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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

aka Abele Tree, American Aspen, Aspen, Cottonwood Tree, Mountain aspen, Old Wive's Tongue, Quiver Leaf, Trembling Aspen, Trembling poplar, Trembling Tree, White poplar
(Populus tremuloides)
See also: Poplars and Balm of Gilead

CONTRAINDICATED: For anyone sensitive to ASPIRIN which also applies to young children and juveniles with viruses that may develop into serious disability due to the use of asprin.

CONTAINS: Glycosides, flavonoids, essential oil (including bisabolol), tannin, salicylates (populin and salicin).

Aspens, poplars and cottonwoods are closely related to the willow family (Salix) and many different species are used interchangeably. These are fast growing, soft-wooded deciduous trees and will be either male or female with bark that tends to grow darker as the tree ages. Cottonwoods are generally found on river banks while aspens favor higher elevations. These are usually the first trees to reclaim cut-over land which enables the other species of trees to take advantage of the shade and establish themselves.
The winter leaf buds are balsamic, bitter, waxy, and resinous. The fruit is a small seed capsule surrounded by tufts of white cottony hair that is easily airborn. North American cottonwoods have more hair than other species. The flowers are shaped like catkins. Although the bark is generally taken from P. alba, both P. nigra and P. tremuloides are also used. Poplar buds are collected mainly from the P.x candicans, but are also collected from P. basamifera (Balsam Poplar) and P. nigra.
P.x candicans is often called Balm of Gilead as is P. balsamifera.
Balm of Gilead may well be one of the most overworked names in the history of herbalism. Balsam fir (Abies spp) is also called by that name as well as numerous other trees and plants world wide. Canary balm (Cedronella canariensis) is one example of a plant which commonly bears that name.
Quaking aspen is native to North America and is a tree which can get to be 100 feet high with pale yellowish bark on young trunks and main branches. Leaves are broadly ovate and finely toothed about 1¾ inches long and wide with fine hairs on the margin. Both the inner bark and sap have been used in British Columbia, Montana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The bark is a favorite of beavers. The best known use of the buds is as an ointment or salve and one well known product from France was Pommade de Bourgeons de Peuplien, a medicine for burns and sores that also included black nightshade, belladonna, henbane, and poppy. Those varieties of poplar with the most resinous buds are the most effective. The buds have a pleasant balsamic fragrance.
Greek legend says that the tree came from Heliades, the grief-strick sisters of Phaeton, who saw their brother fall from the sky as he drove the sun chariot. The sisters were turned into poplar trees and their tears fell into a stream and became amber. It was also said that Hercules wore a crown of poplar when he went to Hades to bring back the 3-headed dog, Cerberus. There was also some belief that the willows of Babylon may have been poplars.
An old Celtic legend of early Christian times said the leaves could never rest, trembling for shame that Christ was crucified on a cross of poplar wood.
There is one ancient story that the bark or even the leaves (harvested after the tree is finished flowering) and drunk with the kidney of a mule would make a woman barren.

PROPAGATION: By hardwood cuttings in winter; also by layering.
NEEDS: Deep, well drained, moist soil in full sun. Prone to bacterial canker and fungal diseases, aphids, poplar beetle larvae and catapillars which attack the leaves, die-back branch gall, rust, powdery mildew, scale, borers, and willow beetles.
HARVEST: Inner bark in spring from small branches and twigs (bitterish taste, no odor). Also gathered from pruned and felled trees and branches in fall or from pruned twigs in spring. Bark is dried for later use. Leaf buds may also be used and are harvested in late spring. Before a tea is made of the buds they MUST be soaked in alcohol to remove the bitter resin. Winter buds are sticky, resinous and fragrant. Can be grown on a mini-rotation (harvested every 2 years as a crop), a short rotation (harvested every 10 years for fuel [methanol] and for fiber), or a long rotation (harvested every 30 years for timber).
FLOWERS: Appear in spring.
PART USED: Leaves, bark, buds.
SOLVENT: Boiling water (soak buds in alcohol, then boiling water to expel properties).


The closed winter leaf-buds contain an antioxident.
Febrifuge (mainly in intermittant fevers), tonic, diuretic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, astringent, antiseptic, slightly sedative, stomachic, diaphoretic, balsamic, and cholagogue.
Has been ised to tone the mucous membranes and as a tonic for the urinary system and in cases of urinary incontinence.
Bark has been used for fevers; leaves have sometimes been used as a tonic after a debilitating illness. The inner bark is a bitter tonic has been used for ague, intermittant fever, and bilious fevers
Has been used for managing digestive and bowel performance in febrile conditions.
Inner bark acts as a mild purgative when eaten as was done by the Cree Indians.
Has been used for urinary problems, cystitis, gonorrhea, gleet, dysentary, loss of appetite, colds, general weakness; used for flu symptoms, dyspepsia, neuralgia, jaundice, liver troubles, hay fever, cholera, infantum.
Decoction has been used for urinary tract infection, irritations of bladder and prostrate gland, weakness due to stress of chronic illness.
Infusion has been used for debility and chronic diarrhea.
The bark has been used as a substitute for Peruvian bark and quinine without the common side effects (an extract of the bark is used).
Native Americans used the Poplar species to treat sore eyes, dropsy and toothache.
In tincture form the buds have been used for chest and upper respiratory complaints, kidney problems, gleet and gonorrhea; In ointment form the buds have long been used for arthritis and rheumatism.
The bark has been used as part of a brandy based bitters for indigestion. Also used as a bitter tonic to restore digestive difficulties caused by disease or old age, or to generally tone up run-down conditions in these events. Sometimes combined with Gentian (for problems relating to the stomach and duodenum) as the aspen/poplar works best further along in the bowels.
Has been used for fluid rentention, incontinence, and prolapse and to relieve headaches especially as related to digestive difficulties.
Has been used in cases of faintness, hysteria, neuralgia, diabetes, hay fever, cholera, infant's diarrhea and for obstructions of urine NOT related to prostratitis.
Has been used for sore throats (gargle), headache, arthritis, and rheumatism; also used externally as a compress for arthritic inflammation.
The aroma of the leaf-buds is heavy and nostril clearing when nasal passages are congested.
A warm juice from the leaves dropped into the ear has been used for earache.
A tea has been used for hepatic and nephritic diseases
Has been used for debility of the female generative system, for uterine, vaginal, and anal weakness, leucorrhea and for painful menstruation.
Has been used for anal prolapse (see DOSE)
Anciently, the leaf-bud ointment was rubbed on the temples, pulse of arms and legs and on palms of hands and soles of feet for any condition causing "heat" or during epidemics or for sleeplessness.
Early North American settlers used the wash for gangrenous wounds, eczema, cancer, burns, and body odor.
The Illinois-Miami used the bark chewed or crushed for wounds; also the bark of the root was used as an astringent on wounds.
The Penobscot Malecite used the bark steeped for colds.
The Montagnais scraped the bark and dried it, then steeped it and used it as a vermifuge for children in small amounts as large amounts were deemed dangerous.
The Chippewa used the inner bark in a ceremonially prepared medicine together with the bark of burr and red oaks, plus buds, roots and blossom of the balsam poplar and the root of Seneca snakeroot for heart trouble. It was also used for cuts: the cut was spit upon and the edges drawn together, then the chewed bark was applied thickly like a poultice; the dried root was also used in the same manner.
The Chippewa took the root of one aspen and one root of balsam poplar and placed both in a quart of water to steep (water was not boiling); this was taken every hour for excessive flowing during confinement after childbirth, or to prevent premature birth.
The Seneca used the bark as a sedative.
The Canadian Delaware used the leaves as medicine for infants; the roots were used in decoction as a tonic for general debility and female weaknesses; they also used the bark for colds and as an anti-scorbutic.
The Meskawi simmered the leaf-buds in fat to make a salve for nasal congestion (salve was placed in the nostrils) for colds in children and adults.
The Flambeau Ojibwe used the young roots (also the roots of the large-toothed aspen were substituted when necessary) in tea form as a hemostatic. They used the bark of the young trunk for poulticing cuts and wounds.
Pillager Ojibwe used the inner bark for poulticing a sore arm or leg and also used the inner bark to make an inner layer of splints for breaks and sprains.
The Tete de Boule used the fibrous rootlets boiled to a consistency of syrup and applied this to rheumatic or painful joints.
Has been added to the bath water once a week as a skin tonic and conditioner.
Fresh solution has been used daily for the skin in cases of cancer, ulcers, gangrenous wounds, eczema, burns, strong perspiration, purient ophthalmia, syphilitic sores.

!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
The equivalent of 1 to 4 grams (dried bark) 3 times daily.
INFUSION = 1 tsp leaves, buds or bark to 1 c. boiling water; several cupfuls a day taken cool. (Can also be used as a vaginal douche).
WASH = A strong tea of the bark with a little borax added for external use.
DECOCTION = 1 oz. dried bark to 1 quart of boiling water and simmered 30 minutes. -OR- 1 to 2 tsps bark simmered in 1 cup water for 10 to 15 minutes and taken 3 times daily.
TINCTURE = 1/2 to 1 fluid dram -OR- 2 to 4 ml
For uterine, vaginal and renal weakness = 2 to 15 drops combined with 10 to 20 drops of bearberry taken 3 times daily.
SPICED BITTERS = Equal parts of powdered poplar, powdered barberry bark, powdered balmony (Chelone Glabra); 1 tsp of the combined powders to 1 cup hot water, sweetened; drink warm, leaving the sediment; used as a hepatic tonic, for sluggish condition of the stomach with biliousness and for torpid bowels. (Also: powder may be placed in capsules and taken rather than the infusion.
For ANAL PROLAPSE = An injection of 1/2 oz. each poplar and bayberry in 16 oz. water.

Tincture of the inner bark. Used for indigestion and urinary problems.

Indicated for fears and forebodings of unknown origin.

The Potawatomi would burn the bark and save the ashes to mix with lard as a salve for sores on horses.

Leaves and twigs produce shades of gray, gold and brown.

Used commercially for paper pulp; the lumber is used for crates, matches, boxes and excelsior.
Used by the Illinois tribes for making canoes.
Used to make chiphats.
Cotton of the seeds was used for paper and cloth.
The spring sap was eaten by a number of Native American tribes in the same manner as maple syrup.

©2000 by Ernestina Parziale, CH