I am completely enamored with trees right now. I have been looking them up and down checking out their bark and buds all week. Tree bark and pine needles are some of the first medicine we can make in the spring.
Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus) needles are super high in Vitamin C. They are basically our orange trees of the North, without all the chemicals and fuss to grow. Abundant and standing so tall, these trees strengthen our upright Qi, which is our ability to stand in our power, rooted in the Earth, emanating our potency to make a difference in the world.
The needles can be gathered when green, basically any time of year and steeped in hot water for tea. They promote expectoration of mucous in the lungs, so having white pine needles around when you have a cold, cough, or any bronchial complaint is really useful. The needles, pitch, and inner bark can also be infused in olive or grapeseed oil for a few weeks to make a salve for skin irritation or sore muscles.
Another abundant medicine is Black Birch, also known as Sweet Birch (Betula lenta). The cambium layer, or inner bark of the tree is used for pain relief, fever management, cold, flus, and arthritis. I made a tincture with organic grain alcohol to take internally. You can also infuse the inner bark with oil to make a salve for relieving muscle aches. Combine it with the white pine oil and you’ve got a great combination for a sore muscle rub.
Black Birch sap runs freely about one month after Sugar Maples. This morning I gathered up my tap, bucket, hammer, and drill and headed to the forest. I found the perfect Black Birch only a two-minute hike from my doorstep. One way to identify a Black Birch is by peeling off a bit of the bark or breaking a small twig and taking a deep inhalation. Ahhh, smells like root beer! The Methyl Salicylate compound gives the bark a wintergreen taste, which is also its analgesic and anti-inflammatory property. Salicylic Acid is what Aspirin is derived from. But, Aspirin is synthesized from that one compound whereas using this whole plant won’t give you any nasty side effects.
The tree gave me confirmation to tap it and I smiled. I set a strong intention to use the sap for a cleansing spring tonic. Some of the plants properties are diuretic, which is cleansing and tonifying to the kidneys and bladder. These organs are in charge of elimination and detoxification. Once again, nature’s timing is spot on!
Once my tap was in, the sap started flowing! I moved by head toward the tree and opened my mouth. A cool wintergreen drop covered my tongue. I couldn’t sit there all day with my head tilted backward, so I hooked up the bucket and stepped back to the path. “Drip, drip, drip…” By dusk I had a quart of sweet sap.