The healing power of black poplar

The black poplar is a winter deciduous tree that grows between 20 meters and 40 meters in height. It originally grows in Central Europe and Asia up to the Himalayas. You can also find the black poplar in North Africa and Siberia. It likes wet soil and you often see it along rivers. The bark can be pulverized into an edible flour. However, black poplar is more known for its medicinal powers. In phytotherapy, this tree is mainly used as a painkiller and diuretic. You can find the black poplar in natural medicines for back pain, sports injuries and nerve pain. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.

Botanical drawing of black poplar / Source: Public domain, Wikimedia Commons (PD)

Contents:

  • Traditional use
  • Black poplar in folk medicine
  • Naming
  • Active substances
  • Black poplar for inflammation
  • Poplar buds for respiratory and bladder problems
  • Black poplar buds for external use
  • Poplar buds for blood vessel problems
  • Dose and safety
  • Visit a doctor or herbal therapist

Traditional use

What few people know is that the inner bark of the black poplar can be eaten. The bark can be dried and powdered to become a flour. Bread can be baked from this flour. It’s emergency food. In the Netherlands we mainly know the black poplar from its clogs; These were made from the wood of the black poplar because this is sturdy wood that does not split easily.

Black poplar in folk medicine

Galen or Galenos von Pergamon, a physician from ancient Greece, already reported a medicinal use of the buds of the flowers of the black poplar. These are used for pain relief. Even today we can find the buds of the black poplar in a pain-relieving balm. These buttons have various medicinal effects and can be used for inflammation of the upper respiratory tract, bronchitis and stomach and kidney problems. Externally, the buds can be used for colds, sinusitis, arthritis, rheumatism, muscle pain and dry skin conditions. The buds are harvested in the spring, before they open, and dried for later use. The bark has a slightly different medicinal effect. This is used by herbalists for rheumatism, arthritis, gout, lower back pain, urinary tract problems, digestive and liver disorders, weakness, anorexia, fever and to relieve pain during menstrual cramps.

Naming

In Latin, black poplar is called Populus nigra . In Dutch this tree is called black poplar. Scientists have changed the Latin name of black poplar several times. Synonyms of this tree are: Populus dilatata and Populus Italica Moench . In English the tree is called black poplar. In German this tree is called Schwarz-Pappel. Populus means ‘full of people’. This could indicate the fact that some poplar species make a buzzing sound, as if many people are gathered together. ‘Puer’ may also be the origin of the word populus which means ‘to vibrate’ and that is what poplars do when the wind blows through the foliage.

Active substances

The leaves, bark and buds of black poplar are used for phytotherapeutic purposes. Parts of the black poplar contain essential oil that mainly consists of the following substances: alpha- and beta-caryophyllene, cineole, bisabolene and farnessene. Furthermore, it contains phenolic glycosides in the form of salicyl tremuloidin, salicin, salireposide, tremulacin and populin, flavonoids such as chrysin, methylchrisin, galangin, quercetin and rhamnetin, tannins and lignans.

Black poplar for inflammation

Hydrolysis is the addition of water to a substance. When the phenolic glycosides from the leaf buds of the poplar are hydrolyzed in the intestine, saligenin is formed. An oxidation process takes place on saligenin in the liver, creating salicylic acid. This substance is the main component of aspirin, which contains synthesized acetylsalicylic acid because synthetic salicylic acid has many side effects. You are not violating the truth by stating that leaf buds of the black poplar produce a natural aspirin. Salicylic acid is a proven anti-inflammatory and the antioxidant effect of quercetin and tremulacin helps salicylic acid to inhibit inflammation. In addition, the leaf buds have uric acid-driving and diuretic properties. Due to this range of medicinal properties, buds are used in phytotherapy for the following indications:

Populus nigra / Source: László Szalai (Beyond silence), Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)

  • Osteoarthritis or joint wear,
  • Arthritis or joint inflammation,
  • Hyperuricemia or increased uric acid levels,
  • Arthritis urica or gout,
  • Lumbago or lower back pain,
  • Sports injuries,
  • Sciatica,
  • Neuralgia.

Poplar buds for respiratory and bladder problems

The essential oil in poplar buds has an expectorant or expectorant effect. In addition, it is an antiseptic and an antibacterial agent. Together with its diaphoretic, febrifuge and diuretic effect, it can be a suitable remedy for respiratory infections. Some herbalists and naturopaths prescribe it for:

  • Bronchitis,
  • Chronic cold,
  • Tracheitis or tracheitis,
  • Cystitis or bladder infection.

Black poplar buds for external use

Poplar buds have an itch-relieving, astringent, deswelling and calming effect. This is used in ointments or suppositories against hemorrhoids. It is the tannins that provide the medicinal effects mentioned. It is also a good ointment for some skin problems. Herbalists prescribe it for:

  • Hemorrhoids,
  • Burns,
  • sunscreen,
  • Rheumatic pains.

Poplar buds for blood vessel problems

The gemmotherpie is part of phytotherapy. Gemma means ‘button’. The bud of a plant contains relatively many healing substances. The substances are usually extracted from a bud using alcohol, water or glycerin. A tonic or strengthening agent and a spasmolytic or antispasmodic for the arteries are then given. It is also a natural blood thinner. In phytotherapy it is prescribed for:

Trunk of the black poplar / Source: Christian Fischer, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

  • Arteritis or artery inflammation,
  • Atherosclerosis or arteriosclerosis,
  • Thrombosis or the formation of blood clots,
  • Intermittent claudication or etalgebeen,
  • Peripheral blood circulation disorders.

The bark and leaves of black poplar are often used in combination with saw palmetto and nettle root for benign prostatic hypertrophy or benign prostate enlargement.

Dose and safety

There are a number of ways to use this medicinal plant.

  • Mother tincture: 40 drops three times a day,
  • Glycerine macerate of the buds: 5 drops three times a day,
  • Homeopathic remedy: 50 drops three times a day of a D1 dilution.
  • No side effects are known at therapeutic doses. Poplar buds cause far fewer side effects than aspirin. However, some people are hypersensitive to aspirin. They should also avoid the use of black poplar.

Visit a doctor or herbal therapist

Much of the information about the medicinal plant described in this article comes from the book Groot Handboek Medicinal Plants by Geert Verhelst. That is a handbook in phytotherapy. However, it is not suitable for self-healing. Anyone who suffers from something should consult a doctor or herbal therapist for a good diagnosis and choice of the best remedies, tailored to your personal situation. The knowledge and science mentioned here is of a purely informative nature.