a week until the buds slowly fall to the bottom of the jar. this can take anywhere from a few weeks to a month or so. if you want to cap your jar you can do so at this time once all the plant material is fully immersed in the oil. or you can leave the breathable top on whatever works for you. i would cap my oils when my kids were smaller and running around and throwing things around in the house. but these days now that all my oils are in my studio i don't worry about it so much. just make sure to stir your oil at least once a week preferably twice a week until the plant sinks. check in with your oil and get to know the slow process infusion. after most of the buds have fallen to the bottom i will top the jar with the oil and let it sit. typical infusion time is six weeks but i strain on demand. so therefore some jars may infuse for up to eight or nine months. i try to time it so i run out of oil around march, right when it's time to collect again. as far as clean-up goes i use rubbing alcohol to remove the resin from my fingers, buckets, and glass jars.
plants work in a variety of ways and it's assumed that cottonwood both modulates inflammation and directly relieves pain. the salve makes a wonderful neosporin alternative and feels amazing on a sunburn. it also helps with scarring and road rash. cottonwood buds contain salicin the same thing that is in willow which is where asprin came from. it is a great pain reliever and something that is a must in the herbal medicine cabinet. the most popular cottonwood application is salve. salve is a great way to allow the oil to penetrate the sore, irritated, or burned area. the beeswax helps to hold the oil in place on the skin. a salve is oil and beeswax, turning the oil into a balm basically. i could go on about salve making for hours, however, we are here to talk about cottonwood today. in episode #3 of my video podcast i demonstrate the whole salve-making process, it's time stamped in the description box. i will link to that episode here episode 3 simply josephine blog
my personal favorite is a cottonwood-infused avocado oil, perfect for body oiling. the sacred art of body oiling is an effective way to connect ourselves and the plants. i have several cottonwood bud offerings and i love them all. the cottonwood whipped tallow body butter really seems to calm my rosacea symptoms and the soap is probably my most popular essential oil-free soap. i published a blog post on the topic of body oiling, you can check it out here
wildcrafting for and making medicine with the cottonwood buds kicks off the season. after the winter months spent reflecting inward i am ready and inspired to get out there and see what presents itself. hopefully, you have been inspired to hit the trails and river lowlands in search of cottonwood buds. happy happy wildcrafting to you all, if you have any questions please feel free to comment. if life has you spinning or these lovely little buds don't grow in your bioregion i do offer a few fresh buds for purchase. you can link to that listing here. also if you share this with a friend or on your social media it helps me get the word out. until next time have a wonderful day and enjoy this fabulous spring sunshine
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