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DIY Recipe for Balsam Poplar Bud Oil

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DIY Recipe for Balsam Poplar Bud Oil 
Foraging for wild balsam poplar buds has become a favourite family activity of ours...that along with agate rock hunting on the Fraser River! 
It's that time of year for both of these activities, but you especially don't want to miss the window for poplar buds. It's key to harvest them when they are still dormant from winter and closed up tight to keep in the medicinal resin. 

Poplar buds contain a resin, commonly produced by the Western Balsam Poplar (Populus trichocarpa), also known as Black Cottonwood. There are three species of Poplar native to Western Canada, but we will stick to the Balsam Poplar because it’s buds are large and useful for medicine making. The sticky resin inside the buds protect them over the winter from predators, infection and environmental damage. The buds can be harvested for use in early spring/late winter when the buds are still closed tight to keep the medicinal resin inside. 

The first step in foraging poplar buds is to identify the black cottonwood tree. Where there is water you will likely find Poplar. Balsam Poplars inhabit the riparian zone along seasonal flood areas, wetlands, streams, lakes, and rivers. They have heart shaped leaves and 

Generally, the branches are high up and are hard to reach, so we like to look for fallen branches on the ground that have broken off recently in wind storms. These branches are often abundant with poplar buds.

You can also forage the branches and bark for medicine and to make into a tea. Boil the cut up branches for a few minutes on the stove, but don’t steep for too long or the tea becomes bitter. After two minutes you will have a nice maple, brown sugar smelling tea. 

The bud infused oil has a warming energy that can ease sore muscles, sprains and arthritis. It has a pain relieving and soothing effect when used topically. It can also be used as a chest rub for damp coughs because it is an expectorant. The oil is also great at healing burns and cuts, as it is an antiseptic, antimicrobial and encourages skin cell proliferation. The oil can be used in everyday skin care products and has even been called an anti-aging ingredient due to its high antioxidant score. Due to its anti-fungal qualities, it is also a great remedy for candida. It is also great for gut healing, lung infections, reducing coughs, as a bitter digestive aid after heavy meals, as a sore throat gargle or even as a healing mouth rinse to heal infections, reduce pain and encourage healthy gums. 

Another neat thing about poplar bud resin is that it is a natural preservative, therefore can be added to all sorts of skin care products to help preserve them longer and prevent other oils from going rancid. 


Poplar Bud Oil Recipe
1 part fresh Poplar buds
3 parts oil (preferably olive oil, but you can also use sunflower, grapeseed, avocado, jojoba, or apricot) 


  1. Rinse your fresh poplar buds in some cold water to remove any dirt. Strain the buds and place them on a screen for a day to let them dry. 
  2. Place the buds in a wide-mouth mason jar. Measure out 1 part buds to 3 parts oil. You can also gauge it by filling your jar 3/4 full with buds and filling to the top with oil - this will give you roughly a 1-3 ratio. 
  3. You can place your jar with buds and oil in a hot water bath, uncovered on low heat for about 2-3 days. A crockpot works well for this, just make sure to raise your jar off the bottom a bit with a few canning jar lids. Keep an eye on your water level to ensure it doesn’t run dry and overheat your oil.
  4. Make sure to stir numerous times throughout the day so that the resins dissolve and disperse throughout the oil. Keep an eye on your oil infusion, it should smell lovely and aromatic. 
  5. Once the oil turns from transparent to opaque, you will know that the resins have incorporated into the oil. Next, you can strain your oil through a wire sieve, making sure to capture all the buds and debris. The finished infused oil can be stored in a clean glass jar. Store in a cool dark place and make sure to label your jar with the date. It has a shelf life of 2-3 years. 
  6. Alternatively, instead of using a heat extraction method you can leave your poplar buds infusing in your oil on a windowsill for 4-6 weeks to do a slow extraction method. The heat extraction method is preferred by most because it is faster. 


Caution: The author claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss or damage caused, or alleged to be caused, directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application or interpretation of the material contained herein. 

As with all skin and body care products, don’t use a recipe if you’re allergic or sensitive to any of the ingredients. Consult a qualified health care professional if you have any questions or concerns. 

A special note concerning essential oils and medicinal plants:

*If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medications or have health conditions, consult with a health provider before using essential oils or any medicinal herbs and plants. 

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