Welcome to the January 2008 Alderleaf eNewsletter, the fifth issue of Alderleaf Wilderness College's free eNewsletter.

January 2008 Contents:

1.) Online Registration Now Available
You can now register for courses using your credit card at our new registration web page...

2.) Wilderness Survival in the Pacific Northwest
February 23 & 24. Gain hands-on experience with friction fire-making, building natural shelter and much more...

3.) Time to Collect Cottonwood Buds for Oil and Salve-Making
Create your own healing medicinal skin salve for scrapes, cuts, burns, and bruises...

Online Registration Now Available

You can now register for courses online with your credit card at our new registration web page. For those that prefer other ways to register, we also have a Mail-In Registration form that can be downloaded, and you can still register by phone.

Visit the new Registration Page.

Wilderness Survival in the Pacific Northwest, February 23 & 24

Gain hands-on experience with friction fire-making, building natural shelters, locating and purifying water, collecting wild edible plants, and more. Join us for our informative and fun-filled weekend survival course.

Course Instructor: Jason Knight

Find out more about the Wilderness Survival Weekend Course

Time to Collect Cottonwood Buds for Oil and Salve Making

Early February is often the best time in the Pacific Northwest to collect sap-filled buds of cottonwood trees for making medicine. The sweet-smelling sticky sap, also known as "balm of gilead", has been used for centuries to treat a variety of skin troubles, from cuts and scrapes to minor burns and bruises.

Black Cottonwood trees (Populus balsamifera or trichocarpa) can be found growing along rivers and in moist forests. It grows very tall and has large heart-shaped leaves with small teeth. The bark is gray and smooth on young branches and the trunk becomes deeply furrowed with age.

Cottonwoods are also known to drop branches. The tree holds so much water, that large branches often become so heavy that they break off and fall, especially in windstorms. After a stormy day you can usually find quite a few downed cottonwood branches, loaded with spring buds.

Pick the buds that are large and swollen. They often glisten with sap and will break off from the branch easily.

At this time of the year, sap is starting to fill the buds. The sap contains a variety of medicinal components, including compounds that kill germs, ease pain, and promote skin regeneration. I often refer to the sap as the "skin ointment of the woods". In a pinch it can be used straight from the bud.

The difficulty in working with the sap directly, is that it is extremely sticky (somewhat similar to pine sap). One of the best ways to extract the medicinal qualities of the sap is to infuse the buds in an oil. The oil can then be used as it is or turned into a salve.

To make cottonwood oil, fill a quart-sized glass jar about 2/3 of the way full with buds. Then fill the jar up to the top with olive oil (I prefer olive oil as it does not spoil easily). Put a lid on the jar and put the jar on a plate or bowl. Some oil often seeps out during the curing process.

Let the jar of buds and oil sit for a month up to a year. Stir every few weeks if you get the chance, and make sure the buds stay covered by the oil (exposed buds will mold). When you are ready, you can strain the oil through a cheesecloth. It will have that characteristic sweet cottonwood scent. You can now use the oil directly on scrapes, bruises, and minor burns, or turn the oil into a salve.

Next month we will cover how to turn cottonwood oil into cottonwood salve which is more portable.

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Alderleaf Wilderness College
17921 175th Place SE
Monroe, WA 98272
United States
(206) 369-8458

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