Balm of Gilead is a time-honoured natural remedy made from poplar buds, The medicinal properties of the balsam poplar tree (Populus balsamifera) lie in the winter buds, and with this slow spring it’s not too late to collect them before the leaves arrive (you can still make the balm afterwards, but the medicinal properties are less.) The buds are upright, sticky, and covered with waxy resins that have disinfectant properties. Bees use the resin for propolis, a known antibiotic, for sealing their hives against winter and to keep out intruders. Humans gather the buds to be made into Balm of Gilead oil or salve, a balm with a long record of effective application for any kind of skin irritation, cuts, bruises, rashes and pimples.
To prepare Balm of Gilead oil: Place 1 part unwashed buds and 2 parts olive oil in a jar and put the jar in a double boiler and heat, keep the water just below the boiling point, steep the buds for about 1 hour. Strain through cheesecloth and cool, when cool add about 400 I.U. of vitamin E per 8 oz of oil – this keeps the oil from going rancid. Store in dark glass jars in a cool place. This makes a good massage oil, but you may wish to use sweet almond or fractionated coconut oil in place of olive oil.
To make a salve, add 1 part beeswax to 5 parts of the infused oil and return to the double boiler to melt the beeswax. Pour into clean tins or jars; allow to solidify before covering with lids. If the salve is too hard, melt with a little more oil, if it’s too liquid, melt with a little more beeswax.