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Black Spruce is a North American evergreen. It grows pretty much coast to coast across the northern tier of the continent.
Here is where I get judge-y because I have very strongly held opinions about Christmas trees. Yes, I call all non-Southern Pine evergreens Christmas trees. I’m weird like that.
Anyway, to my whole family’s utter dismay my definition of the perfect Christmas tree gets bigger and fluffier every year. Being in the Pacific Northwest has been very good for raising the Christmas tree bar.
This tree, the Black Spruce, is not a good Christmas tree. It smells amazing, don’t get me wrong, but it is only a skinny, medium sized tree.
Looks aside, Black Spruce is a wonderful tree. It smells amazing and has a long history of spiritual, culinary, and medicinal value.
Conifers are a family of chiefly evergreen trees or shrubs of the class Coniferinae including the pine, fir, spruce, hemlock and other cone-bearing trees and shrubs – and people have been using them for food and medicine for thousands of years. Across northern countries, pine nuts (found in the cones) were harvested, and needles were used to flavour beer and liqueur. Locally, BC First Nations also harvested pine nuts, used needles of pine, fir and spruce for teas, chewed their resin and sap, and scraped off the inner bark for dried cakes with berries.
And it’s no wonder they were traditionally used in many healing remedies. The volatile oils found in pine, spruce and fir needles, bark, sap and resin are used by herbalists and aromatherapists to help stimulate the respiratory system, decongest the lungs, boost the immune system, balance hormones, and bring circulation and warmth to cold muscles and stiff joints. And as anyone who has smelled their fresh-cut branches already knows, their enchanting fragrance is a medicine all its own, helping calm the nervous system, reduce stress and cortisol, revive stamina and provide feelings of peace and wellbeing.
Their needles are high in vitamin B, C, A, and iron and a slew of minerals, antioxidants and flavonoids, and according to various studies they contain anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, cardiovascular-protecting, triglyceride-reducing properties as well. Conifer needles are one of the richest sources of polyprenols which stimulate the immune system, cellular repair and contain antiviral properties – in particular against influenza viruses! (Which all goes a long way towards explaining their ancient reputation as a cure-all for practically anything!)
Plus they’re delicious! Citrusy and herbaceous, studies have identified over 39 flavour compounds in pine needles and over 81 in pine bud/tips alone! There are even conifer enthusiasts who have analysed their taste signatures, describing pines as heady, sharp and lemony, spruce as resinous and fruity with a rosemary-like flavour, and firs as sweet with candied orange peel overtones.
And they’re super easy to incorporate into a wide variety of foods. You can toss chopped needles into vodka, vinegars, finishing salts and even blend them directly (with a food processor) into sugars. My favourite seasonal use for conifer sugar is shortbread – I cream it into butter when making the dough and sprinkle on top once the cookies are baked.
Coarse sea salt, grand fir needles, sheep sorrel & nettle seeds, dried oregon grape blossoms, dried orange rind.
Conifer salts, especially made with grand-fir, give a wonderful flavour to fish, roasted meats and are great sprinkled straight up on apples or celery.
Conifer needles are especially wonderful in teas. My hands down favourite is again the sweetly flavoured Grand Fir, with its distinct tangerine or grapefruit top-notes. It is easily identified by its needles which lie flat on the branches, alternating short and long. The underside is creamy with a long stripe of green down the centre.
Just add a handful of needles to a cup of boiling water and let steep for 15 minutes. A tea made mostly from fresh needle tips will be brighter and sweeter, while one made with older needles will be more earthy and woodsy.
I throw in small twigs because the bark (high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties) adds even more rich flavour, with just a hint of resinous bitter. It’s also nice to add a pinch of warming spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves which bring their own potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities to the brew. Pine needles are also especially delicious in teas.
And they’re wonderful therapeutic for bathing. Add dried conifer needles (about a cup) into a cloth bag and tossed in the bath for a revitalizing soak. And blended with sea or Epsom salts, they can be incredibly relaxing. I love to mix in dried rose petals and bits of cedar for additional fragrance. You could even further customize your blend by considering each conifer’s differing medicinal and energetic effects. The oils of firs are warming and invigorating, while relieving nervous exhaustion and stress. Spruce helps support the adrenal glands, stimulate and increase energy, and are “centering, calming and focusing”.Conifer Bath Salts
Their needles can also make wonderful homemade oils and warming salves for topical application on the skin. These are beneficial as muscle rubs, bringing blood flow and circulation to stiff winter bodies, muscles and joints. They make a great lip balm too!Coastal Forest Salve
And let me tell you, on chilly winter days, a conifer salve makes a perfect accompaniment for yoga. Massaging its restorative fragrance into the skin (which also contains scent receptors) before or after practice leaves you feeling supple and resilient, well, as an evergreen.
According to aromatherapists, their oils and fragrance are said to support and stimulate different chakras as well. Pines represent the “the oldest aromatic energy on the earth” and are “linked to the oxygenation of our planet”, therefore their energy is grounding and supports the heart chakra and respiratory system. Canadian Hemlock “stimulates the imagination and inspiration while stabilizing the nervous system” and enhances the 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th chakras, while Western Hemlock can “help dispel disturbances in your energy fields which are disrupting your health and well-being”.
Western Hemlock is prolific here on Vancouver Island, and according to herbalist Todd Caldecott, it’s powerful feminine energies were often called upon by local Coastal Salish women. “Boughs were often used to make special huts to house the women gathered in during menstruation. Among the Kwakwaka’wakw people of Vancouver Island, female warriors asking a boon of the god Sisiutl used Western Hemlock in their head-dress during ceremonial dances. Sisiutl is the two-headed serpent mentioned in all the Coastal First Nations mythology: an untamed deity of the earth, representing like the Indian goddess Kali, the wild darkness of nature from which all life begins.”
And for our European ancestors, the female life-giving magic of conifers was also honoured. During Yule festivities across the northern hemisphere, trees of pine, fir and spruce were revered as embodiments of the goddess (the Tree of Life) who never dies. And on the winter solstice (the longest and darkest night of the year) they were decorated with candles and ornaments symbolizing the everlasting light of sun, moon and stars, in her undying branches. We still partake in this enduring mystery when we stand before our own lit trees during this season.
But we can also call on this old feminine wisdom by crafting a little evergreen magic of our own. So when the cold winds blow and spirits flag, brew up some tea, take a conifer infused bath, inhale their oils, and warm your skin.
Black spruce health benefits and therapeutic properties
Famous for its diaphoretic (sweating) and expectorant properties, young black spruce growth was ingested as a drink by the American Indians to cure cough.
Young twigs were also added to bathwater to help the body absorb the sedative properties.
Moreover, they attributed significant purgative activity to this plant.
In France and in Canada, spruce sap served as a remedy against inflammation of the nasal and pharynx mucus tissues, when breathing became difficult and to treat other respiratory tracts diseases.
For the people of Quebec, spruce chewing gum is know for its powerful antiscurvic activity and also because it eases digestion.
Also, it is also very good at treating motion or sea sickness.
On the European side of the pond, another spruce species “Picea abies” was used in medicinal baths.
Young saplings and needles from trees aged 60 to 80 years old were paired and used. In needles from the older trees, active ingredients were particularly concentrated. The goal was to treat rheumatism and disorders due to a deficient nervous system.
Have you ever heard of black spruce beer?
Fermented for 24 hours, this drink is a spruce extract known for its slightly laxative properties. But it is most savored for its refreshing taste!
Good to know about black spruce
Often recommended to soothe cough, the expectorant activity of black spruce are also present in black spruce syrup.
You can easily prepare it yourself. How best to proceed?
In a jar, alternate layers of young spruce twigs with needles and honey.
Close the jar and expose it to the sunlight until a syrup forms. This can take up to 4 weeks.
After that, thanks to clean cheesecloth, filter the preparation and store it in a cool, dark spot.
Northern Lights Black Spruce essential oil comes from Young Living’s Northern Lights Farm in British Columbia, Canada.
Diffuse this rich, woodsy, and invigorating scent during meditation to create a fresh aromatic atmosphere. Add it to skin care products or apply it topically to help improve the appearance of dry skin or to help maintain the appearance of healthy-looking skin. Northern Lights Black Spruce can also be applied anywhere, including to the bottoms of feet, along the spine, back of neck, or used for massage. This oil includes the naturally occurring constituents alpha-pinene, camphene, and beta-pinene.
The Lakota Indians used black spruce to strengthen their ability to communicate with the Great Spirit. Traditionally, it was believed to possess the frequency of prosperity.
Medical Properties: Antispasmodic, antiparasitic, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, hormone-like, cortisone-like, immune stimulant, antidiabetic
Uses: Arthritis/rheumatism, fungal infections (candida), sinus/respiratory infections, sciatica/lumbago
Fragrant Influence: Releases emotional blocks, bringing about a feeling of balance and grounding.
Excerpted from The Essential Oils Desk Reference, 7th Edition, page 72
Ways To Use Spruce Essential Oil
Historically, spruce essential oil was used by Native Americans for cleansing and purifying rituals. As with most deep-rooting trees, spruce oil is very grounding and balancing to the root chakra. Place two drops of oil in the palm of your hand, rub hands together, and cup them over your nose and mouth. Take several deep breaths and enjoy the aroma. Do this as often as necessary to promote grounding and centeredness, as well as a sense of security.
Wake Up Your Commute
The fresh scent of spruce is invigorating and energizing to the mind and body. Try using it in car diffuser or wearing topically to promote alertness during a long drive or an early morning commute.
Release Emotional Blockages
Spruce oil is a favorite to use during meditation. It helps develop intuition and connectedness and is instrumental in releasing stagnant emotions. It also aids in finding inspiration, deepening spirituality, and strengthening trust.
Set the Mood
Men typically love the earthy, heady aroma of spruce. Try out this In the Mood Essential Oil Roll-On with black or blue spruce.
In the Mood Men’s Essential Oil Roller Blend
(recipe sourced from https://lindseyelmore.com/in-the-mood-mens-essential-oil-roll-on/)
There are so many recipes for blends to boost women’s libido, but finding a great blend for your man is not always easy. Try this powerful roll-on a few minutes before “go time” to help put him in the mood.
Mister essential oil blend is a combination of sage, myrtle, fennel, lavender, yarrow, and peppermint. Formulated for men, it supports the reproductive system. Goldenrod, aptly named, improves circulation and can encourage a longer-lasting erection. Idaho blue spruce is favored by many men for its ability to balance male energies and support his endocrine system.
Optional amethyst chips enhance the essential oils and may even help put your man in the right frame of mind for intimacy.
- 11 drops Mister essential oil blend
- 9 drops goldenrod essential oil
- 8 drops Idaho blue spruce essential oil
- Neutral carrier oil, such as fractionated coconut oil or sweet almond oil
- Amethyst chips or roller top, optional
- Combine essential oils in a 10 mL roller bottle and top with carrier oil.
- Add amethyst gemstone roller top or amethyst chips to bottle for an added boost.
- 30 minutes before bed, roll this blend over the left inner ankle and adrenal reflexology points (in the arch of the foot beneath the big toe) on your man’s feet.
Alpha pinene has been shown to increase non-rapid eye movement sleep. A couple drops of spruce on the bottom of the feet at bedtime can result in falling asleep faster and a more restful night’s sleep. Or try this Peaceful Rest diffuser blend:
Boost the Immune System
Spruce essential oils contain abundant monoterpenes, which are powerful antioxidants. Use this oil regularly in the diffuser or topically to support your immune system.
Although spruce is invigorating, it has properties to combat feelings of stress as well. In one study, limonene administered to mice greatly decreased their anxiety response to a maze test. Use this blend to help temper your response to stressful situations: 5 drops Northern lights black spruce, 5 drops Stress Away, 2 drops orange.
Open the Heart Chakra
Spruce not only supports the root chakra, but the fresh pine-forest aroma opens the heart chakra as well. The heart chakra also governs the lungs, so opening this chakra can improve respiration.
Spruce essential oil is conditioning for hair and can soften and smooth coarse hair. Men love using spruce in this DIY Smoothing Beard Serum recipe.
The purpose of a beard serum is to soften and condition the course hair of a man’s beard and mustache. It also nourishes the often neglected skin underneath the beard, preventing dandruff. The result is a softer, smoother beard that looks more groomed and skin that is more comfortable. This DIY Smoothing Beard Serum recipe is a collaborative effort of mine and my boyfriend Derick.
Jojoba is actually not a true oil but a wax ester. This makes it perfect for use on the coarse or prickly hair in a man’s beard. Jojoba conditions and softens both the skin and hair of the face. It is non-comedogenic and non-allergenic, so it will not clog pores and shouldn’t cause irritation. Jojoba may also strengthen the hair shaft and clean the hair follicle, which is important if you’re trying to maintain a long beard.
Smoothing Beard Serum Recipe
(recipe sourced from https://lindseyelmore.com/diy-smoothing-beard-serum/)
- 30 mL jojoba oil
- 12 drops sacred frankincense essential oil
- 18 drops Northern lights black spruce essential oil
- 14 drops cedarwood essential oil
- 6 drops bergamot essential oil
Combine all ingredients in a glass dropper bottle. Secure the lid and shake gently to incorporate. To use, massage 2-4 drops into clean and dry beard and mustache daily.
Don’t Have A Beard?
This serum also makes a wonderful conditioning scalp treatment. It encourages hair growth and nourishes the scalp to help remedy dry skin.
The energizing benefits of spruce will do a body good. This blend is also great for an invigorating after workout massage.
- 1 oz. jojoba oil
- 8 drops Northern lights black spruce essential oil
- 3 drops balsam fir essential oil
- 3 drops laurus nobilis
Combine ingredients in a small glass jar. Apply liberally to muscles and joints as desired.
Thank you for digging deeper into Black Spruce with me. I am very passionate about herbs, oils, and the education of their uses.
Please remember that essential oils are very concentrated products and should never be ingested unless specifically labeled for such use.
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Finally, the obligatory disclaimer.
I am not a doctor. None of the statements included in this post have been approved by the FDA or any other cool acronym known agency. It is Young Living’s official stance that they and these products are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any specific disease or illness. Young Living Independent Distributor #14632733