Herbs & Plants

Balm of Gilead(Populus spp )

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Botanical Name :Populus spp, Populus balsamifera,Populus tremuloides,Populus grandidentata
Family: Salicaceae
Genus: Populus
Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Salicales
Species: spp.

Common Name: aspens and poplars

Common Name Synonyms : cottonwood

Habitat:  Range:
Most of the following range description is taken from Fowells, H.A., compiler, 1965, Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, USDA Agriculture Handbook No. 271.

P. balsamifera: Newfoundland, Labrador to northwest Alaska, northeastern British Columbia, east through Alberta, northern portions of the Great Lakes states, northern New England, and locally from Iowa to Connecticut and in the Rocky Mountains.

P. grandidentata: Nova Scotia to Manitoba, south to northeastern Missouri, east to Virginia, and locally in the eastern United States.

P. tremuloides: Newfoundland, Labrador to southern Alaska; British Columbia through Alberta to New Jersey. Locally in Virginia, Missouri and mountains of western United States and northern Mexico.

Climatic conditions vary throughout the ranges, but are often characterized by low seasonal temperature provided by high altitudes or northern latitudes, and short growing seasons.

Most of the following habitat description is taken from Fowells, H.A., compiler, 1965, Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, USDA Agriculture Handbook No. 271.

P. balsamifera most frequently grows in moist soils of various textures including subirrigated sandy and gravelly soils, calcareous clay loams, or silt loams. It grows at elevations from sea level to about 5,500 feet (1,676 m). It is usually found in cool lowlands such as alluvial bottoms, sandbars, stream banks, lake shores and swamps. It grows in pure stands or in the following forest types: aspen, balsam fir-paper birch, white spruce-balsam fir-paper birch, black ash-American elm-red maple, aspen-birch, white spruce-aspen, and black cottonwood-willow (Fowells 1965).

P. grandidentata is usually found on drier sites than the other two species, at elevations from 500 to 2,000 feet (152 to 660 m). Soil textures include sand, loamy sand, light sandy loams, and, less frequently, heavier textured soils. High water tables closer than 18″ (45.7 cm) to the surface reduce aeration, and increase chances of windfall (Fowells 1965). It is most commonly associated with quaking aspen, gray birch, paper birch and red maple.

P. tremuloides tolerates a wide range of soil conditions from rocky soils or loamy sands, to clay soils. The most favorable soils are porous, and loamy soils that have abundant lime and humus. Growth in clay soils is reduced because of poor aeration; growth in sand is poor because of low moisture and nutrient levels. Rocky soils can hinder the spread of lateral roots. Quaking aspen grows at elevations up to 5,800 feet (1768 m) in the north, and rarely below 8,000 feet (2438 m) in lower California. It grows at sea level only as far south as Maine and Washington. In the southwest United States, quaking aspen often grows in cool shaded mountain slopes, canyons, and on stream banks, at about 6,500 to 10,000 feet (1981 to 3048 m) in elevation. It grows with other aspens and often in the following forest types: Jack pine-aspen, white spruce, balsam fir-aspen, black spruce-aspen, aspen-paper birch (Fowells 1965).


The following descriptions are taken from Barnes and Wagner 1981 and Rosendahl 1970. Further taxonomic description is available in these texts.
Populus balsamifera is a shade-intolerant tree 6-30 m high with gray or greenish bark that becomes darker and furrowed on older trunks. Resinous buds are large; twigs are stout and lustrous turning gray-green with age. Alternate simple leaves are ovate-lanceolate or cordate-ovate with acute or acuminate tips and finely crenate margins. The aromatic leaves are glabrous and dark green above, and pale silver or rusty brown beneath. Staminate catkins are 3-5 cm long; pistillate catkins 3-5 cm long. The fruit is an ovoid capsule 7-9 mm long. Balsam poplar has numerous shallow spreading roots and forms clones.

Populus grandidentata is a shade intolerant tree 10-20 m high with smooth gray tan or yellowish-green bark that becomes furrowed and darker with age. Stout twigs are white tomentose becoming reddish brown to greenish-gray with age. The alternate leaves are ovate and coarsely sinuate-toothed. Young leaves are densely white tomentose beneath; older leaves are glabrous, yellow green or dark green. Young suckers often have larger leaves than mature plants. Staminate catkins, 4-7 cm long, are silky pubescent; pistillate catkins are 3-5 cm elongating in fruit to 10-15 cm.

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Bigtooth aspen has a wide spreading lateral root system with larger and fewer roots than P. tremuloides, and sinker roots (vertically penetrating roots) to 3 m. This species forms clones by root-suckering. Suckers are distinguishable from seedlings because they have a thickening that develops on the distal side of the parent root next to the sucker (Maini 1972).

P. tremuloides is a shade intolerant tree 6-20 m high with smooth greenish-white or gray bark, turning darker and slightly furrowed with age. Twigs are slender, glabrous and reddish-brown, turning gray with age. The thin, alternate leaves are ovate to orbicular, truncate or sub-cordate at the base and short acuminate at the tip. Leaves are glabrous when mature, have finely serrated margins, and range from bluish to dull green in color. Young suckers frequently have much larger leaves than older plants. Staminate catkins are 3-6 cm long with silky hairs. The fruit is a capsule about 5 mm long. This species is typically clonal, with suckers arising from extensive lateral roots. Quaking aspen has “sinker roots” like bigtooth aspen and distinction between seedlings and suckers is the same as with P. grandidentata.

Aspen Tree (Populus spp.)
These deciduous trees are tall and fast growing. In North America they are the most widely dispersed tree. They are great in rural areas because they have large root systems. They have triangular shaped leaves that provide beautiful colors in the fall. The bark is creamy white to a light olive-gray color. They are a lovely addition to any large open area.


Flowers of all three species appear before leaf expansion, usually in April or May. Phenology varies between clones, with air temperature, and geographic locations (Maini 1972). Following wind pollination, fruits ripen in May or June and are dispersed by wind or water May through July. The light seeds have a silky hair aiding in dispersal. P. grandidentata flowers, fruits, and disperses fruit about ten days later than P. tremuloides in Ontario (Maini 1972).

Most aspens are capable of flowering at ten years (Maini 1972) and 20 year old trees of P. tremuloides and P. grandidentata produce good seed crops every four or five years (Fowells 1965). A 23 year old P. tremuloides tree 33 feet tall in Ontario produced 1.6 million seeds (Maini 1972). Under favorable natural conditions, seeds of P. grandidentata and P. tremuloides maintain viability up to two or three weeks. P. balsamifera seed is viable for a few days (Fowells 1965).

Medicinal Uses:
Balm of Gilead Medicinal Properties & Benefits

Common Uses: Abrasions/Cuts * Burns/SunBurn * Rheumatoid Arthritis *
Properties: Antibacterial* Analgesic* Anti-inflammatory* Antirheumatic* Astringent*
Parts Used: Leaf buds
Constituents: volatile oil, up to 2% (including cineole, bisabolene, bisabolol and humulene), resins, palicin and populin, phenolic acids.

Use popular buds in balms and pain relieving creams.

The dried, unopened buds of the poplar tree are used in ointments and skin treatments to reduce pain and inflammation, and to ease rheumatic pain. Salicin, a major constituent of this plant, is a painkiller, while bisabolol in the oil reduces inflammation and is antimicrobial.

Side Effects:
If you are sensitive to aspirin, you should not use Balm of Gilead.Recommended for external use only.

How to Us
: Balm of Gilead
Preparation Methods :Oils, salves and lotions.

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Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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