Balm Of Gilead (Populus x jackii)

P. balsamifera candicans. P. gileadensis. P. ontariensis.
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Balm Of Gilead
Populus x jackii

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[172].

The dried leaf buds are added to pot-pourri[238].

Wood – soft, rather woolly in texture, without smell or taste, of low flammability, not durable, very resistant to abrasion[11]. It weighs about 24lb per cubic foot[235].

  • Medicinal Use

    Balm of Gilead is a common ingredient of cough medicines, its expectorant, antiseptic and analgesic actions making it an excellent remedy for a range of respiratory problems[254]. It has also been used for several thousand years to soothe inflamed or irritated skin[254].

    The leaf buds are covered with a resinous sap that has a strong turpentine odour and a bitter taste[213]. They also contain salicin, a glycoside that probably decomposes into salicylic acid (aspirin) in the body[213]. The buds are antiscorbutic, antiseptic, balsamic, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant and tonic[4, 21, 57, 165]. They are taken internally in the treatment of bronchitis, sore throats, dry irritable coughs and other upper respiratory tract infections[238, 254]. They should not be prescribed to patients who are sensitive to aspirin[238]. Externally, the buds are used to treat colds, sinusitis, arthritis, rheumatism, muscular pain, grazes, small wounds and dry skin conditions[238, 254]. They can be put in hot water and used as an inhalant to relieve congested nasal passages[213]. Internal use of the plant is believed to reduce milk flow in nursing mothers[254]. The buds are harvested in the spring before they open and are dried for later use[238].

    Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, the bark of most, if not all members of the genus contain salicin, a glycoside that probably decomposes into salicylic acid (aspirin) in the body[213, 238]. The bark is therefore anodyne, anti-inflammatory and febrifuge. It is used especially in treating rheumatism and fevers, and also to relieve the pain of menstrual cramps[238].

  • Edible Use

    None known

  • Cautionary Notes

    None known

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – must be sown as soon as it is ripe in spring[113]. Poplar seed has an extremely short period of viability and needs to be sown within a few days of ripening[200]. 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[11]. 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[78].
An easily grown plant, it does well in a heavy cold damp soil[1]. Prefers a deep rich well-drained circumneutral soil, growing best in the south and east of Britain[11, 200]. Growth is much less on wet soils, on poor acid soils and on thin dry soils[11]. It does not do well in exposed upland sites[11]. It dislikes shade and is intolerant of root or branch competition[200]. This species is of uncertain origin and only a female form is known[82]. It is very susceptible to bacterial canker[11]. 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[11]. The leaf buds, as they swell in the spring, and the young leaves have a pleasing fragrance of balsam[245]. The fragrance is especially pronounced as the leaves unfold[245]. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus[200]. Plants are very susceptible to canker[188].
The origin of this tree is obscure.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.