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Issue No 106
Winter 2006
page 49

Comforting
CONIFERS

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Pine needle or balsam fir needle tea (from the Pinusor Abiesgenus) 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

Who leaves the pine tree leaves his friend, unnerves his strength, invites his end. —Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Woodnotes"

For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver. —Martin Luther

 
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and twigs (clipped cleanly from the tree) in a covered pan for 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat. Sit the patient close to the pan and drape a towel over his or her head, forming a tent to hold the vapors in. Have the patient lean over the open pan and deeply inhale the vapors. The patient should do this for 5-10 minutes, several times throughout the day. The compounds rising in the steam will help open the lungs, sinuses, and throat. (Be careful that the patient doesn’t get steam burns from the pan’s rising vapors.)

Cedar Salve
Last summer on our homestead, we worked at carpentry projects with cedar, a conifer used often in building for weatherproofing. We replaced the old trapdoor above the well and the small platform the old hand-pump sits atop. Of course, cedar doesn’t need any weather-coating, so it’s perfect for areas that receive a lot of moisture.

Cedar also possesses medicinal qualities. I use Northern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) for making salves in winter. I use the outermost twig growth from the previous spring, pruning a little of that cleanly off the tree and then clipping away the needles or leaves.

Cut up your pieces of twig with garden shears and infuse them over very low heat in extra virgin, cold-pressed olive oil for 20 minutes. Cover, then remove the saucepan from heat and let sit for an hour or two, still covered. Strain out the vegetable matter; then return the olive oil infusion to the pan. Add grated beeswax and melt over a low flame (140F). (A good consistency is 1 part beeswax to 3 or 4 parts infused olive oil.) Remove mixture from heat. Add vitamin E as a preservative —one 400-IU capsule per 8 oz of infused olive oil/beeswax mixture. (I add a little more, as the liquid sticks to the inside of the gelcap, yielding slightly less than the desired amount.) Then add a few drops of pine needle essential oil. Stir this mixture, pour into readied, clean jars, and let sit to cool and congeal before capping and labeling. With anti-bacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal qualities, this salve treats all kinds of rashes, lacerations, cooking burns, warts, yeast infections, and toenail fungi. (How exotic to be making fresh salves in the “dead” of winter!)

Spruce-Herb Bath Oil
Birch Hill Happenings in Barnum, Minnesota, suggests combining the following essential oils: 4 drops of spruce (Picea spp.), 4 drops of geranium, 4 drops of spearmint, 2 drops of (Continue on Next Page)

Pet Alert!

Until recently, people used cedar shavings (or pine) to stuff dog bed cushions. The aromatic oils discouraged fleas and other parasites and also helped with odor control. But evidence now shows that those aromatic hydrocarbons can damage the livers of smaller animals, such as hamsters, rabbits, and guinea pigs, whose cages have been traditionally lined with cedar shavings, as well as small dogs and cats. Pine shavings have some similar toxic components, though proper ventilation may reduce toxicity levels. If you’re thinking about treating your pet to a comfortable bed, consider alternatives to coniferous material. Aspen shavings, for instance, have become a popular a substitute.

 
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