Tulip Poplar Medicine (Liriodendron tulipifera)

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I remember when tulip poplar first made her presence known to me. I was sitting on my patio in the back yard, and I kept hearing this *swish swish swish* sound as the wind moved through the leaves, making them shimmy and shake. I looked at it and I thought, “Oh wow, I feel like she’s giving me a standing ovation,” and I immediately fell in love with it.

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When I moved here in 2004, I had no idea I would become the proud steward of this amazing tree. I am fortunate that it has low hanging branches; most people who have tulip poplar trees never get to see and handle these gorgeous blooms until they fall in a storm or heavy wind.


This particular tree is in north Mississippi, just outside of Tupelo. Around mid to late April the leaves are so soft and flexible and the blooms are fresh and bright. I love to handle them. Some of these leaves are almost 6 inches wide.

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Check out the neon orange band on the petals. These babies make loads of pollen. When they are in full bloom, the flowers look ethereal.  ♥

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Look how gorgeous the buds and leaves are.

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In all the information I have found, the inner bark of tulip poplar is primarily what is used for medicine; it is considered a tonic for people who are overcoming illness or are lethargic and have no energy… maybe after a fever or sickness that lasts a long time.

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Historically, the inner bark was used as a tonic medicine, and the highly astringent leaves were used as topical applications for fever, sprains, bruises and rheumatic swellings. I included the blooms with some twigs and leaves for my tincture experiment.

Vegetable materia medica of the United States: or, Medical botany: containing a botanical, general, and medical history of medicinal plants indigenous to the United States, by William Paul Crillon Barton, has lots of fascinating information on the medicinal uses of tulip poplar bark. You can download it for free in Google Books.

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One website stated that Tulip Poplar flower essence helps one “to overcome low self-esteem”. Other sources say it gives spiritual nourishment and can help you reconnect with your spiritual nature. I would love to hear others’ opinions about the flower essence.

Tommie Bass on Tulip Poplar

Tommie Bass says he uses it as a tonic. he says its good for rheumatism and makes you sweat (he used the root bark). He said the tea makes you ‘eat up a storm’ and is recommended for appetite, which would make it good to use after a long illness.

Matthew Wood

Matthew Wood says that Tulip Poplar is an “old American Indian heart remedy” and it is also used after a stroke. Get Matthew’s book for more information on his experiences as well as those of Phyllis D. Light and Darryl Patton, two great southern herbalists who both trained under the late Tommie Bass.  This book is half of a two-book set and both are awesome. The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to New World Medicinal Plants *

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Experiences:

I began taking notes on Tulip Poplar a few years ago. What you see above is an edited version of the album I made on Facebook. Several friends and I have worked with this medicine and here are our findings so far:

Kelli Hughart Armes:

I use it in all my cardiac and nervous system formulas and it does work great for pelvic congestion too but I also think it is just a good general all around tonic tree. I use it for a salve externally for muscle injury. For pain I would use sweetgum and magnolia (I find magnolia stronger than TP even though some people say they are interchangeable.

Here is how Robin McGee uses Tulip Poplar:

Berry baskets, canoes, cordage. increase appetite, digestive aid, diaphoretic, tonic, anti-inflammatory good for AUTO-IMMUNE DISEASES. Not as strong as cucumber magnolia, but it works (It works better as a tonic type remedy for the inflammation, not as a pain reliever).

My experiences with Tulip Poplar:

I have found tulip poplar to be gently warming yet not “overheating”. I have used it in blends for the heart, (blended with holy basil, motherwort, red clover, rose and hawthorn leaves, flowers and berries). I also love it in my lymphatic blend (with red root, ocotillo, cleavers and chickweed) and my pain relief combo (blended with St. John’s Wort, solomon’s seal, Pedicularis and  sometimes turmeric).

Speaking of pain relief, I also make a salve of tulip poplar combined with solomon’s seal, cottonwood, goldenrod and pine (looking into other tree allies and St. John’s Wort for this blend).

In the future, I want to work with tulip poplar to help restore proper gut function, maybe in conjunction with bee balm and other gut loving herbs (maybe include carminatives and/or bitters), and I want to create a blend that builds and tonifies the uterus (with red raspberry leaves, motherwort and nettles).

Other Sources:

Henriette’s Herbal Homepage: Liriodendron – Tulip Tree

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About Dana Tate Bailey

I am an Integrative CranioSacral therapist, Earth Medicine practitioner, and ceremonial herbalist, specializing in integrative mind-body therapies, and I work and teach at the Holistic Center in Tupelo, MS.
This entry was posted in Tree Medicine and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Tulip Poplar Medicine (Liriodendron tulipifera)

  1. jeffstroud says:

    Way cool! I have not come across a tulip Poplar is sometime! They seem to have gone missing around here.

  2. I love this thank you all! my trees are too tall to touch the tulips but i can’t wait to try my tincture of the fallen buds and petals ❤

  3. How do you make a salve with it? Do you add tincture to the salve? Or do an oil infusion with the bark?

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