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learn your trees cottonwood

The Best Friction Fire Wood in North America


In the vast tapestry of nature’s bounty, few trees stand as tall and resilient as the cottonwood tree. A staple of North American landscapes, these majestic giants not only provide shelter and sustenance to numerous creatures but also possess remarkable medicinal properties that have been cherished by indigenous cultures for centuries. In this blog, we will delve into the remarkable survival uses of the cottonwood tree and explore the diverse medicinal uses that have made it a cherished resource in traditional herbal medicine.

Cottonwood is the best friction firewood in North America and has many survival uses for fire starting, as well as other survival uses that include:

  • Shelter Building

The cottonwood tree’s sturdy branches and thick foliage can be utilized to construct emergency shelters. Its branches can be woven together to create a basic frame, which can then be covered with leaves, bark, or additional foliage for insulation and protection from the elements.

  • Fire Starting

The cottonwood tree’s inner bark and twigs contain flammable properties, making them excellent fire-starting materials. The inner bark can be shredded into fine fibers to create tinder, while the dry twigs can be used as kindling to ignite a fire easily. And in the video below, we delve into the many reasons it’s the best bow drill or friction firewood in North America. This is its best use for the survivor.

  • Cordage and Lashing

The inner bark of cottonwood contains fibrous strands that can be processed into cordage. By stripping the bark and twisting the fibers together, you can create strong and durable ropes for lashing together shelters, building tools, or constructing other survival essentials.

  • Edible Parts

The cottonwood’s young leaves can be used in salads or cooked as greens, and the inner bark can be ground into coarse flour for supplementary sustenance. Though these won’t have many calories, they do have micronutrients.

Medicinal Uses of the Cottonwood Tree

Traditional Healing Remedies Indigenous cultures across North America have recognized the medicinal potential of the cottonwood tree for centuries. The inner bark of the cottonwood, rich in salicin, a natural pain reliever, was used to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. Brewed as a tea or applied directly to wounds, this remedy acted as an analgesic, making it an essential element of traditional medicine.

Cottonwood buds have been used in traditional herbal medicine for their therapeutic properties. They contain a resinous substance that contains various beneficial compounds, making them valuable for creating herbal remedies. Here are some herbal remedies that can be made from cottonwood buds:

    Cottonwood Bud Salve:

Cottonwood bud salve is one of the most common and versatile remedies. To make it, gather fresh cottonwood buds and infuse them in carrier oil, such as olive or coconut oil, over low heat for several hours. The oil extracts the resin and beneficial compounds from the buds. After straining the infused oil, mix it with beeswax to create a solid salve. Due to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, this salve can be applied topically to soothe skin irritations, cuts, burns, insect bites, and minor wounds.

    Cottonwood Bud Oil:

Similar to the salve, you can create cottonwood bud oil by infusing the buds in carrier oil. This oil can be used as a massage oil for sore muscles and joints, providing relief from pain and inflammation.

    Cottonwood Bud Tea:

You can make cottonwood bud tea for respiratory issues by steeping dried or fresh cottonwood buds in hot water for several minutes. The tea can help alleviate coughs, congestion, and bronchitis symptoms due to its expectorant and antimicrobial properties.

    Cottonwood Bud Steam Inhalation:

Steam inhalation of cottonwood buds can provide respiratory relief. Boil water and add a handful of fresh or dried buds to the pot. Allow the steam to rise, cover your head with a towel, and inhale the steam, which can help soothe respiratory passages and alleviate congestion.

    Cottonwood Bud Tincture:

Cottonwood bud tincture can be made by macerating fresh buds in alcohol, such as vodka or brandy, for several weeks. This tincture can be taken orally in small doses to help manage pain and inflammation.

    Cottonwood Bud Poultice:

Create a poultice by mashing fresh cottonwood buds and applying them directly to the affected area. This can be beneficial for treating sprains, bruises, and joint pain.



The cottonwood tree’s survival uses and medicinal properties have made it a true gift from nature. From providing shelter and nourishment to numerous creatures to offering potent remedies for various ailments, this majestic tree stands as a testament to the profound interconnectivity between nature and humanity. To learn more about wilderness medicine and wildcrafting, please check out our herbal medical programs in the menu above.

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