As an herbalist, I was happily surprised to find out that the main plants Howard’s mom, Susie Silas, used were trees.
Here’s her recipe for poplar bud salve (also known as Balm of Gilead):
1. Put the buds in a jar and let them sit for one month.
2. Cover with some kind of oil or grease. Beaver fat is the best.
3. Strain it after a month – or don’t.
Use topically on all kinds of pain.
The inner bark of spruce and birch were the two main medicines she used.
For birch, harvest the inner bark in big strips or sheets in the summer when the sap is running and it pops off easily. Cut the bark into little squares, flatten, and dry.
To prepare, put a handful in a small pot of water and “boil like hell.” Strain it in a bottle and let it sit. The longer it sits the more “nourishment” it has. (It will get stronger and “tangy.”)
Making spruce juice is exactly the same, except that you can chew the inner bark after boiling it. This kept Howard’s mother’s teeth clean and shiny white for her whole life.