In the depths of New England winter, it can seem like the green of the landscape has all been replaced by white and grey.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
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