There is something special about spring that plants a flutter in my heart. It’s more than just the growing light of longer days, the warm sun, and varied shades of green. This season speaks of the great potential that births a bright future. The possibility of all the exciting things I can plan and anticipate. Seeds to germinate; life to watch grow and thrive, greens to harvest, and fresh herbal medicines to make.
Every winter at herb school, I share my love of trees with my students. Along with being majestic, trees function as the respiratory system for entire planet; they are essential for our every breath of life; plus they provide food, shelter, clothing, transportation (boats, etc) and warmth through firewood — and they offer exceptional medicine for the treatment of coughs, colds, aches pains and healing wounds.
Since the age of 17 I’ve been appreciating the virtues of trees as medicine, especially those that are a member of my favourite family, the Pine Trees (pineaceae). Now a transplant to the west coast and still a lover of the pine family I’m using what is abundant and in my very backyard, that is Douglas Fir (pseudtostuga spp.).
It’s medicinal uses are many.
The leaves (“needles”) can be chewed to soothe sore throats; brewed into tea for coughs, colds, sore throats; stomach pain from indigestion; arthritic joints; bladder infections; and an antiseptic mouthwash. That “pine-like” fragrance is due to those powerful essential oils that work as an anti bacterial, an anti fungal, and a general well rounded anti microbial. It’s particularly high in Vitamin C, giving it another lovely boost for immune support.
My favourite way to use this tree medicine is as a medicinal vinegar. Vinegars excel at extracting vitamins and minerals. They are also great for those wishing to avoid alcohol, perfect for children, elders, and are generally user friendly. Splash some on your salad, rice, veggies. You can also use fir vinegar as a hair rinse for dandruff, as a disinfectant for skin wounds, and use it as your daily vitamin C dose every morning in some water. Enjoy the bounty of this land.
Here’s how to make your own Douglas Fir medicinal vinegar (or medicinal vinegar using any herb):
1. With sharp scissors, cut a few small branches of Douglas Fir, needles, tender small branches and all, into a wide-mouthed mason jar (or, small pieces of your chosen herb)
2. Cover your herb with raw organic apple cider vinegar. Cover with a tight fitting lid. Vinegar can rust metal lids. I line my jars with wax paper to avoid this.
3. Label your vinegar including the name of your plant, the vinegar, date, and even the latin name (good practice).
4. Shake your vinegar every day, for a week. After one week allow your vinegar to sit for 5 more weeks (six in total). Your vinegar does not need to be refrigerated, just let it sit in a cupboard or on a shelf for the 6 weeks.
5. Once the 6 weeks are up, separate the plant matter from the vinegar, strained through a cheesecloth or strainer, and store in a new bottle.
Compost the exhausted plant material.
Now you have your very own medicinal vinegar! Rewarding isn’t it?
Use: Pour over steamed veggies to taste for improved mineral uptake; use it as a base for salad dressings; take a tsp or tbsp for a sore tummy and to ease digestion; splash some on a mild sunburn or steam burn; splash on your face as a toner (this is what our great grandparents did before the commercial stuff….The famous Queen of Hungary Waters were herbal vinegars); and use it in food anywhere vinegar is called for.
Questions? Comments? Please contact me through leaving a comment below.
Green Blessings & Enjoy!