Winter Forest Herbal Medicine Remedies

Herbal medicine is available for harvest throughout the year, even here in Nova Scotia. Pine and spruce are abundant. In this video you’ll learn some ways to identify them and use them to keep you healthy in winter.

Transcript:

I’m here in Point Pleasant Park in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and as you can probably see it’s winter here. It’s January. This park has edible and medicinal plants available to us year round, and in the winter we’re looking for the evergreens, some of which can be found at our feet, and we have many evergreen trees. Today we’re going to learn about pine and spruce, both abundant trees here in Nova Scotia.

These trees share many compounds in common, including acids, resins, essential oils, and anti-inflammatory compounds, so they have similar benefits to us. So I’ll start with the pine.

White Pine

This is white pine, and typically here in Nova Scotia, white pine grow to be quite tall and majestic. This is a young one, and you’ll know it’s a white pine because at the stem, they’ll have 5 long needles growing together from a single point. So that’s how you know the white pine from some of the other pine here. And I mentioned acids – ascorbic acid – pine is very high in ascorbic acid, which is Vitamin C. You can extract this by steeping it in apple cider vinegar for a few weeks, and it’ll not only extract the Vitamin C, but many other minerals and medicinal compounds.

Pine is one of my favourites for the urinary system. It’s a diuretic so it increases flow of urine, and will be helpful in cases of uric acid buildup, gout, and bladder infection. It has anti-infective properties for the bladder, also for the respiratory system and the sinuses.

Spruce

Much like its neighbour over here. So next to it we have a small spruce tree, another evergreen common in Nova Scotia. This tree, as you can see, the needles are much smaller, and they are rollable in the fingers, so you can detect the squarish, rollable quality of spruce. And spruce is probably my favourite winter remedy for the sinuses, so it’s very good to clear sinus congestion and inflammation whether that’s from a cold or flu, from allergies, or from a simple sinus infection.

Herbal Medicine Steam

And a herbal steam is a great way to make use of it for that purpose. You simply simmer the spruce tips in some water, put a towel over the head and inhale those fumes deep into the sinuses and also into the lungs if you have a lower respiratory infection. Within minutes you’ll have relief and breathe much better.

Evergreen Herbal Tea & Herbal Bath

Both of these would make a good tea, herbal tea for the respiratory system, and also a bath. During the winter when we’re chilly to the bone, and maybe our spirits are a little low. Both of these have an aroma that’s really uplifting to the senses, and awakening, just to help lift us out of the winter blues. And for that you’d make a very strong — about a litre and a half of tea, using a couple handfuls of each, simmered in the water for about 15 minutes and add it to the bath.

And for making a cup of tea for internal use, you just need a little bit, like one small length of either of the stems in a single cup of tea, simmered for about 10 minutes will do it, and then a half to one cup of tea a day is sufficient. They’re both quite very strong.

So while you’re out enjoying your winter walks, be on the lookout for these, take a few along the way, and enjoy them at home.

Be well. Thank you.

Winter Tree Medicine

We are fortunate to have many  trees in our city and surrounding area.  Trees and other plants oxygenate and purify the air we breathe.  I value trees simply for their beauty; at this time of year I love to see their tall, slender, naked branches reaching for the sky, and I value the vibrancy of the ever-greens.  Trees bring me comfort and peace.  I am one of those people you may see hugging a tree on your walk through the park.  Trees give the best hugs, try it, you’ll see.

At this time of year there is very little wild medicine to be found.  You can always dig through the snow in the forest and find goldthread roots and wintergreen leaves.  Up above we have access to several trees offering winter medicine.

My current favourite is the balsam fir.  It is found all over Nova Scotia.  In some places it is called “the church steeple” due to its upper spire-like form.  It is widely used as a Christmas tree.  It is easy to identify due to the raised resin blisters found on the trunk of young trees.  The needles are flat, and are white underneath with a green line running through the middle.

Balsam fir has a pleasant and stimulating scent which is released upon rubbing the branches.  The resinous sap that oozes from the blisters is very tasty and fragrant.  American First Nations people used it on cuts, burns and sores as an anti-septic and analgesic. The leaves are high in vitamin C, and are used in a tea for coughs, colds and asthma.  I had the dry, persistent cough that was going around in January; finally it was a decoction of balsam twigs and marshmallow root that cured me.

Balsam is a strong medicine; ¼ cup can be taken two-four times daily.  It should be avoided by those with kidney disease and during pregnancy.

White Pine is another of our medicinal trees.   They grace our forests with their majestic height and branches that sing with the wind.  It is the tallest growing conifer in eastern Canada.  The bottom 2/3 of the tree is often branchless.  The long needles are grouped in clusters of five.

This tree was used extensively by our first nations peoples.  The pitch was used topically to draw out fluid and infection from abscesses and boils, for rheumatism, broken bones, cuts, bruises, and inflammation.  The bark, needles and twigs can be steeped to make a tea for cough, colds, and sore throat.  Like the balsam fir, the needles are rich in vitamin C.  It would be far more sustainable if we derived our winter vitamin C from tree tea than from oranges imported from Florida!

Pine is used as a flower essence to help people overcome guilt and self-blame, and for those who tend to be hard on themselves.  It helps us to forgive ourselves for past errors or life events.  Dr. Bach, discoverer of the Bach Flower Remedies wrote “One trace of condemnation against ourselves, or others, is a trace of condemnation against the Universal Creation of Love, and restricts us, limits our power to allow the Universal Love to flow through us to others.”