Early spring days are ideal for harvest as the cottonwood buds are rich with resin. Buds open into leaves in May so harvesting has to occur well before then. Often we spend hours searching for productive wind felled branches or small trees with reachable buds and only end up with a small quantity. Our family spends every weekend, and many days after school during the spring season searching out our botanical ‘gold’.
Harvesting cottonwood tree buds is a family affair. Even though Alana couldn’t walk through the woods with a leg cast (spiral facture of tibia from skiing), she was happy to be pulled in a sled and pluck fallen branches from the forest floor and harvest buds from them. No two years of harvest have been the same, in our sixteen years of doing this.
Black Cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) and Balsam Poplar (Populus balsamifera) are nearly identical and they hybridize as their ranges overlap here. They grow near rivers and flood plains. We harvest rotationally from numerous locations to ensure our impact is negligible. We also never pick the terminal buds (at the end of a branch) of living trees and mostly pick from wind felled branches as sustainable wildcrafting is imperative to our operation.
The tree buds are usually small but they sure are sticky. The resin that covers our fingers as we harvest is not only incredibly fragrant (Susan’s favorite scent in the world), it’s what we extract for its healing properties.
We organically cultivate Calendula (Calendula officinalis) each summer and harvest every couple of weeks once flowers are blooming. We extract it along with cottonwood buds in organic oils to obtain their anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties, and their benefits to irritated skin like eczema and acne.
We dry the flowers in our greenhouse to ensure beneficial constituents are maximally preserved. Calendula has long been treasured for its skin healing properties.
These cottonwood buds contain the biochemical constituents of salicin and populin which are anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain killing). They promote cell growth and skin regeneration which make them so effective for healing skin rapidly.
These mesh bags enclose the botanicals while they are submerged in oil to reduce particulate matter in the final product. The amount of work that goes into producing these 25 gallons of plant material is immense! And it’s only the first step for us. Most skin care companies purchase base mixes of oils. Never touching the soil or appreciating the true benefits of wildcrafted or organically grown botanicals. This is one of the things that sets Alpenglow apart.
We gently heat the botanicals within our prime blend of organic oils to extract the beneficial properties. The oils are supersaturated with the chemical constituents that promote skin healing and aid muscle soreness and joint inflammation.
After we filter the oils and include beeswax, we are ready to fill bottles and jars with our magic. Alana and Liam help with capping and labeling too. We love teaching our kids about plants and developing a strong work ethic in them.
We spend an enormous amount of time making these prized products using only beneficial and natural ingredients. When in nature among the cottonwoods and calendula flowers, we are grateful for the opportunity to use and work with these magical botanicals. Here is to your health and healing!
Cottonwood Balm Cottonwood Massage Oil