Conifers - Medicine & Food
Conifers are excellent medicinals. But you can also use them for food. There are some other discussion on individual conifers on the forum but I though we could have links to those listed in one place here.
Conifers in general are antiseptic, astringent, antibacterial, anti-fungal, expectorant, pectoral, diuretic and diaphoretic. Some species have antiviral and anti-mycobacterial properties.
TGN has a blog article on the benefits of pine with suggestions for other edible parts besides needles at: https://thegrownetwork.com/pine-trees-food-medicine/ In addition to the suggestions given for eating the cambium, I have also heard that it can be cut into fine strips and boiled like spaghetti noodles but I haven't tried it. Spruce can be used similarly. In the early spring it is very sweet and was a highly prized food by local First Nations.
Pine Wine is discussed here: https://community.thegrownetwork.com/discussion/comment/867140#Comment_867140
This will get you to a discussion on an tincture and liqueur from Stone Pine: https://community.thegrownetwork.com/discussion/comment/871743#Comment_871743
If you want to taste a liqueur without making it yourself, there is a distillery in Oregon that makes an "Eau de Vie of Douglas Fir Brandy".
There is a discussion about the properties of spruce here: https://community.thegrownetwork.com/discussion/comment/852817#Comment_852817
Rosalee de la Foret has a monograph on Pine at: https://www.herbalremediesadvice.org/pine-properties.html She also has a chapter in her book "Wild Remedies" devoted to Evergreens with recipes for an oil, a face cream, a lip balm, a Spiced Evergreen Liqueur, an oxymel and an evergreen seasoning salt. There is also a recipe for Mandarin & Douglas Fir Bitters. I have made the oil and lip balm and like it very much. I have also made the bitters and it is delicious.
There have been discussions in other posts about making conifer tip honey. Spruce seems to be the go-to for many but other tips also make good honey. I have seen recipes on line that make a strong decoction and blend that with honey to make a syrup. I have always just covered the fresh tips with honey and infused it that way and it works great. I prefer spruce because in studies, spruce has been shown to be effective against a broader spectrum of organisms than any of the other conifer species. Most of the herbalists I know do it the same way and use spruce. Its an awesome cough syrup. Nice flavour to add to sweeten teas. You can also make a vinegar with the needles or an oxymel. A vinegar will help extract more of the mineral properties.
Tips are very high in Vitamin C but so are the needles and they can be harvested year round. Pine needles make a tea that, in my mind, tastes very much like green tea. But I like spruce and fir as well. Douglas Fir has a citrusy taste. Tips can be dried for use as tea or used as a flavouring in other foods. Besides the higher content of Vitamin C in the spring tips, the next highest Vitamin C levels can be found in spruce needles in the winter, when we usually need it the most. They are good in teas for respiratory conditions.
Pitch (resin) is a great medicine for making salves. This is a link to the Herbal Academy on how to make a salve from pine resin but any pitch could be substituted. https://theherbalacademy.com/make-pine-resin-salve/ I have made salve from spruce resin. Local First Nations in my area seem to prefer Douglas Fir pitch. As an emergency first aid, you can apply pitch directly to small wounds, cuts and scrapes. I have also put a bit of spruce pitch into a combination (with spruce needles, yarrow, wild mint and birch leaves) I was making for a group of people who were out camping and felt like a cold was coming on. The ones who drank the tea didn't get sick but the ones who turned their noses up at the tea, all came down with a cold.
Pine pollen is being studies for its uses to assist with erectile dysfunction. (herbal Viagra :) ).
Pine nuts from some pine species.
Juniper and Cedar are also conifers although not in the Pinaceae family as all of the above are. They are Cupressaceae. The small blue "berries" are actually cones and are the medicinal part of the plant. Juniper has similar medicinal properties to those listed above but is a strong diuretic and has emmenagogue and carminative properties as well.
I have tasted a cedar jelly from a commercial wild foods company. Not my favourite.
What are different conifers in your area?
Any other uses or recipes for conifers? Please share.
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