Welcome to Fir 101! In this latest installment of our herbal education, we’re going to explore the culinary, medicinal, and magickal properties of Fir. I’ve left this particular plant to a genus rather than a species because all of the firs can be used fairly interchangeably for our purposes. For many of us, it just isn’t feasible to run out and plant a giant evergreen tree in the garden, but it may be possible to forage for it depending on where you live. Of course, you might also be able to harvest your Christmas/Yule tree so don’t give up hope! Fir holds an important role in our home apothecaries and herbal collections. Keep reading to unlock all of its secrets.
Firs are a group of about 50 evergreen conifers in the Pinaceae family. They can be distinguished from other members of the pine family by the way their needles attach to the branch with what looks like a tiny suction cup. They also differ in that their cones do not hang but rather grow erect like candles. It’s only natural that such a festive tree would be chosen by our ancestors, and still today, to be the tree of winter celebration. Every time I catch even the tiniest whiff of a fir tree, I immediately think of Christmas.
Some Common Fir Species:
Grand Fir (Abies grandis)
White Fir (Abies concolor)
Silver Fir (Abies alba)
Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea)
Noble Fir (Abies procera)
Frasier Fir (Abies fraseri)
Nordman Fir (Abies nordmanniana)
Needles, Resin, Roots, Branches and Bark
If you are going to harvest your Christmas tree, make sure it comes from a reputable source that does not spray with either paint (shocking, I know) or pesticides.
“These Pinaceae Family trees all have an affinity for the lungs. They are herbal expectorants and decongestants to the lungs, helping to thin mucous and clear-up coughs, especially wet and boggy coughs. For respiratory complaints these trees work especially well as a steam, tea, cough syrup, chest rub, and oxymel. They are also quite pleasant tasting, their needles are rich in vitamin C , and can form the basis for a lovely winter immune tea, especially when combined with Rose Hips, and Ginger.” – Milk and Honey Herbs, Winter Tree Medicine
Fir Needle Forest Chai Tea
This foraged tea blend uses pleasant tasting fir needles and chai spices to create a delicious and festive drink. It is also good for respiratory wellness and opening the chest and sinuses. This recipe is from The Backyard Herbal Apothecary book by Devon Young.
- Combine the fir needles, orange zest, cinnamon chips, cardamom pods, star anise pods, ginger, and peppercorns.
- If using dried fir needles, store in a jar with a tight fitting lid in a cool, dark place and use within one year. If using fresh fir needles, leave the jar open and use within a few weeks.
- To prepare the tea, steep one heaping tablespoon of the mixture in 8 to 10 ounces of near boiling water.
- Infuse for 5 to 7 minutes or longer if desired, then strain in a serving mug. Sweeten with raw honey if desired.
Growing up on the southeastern coast of the United States, I honestly had not given much thought to evergreen trees of any kind. Sure, we had one at Christmas but it was purely decorative as my parents usually opted for a fake tree. When the kids and I travelled to Washington though, the trees became forefront in our thoughts. Here were the forests of fairy tales where witches and wolves lurked with spirits of every kind. The air itself was magickal, so heavy with the scent of these giant trees. It dredged up forgotten memories of wonder and utter contentment from a childhood trip to the California Redwoods long ago. In an instant these wondrous trees wound their way into our hearts, and when it was time to move on I knew I would always miss them.
- purgative (in large doses)
- vitamin c, high concentrations
Traditional Holistic Uses
- mental refreshment
- mood upliftment
- muscle aches
- sore nipples
- sore throat
- stress, anxiety, and depression
- urinary tract infections
Methods of Administration: tea, tincture, glycerite, oxymel, elixir, syrup, infusion, decoction, bath infusion, bath salts, balm, ointment, infused oil, infused vinegar, culinary seasoning, infused honey, steam, incense, essential oil
Precautions: May cause contact dermatitis.
Dosages: There isn’t a lot of information out there on specific dosing for fir, especially since the term encompasses so many different species. My suggestion here would be to look at individual recipes for dosing recommendations and to fall back on general dosing instructions for tea and tinctures. Remember that it is okay to experiment with herbal preparations and to start small, sometimes just a drop at a time, until you know how your body reacts to something before increasing the dose.
How to Harvest Your Holiday Tree
Most Christmas trees end up on the side of the road waiting for the city trash trucks to dispose of it after our festivities are done, but it doesn’t have to be that way! You can harvest your own tree for medicine and merriment all year long. It’s easy to do as long as you bought your tree from a reputable dealer and have verified that it is free of paint and pesticides. I know, I didn’t believe the paint thing either until I saw it with my own eyes this year. Please do not buy painted trees. They just make my heart sad.
To begin, your tree must be dried.
DRIED, NOT DEAD. Nobody wants to use brown needles.
This can be achieved by either letting it sit long enough in your living room or by hanging the individual branches. The following instructions assume that you, like me, kept the tree up long enough to dry pretty much completely on its own. Just remember to stop using the lights on your tree after you’ve stopped watering it. Dried needles are highly flammable.
- Start removing branches. I have found the fastest way to do this is with an old fashioned wood saw. Yes, you can use garden shears or scissors on the younger, smaller branches, but a regular wood saw reduces your tree to a standing trunk with a pile of branches beside it in no time. Once you have all of the branches removed from the trunk, cut it into smaller chunks and toss them in your garden. You’ll be amazed at how quickly they begin to break down.
- Now that you have a big pile of branches, it is time to break them down into more manageable pieces. Go ahead and put the saw away. As much fun as it was, it is no longer the tool for the job. Garden shears or scissors work great at this point. Or…wire cutters. Just sayin’. Use what you have. The main goal at this stage is to get rid of as much wood as possible. I snip each little side shoot off until I’m left with nothing but short, straight segments of about a foot or less. I make a pile of discarded branches for the garden and fill a plastic tote or two with the smaller branches and needles.
- Pop the needles off the branches. You’ll find your own rhythm here. Sometimes they come off if you just run your hands along the branch. Sometimes you have to give them a slight tug. If you really have to fight for it…they’re not dry enough. Hang the branch up somewhere and check back in a few days. Don’t worry if little bits of twig end up with the needles.
- Transfer needles into a clean, airtight, glass jar. They are now ready to be used!
Other Uses for Fir Needles
- Tea Recipes
- Finishing Salt and Seasoning Blends
- Infused Alcohol
- Infused Honey
- Infused Sugar
- Infused Oils and Vinegars
- Bath Salts and Scrubs
- Hair Rinses
- Lip Balms
- Nougats, Cookies, and Shortbreads
“When days darken, cold winds blow, and the damp settles into our lungs and bones, we can turn to our ancient plant allies, the evergreen and ever vital, conifers. Towering over the forest canopy, their top branches are always nourished by the sun but their roots extend deeply into the earth.” – Gather Victoria, A Guide to Conifer Magic
Magickal Associations and Correspondences of Fir
Deity: Audhumla, Artemis, Diana, Frigg, Idun, Inanna, Isis, Persephone, Sif, Adonis, Attis, Bacchus, Pan, Dionysis, Osiris
Planetary: Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter
Element: Air and Earth
Magickal Properties of Fir
- Rebirth and Regeneration
- Shadow Work
- Fir is one of the nine sacred woods burned in the Beltane fire which includes Apple, Birch, Oak, Rowan, Hawthorn, Hazel, Willow, and Vine. Each has its representation and Fir is that of Immortality. For this reason, it makes sense to use Fir in any spell work dealing with healing, ancestral work, and past life regression.
- For blessings, gather fir needles and cones. Tie the needles with a thread, then burn them in your cauldron. Pass the cones through the smoke, thinking of your blessings. Place the cones in a conspicuous place where you will be reminded of your blessings and give thanks.
- Fir is known as the Birth Tree. The needles are burned at childbirth to bless and protect the mother and baby.
- Fir resin can be used to seal a spell.
- Fir trees are one of several trees that symbolize immortality.
- You can substitute the Fir for other trees that a spell may call for if other kinds are not available to you.
- Simmer the fresh needles in a light carrier oil or water to lift negativity in your home.
- Dry Fir needles work wonderfully in loose incenses for spell work.
- Of course, the needles, fresh or dry may be used in sachets or poppets for spells to do with prosperity, protection, and clarity of vision.
- Fir is wonderful wood for wands. It is protective of those who use it wisely.
- Fir is a tree of beginnings, energy, growth, and healing.
- Burn a few fir needles for purification before ritual.
- Burn or hold a few needles for grounding energy after ritual or magic work.
- To foster clear communication or support creative expression, hold a few needles or a fir cone before engaging in related activities.
- As an all-purpose purifier, fir provides protection and helps overcome and remove hexes.
- The scent of fir heightens awareness for divination and spiritual work and is especially effective for connecting with forest spirits.
- Use fir trees and fir boughs to decorate for your midwinter holidays.
Purchase Fir Needles from the Apothecary.
Now that you know why you want Noble Fir in your life, let’s learn how to use it!
If you like learning about Fir, you might like learning about these other herbs in the series.
Disclaimer: Please note that I am a not medical professional and everything written here is a product of my own research. Don’t take any advice given here over that of a trained doctor. If you ingest any herbs, always make sure that you’re 100% sure that they’re safe. If you’re pregnant or giving to a child, always consult a doctor before ingesting herbs and plant you aren’t familiar with. Magickal instruction and spells are for personal entertainment purposes only. The desired result/outcome cannot be guaranteed as a result of using any magickal item, and should not be used as a replacement for medical/professional assistance.
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