Poplar is one of my all-time favorite trees. It is a fast growing tree, as far as trees go, with a relatively short life cycle (50-75 years), so it grows big, tall, and strong quickly, reaching its roots deeply into the earth to support its massive trunk. It grows up tall in the sky, but the branches drop easily at first sign of distress, often caused by strong winds or snow. It is a good tree to take a lesson from—our little human lives are also short—to grow big, tall, and strong and be true to ourselves; and if there is something happening around us that doesn’t serve our highest good, drop it. Let it go, as Elsa would say.
There are many medicinal species of poplar, and indeed many trees in its family (Salicaceae) have similar health benefits. Willow is among those medicinal salicaceous trees, but none of them have quite the spirit of poplar, which is unique, and a gift to we lowly humans. This issue is about an entire genus of trees (Populus) commonly known as cottonwood, or poplar, interchangeably. You will see them referred to as both, varying from article to article. When authors discuss a specific species, they will give the Latin name. At times, certain qualities may be of particular importance—fragrance, for example. This will also be specified. Otherwise, it is reasonable to assume the entire genus can be used in the way described.
I encourage you to go out to the creek or river, look along the banks, and find your local native poplar species. Give it a hug, sit at its roots, and share in the peace of its existence. It’s always a good idea to try and be a tree, as there are many lessons to learn from these noble plant friends.
Poplar Herbal Monograph
Balm of Gilead, Comfort for the Soul
Finding Balm of Gilead
Native and ceremonial Use of Populus
Cottonwood Remedy Recipes