Home Subscribe Renew Back Issues Articles Health News Archive Affiliate Classified Links Contact Us
Issue No 106
Winter 2006
page 47

Comforting
CONIFERS

For Print Version of this page Download in PDF 
(Actual Magazine Page)
If you are unable to view the article, click on the logo below to go to Adobe's website to download the reader.

In the Old World, people traditionally brought pine or fir boughs inside for the winter holy days— something green to remind them of the promise of spring and a way to freshen close living quarters.

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, thy leaves are so unchanging. O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, thy leaves are so unchanging. Not only green when summer's here but also when 'tis cold and drear. O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, thy leaves are so unchanging. —Traditional German Carol

 
Page 2 of 5    << Previous  1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5  Next >>
 

The deciduous trees have completely shed their leaves, making a much-needed mulch for the tender perennials in the herb garden, and even for the hardy northern shrubs and trees. Small creatures rustle among these fallen leaves, gathering tidbits until the last minute. Without this dense cover, one can finally see the conifers in their splendid dress, massive silhouettes at night, cheery, velvety green neighbors in the daylight. Here in the North Country of Minnesota, where the deep snows of winter don’t melt until March or April, the rain we’ve had this autumn should keep these trees hydrated throughout the coldseason drought.

As the winter holidays approach, we start to think about the aromatic scents and lavish decorating possibilities evergreens offer. In both the Old World and the New, people traditionally brought pine or fir boughs inside for the winter holy days—something green to remind them of the promise of spring and a way to freshen close living quarters. Pine and fir trees played a role in winter celebrations throughout the centuries, and people often assumed they possessed magical powers, offering purification, protection, and wealth.

Conifers offered medicine, as well. Aelfric, a 10th century Benedictine monk who compiled a list of over 200 plants and trees of medicinal value, mentions the Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris), a tree which began growing in Great Britain shortly after the last ice age receded. Pine needle or balsam fir needle tea (from the Pinus or Abies genus) made a fine winter drink and had enough vitamin C to keep scurvy at bay in the long, hard winters, when stores of food were depleted. The tannins, resins, terpenes, and essential oils of these trees contributed to winter health by combating the sore throats, coughs, and congestion brought on by breathing in wood smoke particulates all winter. Topically, they relieved the pain of arthritis and rheumatism in the chilly, dark days. Early peoples used the needles and resins of pines and firs for their antiseptic, astringent, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic qualities.

Conifer Cures
Today, we still use this plant medicine to treat a number of conditions. (Note: The resins and sawdust of these trees can cause dermatitis in some individuals. I always remind my students that anything can prove to be an allergen, so begin slowly, with a tiny “dose” to test for possible allergy. As with any herb, if you’re pregnant, check with your health care practitioner before using conifer medicines and their essential oils.) First, you must know your tree species, so carry three good identification books when you go out into the field. Be careful to clip back only as many needles or twigs as you need. If you’re gathering resin, find trees that already have wounds and catch the dripping resin from there. Never wound a tree. If you can’t find resin already oozing, saw off a small lateral branch very cleanly, right at the main trunk. That will bleed resin for you at the sawn end. Or bring the branch home and carve out small pieces of bark about the size of a button, making sure to reach the cambium or “green” layer underneath the outer bark, for use in some of the following formulas.

Massage Oil
Pick out a glass container (the size will depend on how much finished product you want) and fill it with your resin or “but-
 
Page 2 of 5    << Previous  1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5  Next >>
 

Beauty Issues (Set of 4)
Regular Price: $23.96
Sale Price: $19.96

Health Issues (Set of 12)
Regular Price: $71.88
Sale Price: $59.88
 
Copyright © 2005 EGW Publishing Company. All rights reserved.