Although we don't often consider trees as part of the herbal family, we should. Trees provide us with sap, leaves, blossoms, bark, berries, and nuts—most of which have medicinal properties that cannot be found anywhere else in nature.
For thousands of years, trees have given us wonderful herbal medicines and played an important role in our lives. Let's take a look at some of the herbal trees and their uses. You may grow many of these trees in your yards right now.
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Elder is an often overlooked tree. Its habitat is along ditches and roadsides, where we zoom past and never even notice it's growth. If we slow down, the changing of the season is reflected in this unassuming tree.
All parts of the Elder are useful. The berries, of course, are delightful and nutritious. They are used in cooking to make pies, jams, juice, and syrup. Medicinally, research has found that elderberries can help fight the flu, perfect for making sweet cough drops for just that reason.
Elderflowers also taste great and make an effervescent drink. Harvest them when you can; their life is short and only lasts a few days before they drop off, and berries start to form.
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If you live in the US, the chances are that you are familiar with this useful herbal tree. One of many types of birch trees, the Silver birch (Betula pendula) is a beautiful tree that is hardy and elegant. After a rainfall, you can often smell the naturally sweet fragrance and not even know that you are in the presence of such greatness as a towering birch tree.
A 2015 study indicates potential scientific support for a variety of traditional medicinal uses, though adds that more research is needed. For example, birch sap is used to make wine, and the leaves are also used for a tea for gout, while other traditional uses include include.
- The inner bark is bitter and used for fevers.
- Moxa is made from the yellow fungus that grows on the wood.
- Birch leaves are said to make a tea that helps dissolve stones in the kidneys.
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Many of us have brushed against the common Juniper and released that one-of-a-kind scent. Most commonly known as a flavoring for gin, juniper berries are the part that is used medicinally by the more experienced herbalist. Of course, they can safely be used in cooking, but their medicinal qualities may not be as familiar. They're said to be used in herbal incense.
While potential health benefits are being researched, Juniper can cause a variety of adverse health effects when taken over time or in large doses, so consult with a doctor if you are considering using before using them medicinally.
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White pine trees are another familiar herbal tree. They are so commonplace that you may overlook them as mere decorative trees. Fortunately for all of us, all members of pine are safe to eat—although some taste much better than others—and they are all high in vitamin C.
The simplest way to enjoy pine is to harvest some of the needles and make a pine needle vinegar. Pack a quart jar with needles and pour apple cider vinegar over it, enough to cover. Seal and store in a dark cupboard. Every day for six weeks, shake this pine needle vinegar and taste a bit to test the flavor. This vinegar is delicious by the eye-dropper, often used as a traditional cold remedy. Add three eye-drop pinches to a teacup with a bit of honey and fill with boiling water. Stir and sip this warming cup of cold relief. It is truly delicious!
Torabian, Golnoosh, et al. Anti-Influenza Activity of Elderberry (Sambucus Nigra). Journal of Functional Foods, vol. 54, 2019, pp. 353–360., doi:10.1016/j.jff.2019.01.031
Rastogi, Subha, et al. Medicinal Plants of the Genus Betula—Traditional Uses and a Phytochemical–Pharmacological Review. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, vol. 159, 2015, pp. 62–83., doi:10.1016/j.jep.2014.11.010
Raina, Rajinder, et al. Potential of Juniperus Communis L as a Nutraceutical in Human and Veterinary Medicine. Heliyon, vol. 5, no. 8, 2019, doi:10.1016/j.heliyon.2019.e02376
Durzan, Don J. Arginine, Scurvy and Cartier's ‘Tree of Life.’ Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, vol. 5, no. 1, 2009, doi:10.1186/1746-4269-5-5