Herb: American Aspen

Latin name: Populus tremuloides

Synonyms: Populus trepida

Family: Salicaceae (Willow Family)

Medicinal use of American Aspen:

American aspen has a long history of herbal use. It was widely employed medicinally by many native North American Indian tribes who valued it especially for its antiseptic and analgesic qualities, using it in the treatment of wounds, skin complaints and respiratory disorders. It is used for the same purposes in modern herbalism. The stem bark is anodyne, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic, febrifuge, nervine and stimulant. The bark contains salicylates, from which the proprietary medicine aspirin is derived. It is used internally in the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis, gout, lower back pains, urinary complaints, digestive and liver disorders, debility, anorexia, also to reduce fevers and relieve the pain of menstrual cramps. Externally, the bark is used to treat chilblains, haemorrhoids, infected wounds and sprains. The bark is harvested from side branches or coppiced trees and dried for later use. An infusion of the inner bark is considered to be a remedy for coughs and an appetite stimulant, it is also used in the treatment of stomach pains, urinary ailments, VD, worms, colds and fevers. The root is poulticed and applied to cuts and wounds. A tea from the root bark is used as a treatment for excessive menstrual bleeding. The leaf buds are used as a salve for colds, coughs and irritated nostrils.

Description of the plant:


20 m
(66 feet)


Habitat of the herb:

A pioneer species of old fields, logged or burnt land, it is found in a range of soils from shallow, rocky or clay soils to rich sandy ones. It grows best in rich porous soils with plenty of lime

Edible parts of American Aspen:

Inner bark - raw or cooked. It can be dried, ground into a powder and used as a flour. This is normally mixed with other flours for making bread etc and can also be used as a thickener in soups. It is best used in the spring. Sap - can be tapped and used as a drink. It has also been used as a flavouring with wild strawberries. Catkins - raw or cooked. Bitter.

Other uses of the herb:

A fast-growing tree, it rapidly invades bare areas such as logged woodland and soon establishes dense stands of young trees by sending up suckers. It provides excellent conditions for other species of trees to become established and these will eventually out-compete the poplar. The bark has been used to make hats. The bark has sometimes been used for cordage. Wood - soft, light, weak, close-grained, rather woolly in texture, without smell or taste, of low flammability, not durable, very resistant to abrasion. It weighs 25lb per cubic foot. Not strong enough for furniture or construction, it is occasionally used for fences, railings and barn doors, is excellent for cheap crates and boxes and is widely used for pulp, producing a high quality paper.

Propagation of American Aspen:

Seed - must be sown as soon as it is ripe in spring. Poplar seed has an extremely short period of viability and needs to be sown within a few days of ripening. Surface sow or just lightly cover the seed in trays in a cold frame. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the cold frame. If sufficient growth is made, it might be possible to plant them out in late summer into their permanent positions, otherwise keep them in the cold frame until the following late spring and then plant them out. Most poplar species hybridize freely with each other, so the seed may not come true unless it is collected from the wild in areas with no other poplar species growing. Cuttings of mature wood in November/December in a sheltered outdoor bed. This species is rather difficult from cuttings. Suckers in early spring. Root cuttings in the winter. Layering.

Cultivation of the herb:

A pioneer species of old fields, logged or burnt land, it is found in a range of soils from shallow, rocky or clay soils to rich sandy ones. It grows best in rich porous soils with plenty of lime

Known hazards of Populus tremuloides:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.