Balm of Gilead 

This pain relieving salve helps heal wounds, eases muscle soreness, and makes a good chest rub for coughs.

The original Balm of Gilead is an oil or salve made from the resin of poplar (cottonwood) buds. While you can make a salve just from cottonwood bud infused oil, there is often a synergistic effect when it is combined with other oils. To make ours, we combined cottonwood bud oil with St. John's Wort oil. For one of the jars, we added copaiba essential oil as well.

This salve has been a great pain reliever for sore muscles. It is said to be good for skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, athlete's food, and diaper rash due to the antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also reported to make a good chest rub for coughs and congestion.

I found that the salve has a mild warming effect that helped further soothe sore muscles. As a bonus, the smell of cottonwood resin is quite lovely and makes the salve smell lovely, too. Be sure to read the cautionary notes at the bottom as some people can be allergic to cottonwood resin.

Balm of Gilead Recipe


*See the DIY Infused Oils article for instructions on how to make infused oils.*



Notes on Ingredients (Be sure to see the cautionary notes below.)

Cottonwood buds have analgesic properties due to the fact that they are rich in salicylic acids, which have a long history of use for pain relief and fevers. They also have antibacterial, antimicrobial, antifungal, and antioxidant properties. (See the cautionary notes below.)

St. John's Wort is antiseptic, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial. It contains tannins that facilitate healing. St. John's Wort infused oil has been used for easing muscle pain, healing wounds, and treating eczema and hemorrhoids. It is also an expectorant and can help clear chest congestion. (See the cautionary notes below.)

Copaiba is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. It has pain relieving and wound healing properties. We had a sample given to us by a distributor for a reputable essential oils company so I decided to include it in the recipe. It worked exceedingly well with the above two oils. If you choose to include this, be sure to source your essential oil from a reputable company that does regular testing to ensure the quality of its oils.

Notes on Oil Options for Oil Infusions

You can use any skin friendly oil for the infusion. We used a combination of the following oils for this recipe:

Coconut oil is moisturizing for the skin and has antibacterial properties.

Olive oil has long been used to moisturize skin and to heal wounds. It is rich in vitamins and has both antioxidant and antibacterial properties.

CAUTION: Be sure to avoid including any oils or herbs to which you are allergic. 

Cottonwood buds contain salicylic acid and some people can be allergic to the sap contained in the buds. It is best to avoid using if you are allergic to aspirin or bees. 

St. John's Wort is known to interact with a lot of modern medicines. Check with your physician before using.

Balm of Gilead made with cottonwood bud, St. John's Wort, and copaiba oils