Balm of Gilead

balm of gilead

Populus trichocarpa-Balm of Gilead

Family: Salicadeae

Names: Poplar buds,  Balsam Poplar, Balsamum Meccae var, Judiacum, Balsamum Gileadense, Baume de la Mecque, Balsamodendrum Opobalsamum, Balessan, Bechan, Balsam Tree, Amyris Gileadensis, Amyris Opobalsamum, Balsumodendron Gileadensis, Protium Gileadense, Dossémo,P. balsamifera trichocarpa,Populus candicans
balm of gilead leaves
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Description of Balm of Gilead:

Populus trichocarpa is a deciduous Tree growing to 40 m (131ft) by 12 m (39ft) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone 5. It is in flower from Apr to May, and the seeds ripen from May to June. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required) and are pollinated by Wind.The plant is not self-fertile. 
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soils.
Needs full sun. It prefers moist soil.
Habitat and Cultivation:
Cultivated in Europe & N. America native to Africa and Asia. Balm of Gilead (Cammiphora opobalsamum, known as Populus candicans in the United States) is a substance used in perfumes that is derived from the resinous juices of the balsam poplar tree. The tree is a member of the Salicadeae family. The variety that is native to the continents of Africa and Asia is a small tree of 10–12 ft (3-3.6 m) in height. The cultivated North American variety can grow to heights of 100 ft (30 m). The bark is of a rich brown colour, the leaves, trifoliate, are small and scanty, the flowers unisexual small, and reddish in colour, while the seeds are solitary, yellow, and grooved down one side. It is both rare, and difficult to rear.
Its dried fruit was called Carpobalsamum, and the dried twigs Xylobalsamum.
The herb’s name derives from the ancient region of Gilead in Palestine, known for the great healing powers of its balm. Balm of Gilead is mentioned several times in the Bible (e.g., Jeremiah 8:22). The writings of Pliny the Elder indicate that the tree was brought to Rome in the first century a.d. The historian Josephus recorded that the Queen of Sheba made a gift of balm of Gilead to King Solomon.

balm of gilead
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General use:

In addition to being used in the composition of perfumes, balm of Gilead is used to soothe ailments of the mucous membranes. It is taken internally to ease coughs and respiratory infections. The balm is also said to relieve laryngitis and sore throats. It can also be combined with coltsfoot to make a cough suppressant.


The resin of the balsam poplar tree is collected when it seeps out of the tree during the summer months. Seepage increases when humidity levels are high. Slits may be made in the tree’s bark to collect the resin more rapidly. The bark and leaf buds are also collected. For the internal treatment of chest congestion, balm of Gilead is made into a tincture or a syrup.

Cultivation details of Balm of Gilead:

An easily grown plant, it does well in a heavy cold damp soil. Prefers a deep rich well-drained circumneutral soil, growing best in the south and east of Britain. Growth is much less on wet soils, on poor acid soils and on thin dry soils. It does not do well in exposed upland sites. It dislikes shade and is intolerant of root or branch competition. This species is of uncertain origin and only a female form is known. It is very susceptible to bacterial canker. Poplars have very extensive and aggressive root systems that can invade and damage drainage systems. Especially when grown on clay soils, they should not be planted within 12 metres of buildings since the root system can damage the building’s foundations by drying out the soil. The leaf buds, as they swell in the spring, and the young leaves have a pleasing fragrance of balsam. The fragrance is especially pronounced as the leaves unfold. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus. Plants are very susceptible to canker.

Propagation of Balm of Gilead:

Seed – must be sown as soon as it is ripe in spring. Poplar seed has an extremely short period of viability and needs to be sown within a few days of ripening. Surface sow or just lightly cover the seed in trays in a cold frame. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the cold frame. If sufficient growth is made, it might be possible to plant them out in late summer into their permanent positions, otherwise keep them in the cold frame until the following late spring and then plant them out. Most poplar species hybridize freely with each other, so the seed may not come true unless it is collected from the wild in areas with no other poplar species growing. This species is a hybrid and will not come true from seed. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season’s growth, 20 – 40cm long, November/December in a sheltered outdoor bed or direct into their permanent positions. Very easy. Suckers in early spring.

Culinary: none know but if you know of one please let us know!


Medicinal uses of Balm of Gilead:

Part Used: Closed buds.
Actions: Stimulating expectorant,  anti-microbial,  vulnerary.
Indications: As it soothes,  disinfects,  and astringes the mucous membranes,  Balm of Gilead is an excellent remedy for sore throats, coughs and laryngitis,  and is in fact considered to be a specific for laryngitis that is accompanied by loss of voice. It may be used in chronic bronchitis. Externally it can be used to ease inflammations due to rheumatism and arthritis,  as well as for dry and scaly skin conditions such as psoriasis and dry eczema. King’s Dispensatory says that “Poplar buds are reputed stimulant,  tonic, diuretic,  and anti-scorbutic. A tincture has been beneficially employed in affections of the chest,  stomach,  and kidneys and in rheumatism and scurvy. With oil they form a useful external application in bruisesswellingswoundssome cutaneous diseasesrheumatic pains.”


Coltsfoot,  Red Sage and White Horehound combine well with it to enhance its actions on the respiratory system. Chickweed or  Calendula will aid its work topically,  reducing any irritation that may occur.

Preparations & Dosage of Balm of Gilead:

To make a syrup:  Balm is commonly combined with equal parts of elecampane, wild cherry bark   and one-half part of liquorice mixed with honey. The syrup can be taken by tablespoons as needed. For external treatment of bruises  , swellings and minor skin irritations, the balm is combined with lard or oil and applied as needed. The bark, which contains traces of salicylic acid, can be combined with willow and rosemary and used as a analgesic to relieve fevers, muscle aches and arthritic pain  .

Infusion: pour one cup of boiling water onto 1 teaspoonful of the buds and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day or more often until effective (if you can deal with the taste!).
Tincture: take 1-2 ml of the tincture three times a day. Usually used as a syrup to make more palatable.
Other uses of Balm Of Gilead:
An extract of the shoots can be used as a rooting hormone for all types of cuttings. It is extracted by soaking the chopped up shoots in cold water for a day. The dried leaf buds are added to pot-pourri. Wood – soft, rather woolly in texture, without smell or taste, of low flammability, not durable, very resistant to abrasion. It weighs about 24lb per cubic foot.
my balm of Gilead fairy
Esoteric uses of Balm of Gilead:

Gender: Feminine. Planet: Venus. Element: Water.

Love, Manifestations, Protection, Healing. Carry the buds to mend a broken heart. Also steep them in red wine for a love potion. One of the best forms of magickal oils to be used to dress candles in magickal healing.

The chemistry:


  • Phenolic glycosides; salicin,  populin (benzoyl salicin) and chrysin
  • Volatile oil,  the major constituent of which is [[alpha]]-caryophyllene, with cineole, arcurcumene, bisabolene, farnesene,  acetophenone and others.
  • Miscellaneous; alkanes,  resins, phenolic acids, gallic acid tannins and other ubiquitous substances.
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