Friday, March 03, 2006

Cottonwood (Populus fremontii)

Today was a blustery march day, it rained on monday, not much, but just enough to wet the air and the ground and lift the spirits. I love windy spring days...i like feeling the wind in my hair, and it was warm enough for a tank top and a big straw hat to cover my eyes from the sun.

It was out into the wash to see what i could see. I didn't really expect to find any of my usual plant friends growing in the wash, what with so little rain. No oats, no cudweed, even the elders were barely leafing out. But..lo and behold, there is hope yet, even in the driest of seasons. The cottonwoods, with their deep root systems, are reaching down deep into the earth and finding water enough to continue their life cycles.
Now, the cottonwoods are just starting to put out seed and flowers and the leaf buds are all sticky resinous and swelling on the branches. Mmmmm...i love the smell of cottonwood. It is hard to describe...but a resinous heavy smell, that carries in the wind. In a few short weeks the seed pods will pop open and white fuzzy cottony seed will blow about and cover the banks of the wash with fluffy white.
I decided to get some leaf buds to make an oil this spring, since i havne't been harvesting much of anything else, it seemed a good time to try something new.
Now i've used cottonwood bark, much like willow bark, with salicin (which breaks down in the body to salicylic acid, from which aspirin was orginally made) and populin, as a mild anti-inflammatory and painkilling tea or linament. It works for headaches, general aches and pains, sore muscles, and the pain of mild arthritis due to inflammation in the joints.

The buds, are very concentrated and full of this sticky resin that smells so good, used the same way as the bark, and can be used topically as well as a rub for painful joints, or burns and mild cuts.

Cottonwood bark and leaves can also be used a digestive bitter tonic for atonic sluggish or difficult digestion, and can be of use as a diuretic and anti-inflammatory in kidney/urinary tract troubles.

So as I enjoyed the spring wind, and the sun, I picked a bud here and there, careful not to strinp any branch of all the buds, thus preventing it from leafing out. But being sure to pick buds that had a nice drop of golden yellow resin at the tip. I also nibbled a bit on the sticky buds, noting their bitter flavor, and how it sticks to my teeth, and then noted a potent spicy/burning taste. I didn't expect baby leaves and resin to taste spicy, but then, the concentration of compounds are quite high in these potent buds of medicine.

Once home, I pulled the buds out of their bag, and added them to a jar with olive oil. Just a few weeks time shall have a nice poplar bud oil rub for my sore toe.

No comments:

"The mother of us all, the oldest of us all, Hard, splendid as rock, Let the beauty you love, be what you do. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the earth"~ Rumi ~