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Well-Adjusted: Foraging Cottonwood Buds for Medicine

By Dr. Melanie Brown

Well-Adjusted: Foraging Cottonwood Buds for Medicine

In the shadow of majestic Mount Hood lies a world brimming with natural wonders to explore. Among these treasures are the humble cottonwood trees, whose buds hold medicinal properties long revered by foragers. Foraging cottonwood buds presents an opportunity to connect with nature while reaping many benefits.

When the cottonwood trees burst into life, they offer fresh buds filled with healing potential that exude a sticky resin encapsulating their medicinal qualities. Venturing into the wilderness surrounding Mount Hood during this time provides a chance to harvest these buds at their freshest and most potent. However, foragers must exercise caution and respect for the environment, ensuring they gather sustainably and with permission where necessary.

To ensure the health and longevity of the cottonwood trees, it is essential to harvest buds without causing harm. The best way to forage is to find fallen branches, which are plentiful and often have larger buds than the intact branches or saplings you can reach. If you do forage from live trees, harvest sparingly from mature ones using clean, sharp pruners to avoid causing unnecessary damage.

By following these guidelines, foragers can enjoy the benefits of cottonwood buds while ensuring the health and vitality of the trees for future seasons and generations.

Once harvested, you can transform the buds into medicine, enriched further by adding coconut oil. Known for its antimicrobial and moisturizing properties, coconut oil is an ideal carrier for the medicinal benefits of the cottonwood buds. If desired, adding beeswax to the mixture provides a thicker consistency, making a salve suitable for easy application and prolonged shelf life.

Recipe for Cottonwood Bud Oil or Salve
Coconut oil (regular or fractionated)
Fresh cottonwood buds
Beeswax pellets (optional)

1. In a double boiler or a heat-safe bowl placed over a pot of simmering water, gently heat the coconut oil until it melts, or use fractionated coconut oil, which is unscented and liquid at room temperature.
2. Add the fresh cottonwood buds to the coconut oil, stirring to combine.
3. Allow the mixture to simmer over low heat for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally to infuse the oil with the beneficial properties of the buds.
4. Once the oil has infused, strain out the buds using a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth, pressing to extract as much oil as possible.
5. If desired, return the infused oil to the double boiler or heat-safe bowl, add the beeswax pellets, and continue to heat the mixture until the beeswax melts completely and the ingredients are well combined.
6. Remove the mixture from heat and pour it into clean, sterilized jars, rollerballs, or tins.
7. Allow to cool before sealing.
If you don’t have time to watch the stove, cover the buds with fractionated coconut oil and save them in your pantry in a sterilized jar for up to a year. You can also set the open canning jar in a crockpot with a few inches of water and set it to warm or low to infuse the oil gently.
Benefits of Cottonwood Buds
1. Pain Relief: Cottonwood buds have analgesic properties, making them a natural remedy for soothing sore muscles and joints.
2. Skin Healing: The antimicrobial qualities make cottonwood buds an excellent option for treating minor cuts, scrapes, and insect bites.
3. Respiratory Support: Inhaling the fragrant aroma can offer respiratory benefits, especially during congestion or seasonal allergies.
4. Emotional Wellbeing: Beyond its physical benefits, foraging for cottonwood buds and crafting homemade oils or salves fosters a deeper connection to nature and a sense of self-sufficiency. The aroma of fresh cottonwood buds is a sweet and resinous blend with hints of earthiness and musk, creating an invigorating and aromatic experience.

Against the backdrop of Mount Hood’s majestic beauty, these simple yet profound practices invite us to reconnect with the earth, nurture our bodies and savor the abundant gifts of nature.

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