With fall in full swing, and winter just around the corner, it’s time to prepare cough syrups and natural remedies to stave off the cold of flu. A wonderful resin used for this as well as for the inflammation and pain of arthritis, due to cold weather, comes from the resin of a Poplar tree. This signature resin is known as balm of Gilead (P. Candicans) taken from the hybrid of balsam poplars. The volatile oil in balm of Gilead has as much as 2% of resins, palicin and populin, phenolic acids, bisabolol (reduces inflammation), bisabolene, humulene and cineole.
The buds and leaves are very fragrant and are gathered in spring as well as late winter. The leaves are 3-5 inches across, heart shaped with rounded slightly hairy leaf stalks, shallowly and serrated. The tops of the leaves are smooth and dark green with a lighter bottom. The healing parts of the poplar tree used are the buds which contain an exudation containing salicin (aspirin) a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory. There is also a numbing agent found in the buds making it an excellent salve for painful wounds. The buds are used in various ways depending on the treatment needed.
Balm of Gilead has a very soothing effect on the throat making it an excellent addition to home made cough syrups as well as being steeped and gargled. When used in ointments the unopened buds are simmered in lard and when used in tinctures for skin eruptions, bruises, cuts and scrapes it is soaked in alcohol. As the cold sets in the buds of the poplar tree will be ready to gather as well as various other fall plants to mix with other herbs and bark to create a cough syrup that not only sooths the cold but prevents/treats flu symptoms. Note: those with kidney and liver disease, pregnant and nursing women should not use balm of Gilead. As with all herbal remedies use with caution and always research thoroughly but don not be discouraged. Experimentation is a part of holistic healing.
When creating a home made cough syrup adding balm of Gilead can ease chest discomfort, coughing and sooth sore muscles. And excellent blend for winter flu is by mixing 1 ½ teaspoons each of peppermint, wild cherry bark, slippery elm, coltsfoot, boneset, mullein, lobelia, thyme, yarrow and 1 ½ tablespoons balm of Gilead. Simmer in 4cups of water until the mixture is reduced by half. Strain and poor over 1 ½ teaspoons dried Irish moss allowing it to steep COVERED for 20 minutes and mix in 2 cups of honey. Keep bottled and refrigerated.
The mixture will last quite a long time and should be used in doses of 1-2 teaspoons as needed. For intense flu like symptoms mix in parts of ¾ part cough syrup to ¼ part moonshine or strong whiskey, making sure to use the mixture sparingly and in small doses.