Seasonal Observations: Balm of Gilead
The air is sharp and sweet with the scent of cottonwood these days.
Spring has “come on” so quickly that I’ve missed the window of time for making Balm of Gilead this year but I collected the sticky remnants of the buds anyway.
This wonderfully scented oil is easy to make and I like to keep a small jar of it around just to enjoy the aroma whenever I choose.
Apparently, the term Balm of Gilead dates back to biblical times, when it may have been used as a reference to the Messiah.
Currently, it is a term used for a purportedly healing salve.
Gather the unopened leaf buds of a cottonwood tree – easily done most years as spring winds knock down sap heavy branches-and place the buds in a pint jar, then cover them with olive oil, put a lid on the jar and store the mixture in a cool dark spot for at least a month.
Once the oil has taken on the scent, you can use the oil as a lotion.
(As with most things, do some checking with reliable sources before you try – I’m definitely no expert – just an admirer of the scent.)
I also enjoy many other aspects of the cottonwood-its chenille like catkins, luminous new leaves and thickly grooved bark, to name a few.
For other stories in praise of cottonwood, check out:
- Cottonwood Trees by Dawn Johnson
- Black Cottonwood: Good for What Ails Ya by Evelyn Coggins
- Plant Lore: Black Cottonwood “Snow Fall” is a sign the rivers are full, from Stewardship Pemberton’s Interpretive Garden