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Common Name: Trembling Aspen | Scientific Name: Populus Tremuloides

Family Name: Salicaceae


In the past, the bark was used as a remedy for wounds, cuts, open sores, deep lacerations threatening gangrene, and deep lacerations unlikely to seal up. Can you say healing stimulant? Applied topically, or taken internally, this interesting herb was found to turn up the heat on the healing process.


Chapter from My PhD Thesis
Notes from the Eclectic Physicians

Chapter from My PhD Thesis

Part Used: Fresh bark

Chemical Constituents: Significant phytochemicals include populin (populoside/salicin benzoate), tremulin, and tremulacin. (5)

Pharmacy: 8 ounces bark to 1-pint alcohol 76%. Dose dram ss to dram j. (2)

This tree represents an ancient North American remedy—bark fibre and leaves of Populus tremuloides were found in an Ohio cave dating to 790 AD. More recently, the Huron, Illinois , Illinois – Miami , Cree, Ojibwe, Dene, Penobscot, Malecite, Montagnais, Chippewa, Seneca, Canadian Delaware, Meskwaki, Potawatami, Mohawk, and Tete de Boule used the tree for both food and medicine. The leaves and inner pulp were eaten. The bark was used as a remedy for wounds, cuts, open sores, deep lacerations threatening gangrene, deep lacerations unlikely to seal up, excessive bleeding during childbirth, female weakness, faintness, hepatic and nephritic disease, coughs, colds, sore arms and legs, rheumatic and painful joints. Notably, it was used as a tonic in general debility.

The colonials learned of the drug from the native people and used it for those conditions previously mentioned. In addition, they used it to treat malaria (ague, intermittent and bilious fevers), eczema, and cancer. Prior to the Eclectic movement, the drug was seen as an antiperiodic, tonic, and strengthening medicine. (10)

Eclectic Uses (1–8)

Tonic, stomachic, febrifuge, diuretic, alterative, anthelmintic, increases vital force within the system.

“Marked debility with impairment of digestion, tenesmic vesical irritation, tenesmus after urination.” (8)

Intermittent fever, chronic or irregular intermittent fever, chronic or irregular intermittent fever with lesions of the kidney, liver, or spleen, epidemic malaria, hematuria associated with malaria, all diseases associated with malaria, protracted fever, general debility, emaciation, emaciation with debility, want of appetite, feeble digestion, faintness of stomach, chronic diarrhoea attended with torpor of the liver and unhealthy biliary secretion, whenever tonics and alteratives are indicated, errors of physiological metabolism induced by malarial toxin, conditions of irritation (bladder, stomach, bowels, uterus, prostate,) atonic conditions of these organs, swamp fever, patients debilitated from protracted fever, or from long standing diseases of the reproductive tract.

Worms, dyspeptic conditions of the debilitated, especially in nervous or hysterical women, atonic dyspepsia with marked debility and emaciation, associated with hepatic torpor, impaired digestion (stomach or intestinal), chronic diarrhoea.

Gonorrhoea, gleet, strangury, diseases of the urinary organs, prostatic hypertrophy, recuperation of kidney when undergoing granular degeneration, tenesmic vesical irritation, tenesmus after urination, stubborn uterine congestion.

The drug from Selye’s perspective

State of Resistance
The drug was used to raise resistance to swamp fever, gonorrhoea, malaria (regular, irregular, and epidemic), protracted fever, irritation (bladder, stomach, bowels, and uterus, prostate), granular degeneration of kidney, and debility.

State of Exhaustion
The drug was used when State of Exhaustion set in. Signs of State of Exhaustion, remedied with this drug, included general debility, temperature abnormalities, degeneration of the kidney, liver, spleen, bleeding abnormalities, anorexia, weight loss, digestive abnormalities, debility with anorexia, emaciation, poor appetite, feeble digestion, chronic diarrhoea, and dyspepsia.

Adaptation Energy
From Selye’s perspective, the drug was used to augment the GAS, which suggests it increases adaptation energy. Evidence to this effect includes the following. The drug was used to raise resistance to infectious disease. The drug was used to remedy State of Exhaustion . The Eclectics said the drug increased the vital force within the system. Lastly, the drug was used to inspire healing in wounds and old ulcers.

Brekhman’s Adaptogen Criterion
An adaptogen should be innocuous and cause minimal disorders in the physiological functions of an organism.

The drug is reported to be innocuous in the Eclectic literature. (1–8)

The action of an adaptogen should be non-specific i.e. it should increase resistance to adverse influences of a wide range of factors of physical, chemical, and biological nature.

Clinically the drug was used to increase resistance to acute and chronic infection. (1–8)

An adaptogen may possess normalising action irrespective of the direction of the foregoing pathological changes.

Clinically, the drug was used to normalise the physiological perversions associated with State of Exhaustion . Abnormal physiology righted with the drug included chronic inflammation, abnormal temperature, anorexia, weight loss, diarrhoea, dyspepsia, and capillary abnormalities.

Experimentally, Populin has been determined to be antipodragra. Tremulacin has been determined to be analgesic and anti-inflammatory. (9)

The drug exhibits properties consistent with Brekhman’s definition of an adaptogen. It is innocuous, it raises resistance to an assortment of biological threats, and normalises physiological function.

Significantly, Populus tremuloides came to the fore during the early colonial days. The colonials were a stressed population, resisting temperature extremes, poor sanitation, hard labour, and starvation. They were so stressed that they had little resistance to the infectious disease in there midst. Malaria was rampant and many died from the first acute attack. The colonials learned that the drug could be used to raise resistance to this and other life threatening infections.

Though the Eclectics did not contribute greatly to the collective knowledge of the applications of this drug, they did confirm earlier findings. They found Populus tremuloides raised resistance to malaria and other infections. If they made a contribution, it was indicating the drugs utility when resistance to malaria could no longer be maintained and constitution collapse (State of Exhaustion ) occurred. They determined it normalised many of the physiological abnormalities associated with chronic disease caused constitutional collapse.
Potential clinical applications

The drug was used to treat acute and chronic malaria. There is evidence that compounds it contains offer an anti-periodic effect. The drug may have a role in the treatment of malaria.

Future Research
• Full chemical screen of the Populus tremuloides. The drug has not been fully examined for chemical constituents.
• Populus tremuloides and the GAS. The drug should be tested in the animal model to determine its specific effects on the GAS.
• Populus tremuloides and Malaria. The drug was traditionally used to increase resistance to Malaria. Its role in malaria should be examined.

The drug is abundantly available in the wild and is easily grown.

• King, John. The American Eclectic Dispensatory. Moore , Wilstach, and Keys. Cincinnati . 1854. P. 762.
• Scudder, J. M. Specific Medication and Specific Medicines. Revised. Fifth Edition. Wilstach, Baldwin and Company. Cincinnati . 1874. P. 208.
• Scudder, J. M. The American Eclectic Materia Medica and Therapeutics. Published by the Author. Cincinnati . 1883. P. 444.
• Scudder, J. M. The Eclectic Family Physician. Twenty first edition, fifth revision. Two volumes in one, with appendix. John K. Scudder. Cincinnati . 1887.
• Felter, Harvey Wickes and Lloyd, John Uri. Kings’ American Dispensatory. Volume one and Volume two. Ohio Valley Company. Cincinnati . 1898. P. 1538.
• Webster, HT. Dynamical Therapeutics—A work devoted to the Theory and Practice of Specific Medication with special references to the newer remedies. Webster Medical Publishing Company. Oakland . Second Edition. 1898. P. 377, 451, 494.
• Felter, Harvey. Syllabus of Eclectic Materia Medica and Therapeutics. Compiled from notes taken from the lectures of F.J.Locke. Edited with pharmacological additions by H.W.Felter. Second edition, with appendix. Scudder Brothers Company. Cincinnati.1901. P. 182.
• Ellingwood, Finley. American Materia Medica,Therapeutics, and Pharmacognosy. Ellingwood’s Therapeutist. Chicago . 1919. P. 17.
• Dr. Dukes Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases. Agricultural Research Service. USDA.
• Erichson-Brown, Charlotte . Medicinal and Other uses of North American Plants. Dover Publications. New York . 1979. P. 99.

Notes from the Eclectic Physicians

1854. John King. Materia Medica. – POPULUS TREMULOIDES
Properties and Uses. – Poplar bark is tonic and febrifuge, and has been used in intermittent fever with advantage. An infusion of it is reputed a baluable remedy in debility, emaciation, want of appetite, feeble digestion, faintness at the stomach, chronic diarrhea, and worms. It is said to possess active diuretic properties, and has been beneficially employed in gonorrhea, gleet, stangury, and other diseases of the urinarey organs. The large aspen, P. Grandidentata , is said to be the most active and bitter. Dose of the powdered bark, one drachm, two or three times a day.

Preparation -Prepare a tincture from the fresh bark of the white poplar, in the proportion of 3viij. to Alcohol 76 degree Oj. Dose 3ss. to 3j.

This remedy is so common and may be so easily prepared, that it should come into more general use as a tonic and stomachic. It improves the appetite and strengthens digestion, exerting its influence more especially upon the upper intentine. It influences the urinary organs, but its action in this direction needs to be studed.

1883: Scudder: (tonic)
(The bark of Populus Tremuloides)

Preparation – Tincture of Populus.

Dose – From five drops to one drachm.

Therapeutic Action – The bark of the White Poplar is tonic, stomachic, febrifuge and alterative. It is a mild and not an unpleasant bitter, very well adapted to cases of general debility, emaciation, dyspepsia, attended with torpor of the liver or an unhealthy biliary secretion. It has been used as a tonic and febrifuge in intermittents with decided advantage. This, as well as other species of the Populus, is possessed of properties quite similar to the willow; indeed, its tonic qualities are, probably, dependent on its salicin. It has been exhibited advantageously as an alterative, associated with other alterants, as the burdock, yellow-dock, and yellow parills, when tonics and alteratives are indicated.

1887: Scudder: POPLAR
The bark of both the white and yellow poplar possesses tonic properties, and frequently form a constituent of home-made bitters. The three agents last named may be used in equal proportions, and will sometimes give good satisfaction.

1898: Webster
It is difficult to suggest the line of action of this remedy, but it is a valuable agent in the treatment of dyspeptic conditions in debilitated subjects. It is a good remedy to improve the tone of the stomach in patients debilitated from protracted fever, or from long standing disease of the reproductive apparatus, especially in nervous and hysterical women.

Trembling poplar also possesses anthelmintic properties. It has been used in domestic practice for the expulsion of the lumbricoid worm.

Form for Administration- A saturated tincture of the fresh bark.

Dose- From five drops to half a drachm.

1901 : Harvey W Felter (Tonics) – POPULUS – WHITE POPLAR
SYNONYMS – Poplar, Quaking Aspen, American Aspen

BOTANICAL ORIGIN – The bark of Populus tremuloides, Michaux; Nat. Ord., Saliacaceae. Common in American woods.

This agent is also tonic, and resembles in action the willow bark. Prepare a tincture as for dogwood bark. Dose, five to sixty drops. Make an infusin on one ounce of bark to one pint of water. Dose, a tablespoonful. Employ this agent in atonic dyspepsia, with marked debility and emaciation, associated with hepatic torpor. It ma also be employed with good results in intermittent fever, both for its febricide and tonic effects. This bark yields both salicin and populin.

1901: Locke
This agent is also tonic, and resembles in action the willow bark. prepare a tincture as for dogwood bark. Dose, five to sixty drops. Make an infusion of one ounce of bark to one pint of water. Dose, a tablespoonful. Employ this agent in atonic dyspepsia, with marked debility and emaciation,associated with hepatic torpor. It may also be employed with good results in intermittent fever, both for its febricide and tonic effects. This bark yields both salicin and populin.

1907: Ellingwood
Intermittent fever, protracted fevers, prostatic hypertrophy, general debility.

Synonyms – American poplar, White poplar, Quaking aspen.

Constituents – The important constituents are populin and salicin, a resin and essential oil. The buds contain an acid resin.

Preparations – Powdered bark. Dose, one dram two or three times a day. Saturated tincture of the bark, from one-half to twenty drops. Populin, one-tenth of a grain.

Therapy – The older writers were enthusiastic concerning th tonic and antiperiodic properties of this drug. They claimed that it would replace quinine in the treatment of intermittency. It has never come into general use. A recent writer says that he soon learned that a strong infusion of the bark would cure those forms of intermittent fever, of a chronic or irregular character. At the same time the pathological lesions of the liver, spleen and kidneys which accompanied the chronic disorder, would gradually disappear with the ultimate complete restoration of their physiological functions. These results were accomplished without the unpleasant effects that occur after the protracted use of quinine. This writer, passing through an epidemic of severe malarial disease, found that malarial hematuria was very common and very hard to cure. he put his patients upon the infusion of cottonwood bark, and found the symptoms to yield rapidly, not only the hemorrhage, but the icterus, and other conditions depending upon disarrangement of the liver and stomach. He found that results obtained by this remedy were more permanent than those obtained by the use of quinine in some cases.

Protracted fevers, with debility and emaciation, are greatly benefited by the use of this remedy, and the conditions remaining in early convalescence are quickly overcome. The agent is a tonic to the kidneys, increasing their functional activity, relieving vesical and urethral tenesmus. It will also overcome prostatic hypertrophy in some cases, and is available in uterine congestion. it is of service in impaired digestion, either gastric or intestinal, chronic diarrhoea, with general debility. Other spcific remedies may here be given in conjunction with it. Dr. Alter says that it corrects errors of physiological metabolism, induced by malarial toxemia. It is a most powerful antiperiodic. It will not cause deafness. It will not cause abortion, but on the contrary will prevent abortion, which is threatened by the presence of malarial conditions. It shows its influence best where there is general debility, very marked, with impairment of the nutritive functions of the body.

Dr. Fearn says, concerning populus, this remedy is a powerful stimulant, tonic, an ddiuretic. And this statement fixes its place in treatment, in the hands of the true specific medicationist. When we use this remedy as a tonic or diuretic, we should never use it in cases accompanied with irritation whether it be of the stomach, bowels, uterus, bladdr, or prostate. In atonic conditions of all these different organs where we desire to stimulate and tone up the organ, populus is a grand remedy. When first I began to use this Sampson among remedies of its class, I had to use decoctions of the bark – it was a nasty, bitter dose. How much better to use the specific medicine in from five to twenty drop doses.

Dr. Howe reported a case where a soldier had chronic diarrhoea which may have been caused by malaria. Howe put him on populus for a time and made a complete cure. If a little of the poplar bark be put into a cup and covered with boiling water, this will make a strong enough infusion for many conditions, taking only a teaspoonful or two at a time.

Dr. Alter of Arkansas has given it for many years for swamp fever. He also uses it in the irregularities of women. He thinks it acts somewhat as hydrastis in promoting a physiological action of all organs, an dincreasing the vital force within the system. It may be well given in conjunction with hydrastis. Dr. Alter used it very widely whether it was strictly indicated or not, and became convinced of its active therapeutic property.

Disclaimer: The author makes no guarantees as to the the curative effect of any herb or tonic on this website, and no visitor should attempt to use any of the information herein provided as treatment for any illness, weakness, or disease without first consulting a physician or health care provider. Pregnant women should always consult first with a health care professional before taking any treatment.