Balm of Gilead – Procuring

Q: I’m looking for a Balm of Gilead tree. Over one hundred years ago, a Native American taught my Carolina ancestors how to make a burn salve from wild ginger, Balm of Gilead buds, and hog lard. The batch we made several years ago is running out but we are having a hard time finding Balm of Gilead.

A: Balm of Gilead is a name applied to several plants. Balm of Gilead in the Bible is a small evergreen tree, Commiphora gileadensis. Balm of Gilead in North American is a species of poplar, Populus balsamifera, which has large fragrant buds. Balsam fir could be your desired plant but it has tiny buds.

Since balsam poplar is common in the mountains of Carolina, and it has large distinctive buds, you should search for a nursery that stocks the poplar to confirm my guess.