In the depths of New England winter, it can seem like the green of the landscape has all been replaced by white and grey. The perennial herbs sleep below blankets of snow, the limbs of oaks, maples, birches, all bare. We’ve spent the past Autumn harvesting and making medicine to store for the winter and carry us through until the new growth of Spring.
Nevertheless, the sleepy winter forest holds gifts of strong medicine. Behold: cedar, juniper, hemlock, and pine, to name a few. The evergreens of northern New England hold potent remedies in their needles.
If you have ever tasted a cedar tip or a hemlock needle, then you know the instant sensation of aroma and flavor that comes from crushing a tiny needle between your teeth: aromatic, warm, piney, and a little sour.
The unique flavor of evergreens tells us much about their medicinal properties. Aromatic: they are rich in essential oils with antimicrobial and immune stimulating properties. Warm: they increase circulation and help break a fever. Sour: they are high in vitamin C and other phytochemicals. This comes as no surprise to anyone who has used thuja (cedar) to help ward off a cold.
But it’s not just cedar-- many of the evergreen trees can be used as warming winter remedies. They can be made into tea, added to a bath, or used as a sinus steam. I’ve even been known to boil fir branches from my christmas tree to fill my house with their lovely aroma.
Here I will share with you a recipe for White Pine Syrup. You can substitute pine for a variety of evergreens, just make sure you positively identify any tree before using. There are a few evergreens that are poisonous, such as the yew. Also, I prefer to use windfallen branches. If you harvest directly from a living tree, please be respectful and only take what you need. Never overharvest and always ask permission and thank the tree for it’s gifts.
White Pine Needle Syrup
Take 1 tsp of syrup 2-3x/ day at the onset of a cold. You can also make herbal soda with the syrup by adding it to seltzer--about 2 oz per 16 oz of seltzer, or use it in cocktails. Get creative--the sky's the limit. Evergreens remind us that even in winter, we are supported by the abundance of nature and the healing properties of the plants all around us. So get out those snowshoes or cross country skis and go explore the forests and woodlands in all their winter wonder.
Learn more about medicine making with plants at my "Medicine Making" class series that happens several times throughout the year. You can find the latest info on our classes and events page here: https://www.railyardapothecary.com/classes--events.html
By Emma Merritt, staff herbalist here at Railyard Apothecary
The meaning of winter
Beyond our human customs, there is a natural way of this season. The winter solstice marked the ending of the waning of daylight, and the beginning of the the slow return of sunshine. At the same time, the depths of winter are just beginning, and the coldest, snowiest days of the year are surely ahead.
It is only natural that in this time many people set intentions for the seasons ahead. Just like the animals in slumber dreaming of warmer days, or the seeds and roots, full of potential yet quiet beneath the soil, we imagine a future so different from now, which can exist only when the causes and conditions arise in their time.
What future do you wish to see? What dreams do you dream? What can our shared world become? Now is the time to think big, to let your wildest dreams dance about in the vast expanse of imagination. For it is in this time of stillness, of quiet, without so much distraction that we can find the deepest connection to that which is yet to become.
Whatever intention-setting you may be doing this year, we here at Railyard are here to support you in the areas of health, personal growth and education.
To better your health, we offer herbal consultations. We have "min-consultations" which are 10-30 minutes and 2 hour "initial consultations" to go in depth. All consultations may include a personal herb recommendation, such as a custom tea or tincture blend. Learn more about these services here.
There are also other healing practices here, including a naturopathic doctor practice, acupuncture, ayurveda and more. You can see some of the practitioners' info here.
For personal growth, we have opportunities to meditate, learn reiki, share stories and more. Come join us in community and expand your horizons.
And of course we have lot of opportunities for education about herbs, health, wellness and more. Check out the upcoming classes on our website or Facebook page. Want to go deeper with your learning? Sign up for a monthly or seasonal class pass.
This year we are looking forward to growing our services, expanding our event offerings, offering more online education and generally growing our community with all of you. Thank you for being a part of this journey with us!
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