Well that time of year is upon us, beautiful wonderful cold and snowy winter and cold season. Despite our best efforts to keep our home healthy, colds make their way into our lives and it can be a struggle as a parent to know what to do with that cough, runny nose or fever. With having two young toddlers in the house over the counter cough medicine is out of their age range and when looking at these products for my older two it can seem a bit scary and daunting but they're sick so what do you do? Well I tend to always have a batch of syrup just made or ready to be made or some little bits and bobs made for tea or baths but this year I was caught off guard. I guess going through last year being kept in our homes with no school and outings we didn’t experience the cold and flu season but with the world starting to reopen sickness has found its way back in. Thankfully for me I have a forest in my backyard where I can harvest vitamin C rich evergreens that I can harvest and make medicine for my family with. For those who don’t have a forest in your backyard take stock of where you can get access to a park or forest where you would be able to harvest mindfully and ethically some evergreen. Trees in the pine family such as spruce, pines and firs are bountiful up here in Northern Canada and will often grace us with downed branches so that we don’t have to disrupt the tree itself and they have offerings of vitamin c rich needles and a gorgeous aromatic resin that also has medicinal properties. Almost every part of an evergreen is medicinal. In fact the resin that they excrete when injured is where a majority of their medicine comes from. Some of the medicine members of the pine family gift us with is their amazing antimicrobial resin which helps protects us and the tree from pathogens, creating a protective barrier. Pine is wonderful at relieving pain and we can access this pain relief by making an infused oil and massaging it onto our sore muscles. She is very high in vitamin C especially in winter. You can use her needles in a syrup, tea or just pick and nibble the needles. Her aromatics in teas, oils, baths and steams can help relieve coughs and congestion by breaking up mucus and helping us sleep. Again the resin is wonderful for skin issues. Due to her being antimicrobial she is great as a salve for burns and wounds.
Once you have found your evergreen plant and id’d it correctly you can begin sitting and asking this plant ally for help. During the winter time I will often leave a little bit of bird seed at the base of the tree as a thank you for the medicine it’s giving. Any birds visiting for the food will grace the tree with song and company and maybe some manure. Now that we have thanked our plant friend we can bring them home and make medicine. *When out harvesting pine for medicine you want to make sure you steer clear of the yew tree as it is toxic.*
Whenever I make medicine with plant matter I typically don’t wash it unless it’s dirty and then it's usually a light soak or a soft clean with a cloth but I always know where my plant matter is coming from so I don’t worry. Do make sure you never harvest plants from a roadside or any place where there might have been spraying and stay away from toxic yew trees. To make a syrup you will need 2 glass pint jars, strainer, some honey preferably local and raw as it has its own medicinal properties and some hot water and of course your plant matter. You can chop your pine or for me I am using balsam fir, up into manageable pieces so that you can fit them into your jar. I pack my jar to the shoulder and while I am packing my jar I put a kettle of water on to boil. Once the jar is packed and water is boiled you want to add your water to your plant and make a “tea”. Make sure you are using a mason jar or a vessel that can handle the heat. Once water has been added to the tippy top you are going to want to cap it. This will make sure any of the volatile oils stay in tea and don’t escape with the steam. You can let this steep for 10-15 mins or till cool. I usually end up getting busy doing something else so by the time I remember my tea is cold and that’s okay. Strain your tea into a clean pint jar and depending on how much tea you have you want to add half of that if not more in honey. So if you have a cup or tea add ½ cup of honey and work your way up depending on your sweetness level. I like to use less honey that way I can add the syrup to a cup of hot water and add more honey for a cup of tea. If your tea is on the cold side you can heat it up slowly to dissolve your honey just make sure not to get it to hot so the medicine is your honey isn't affected. And that’s it, you have made yourself a lovely medicinal syrup that can be taken as a cough syrup, added to sparkling water or hot water, poured over pancakes or any other goodies that could use some sweetness. Your syrup should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge and will last up to 2 weeks. This syrup can be used as a preventative or at the onset of a cold. Always start off with smaller doses and never administer syrups to a child under 2 due to the raw honey. I typically like to start with ½ tsp for my kids every hour as needed during sickness or 1 tbsp daily as a preventative. For myself I will double the dose. I have even been known to put a good glug into their water bottle for the day. This syrup is such a delightful citrusy thing to have in the middle of winter.
However you have your syrup do sit with it. Take yourself back to the day you harvested your medicine. How did you feel being in the forest? This medicine is not going to cure yours or your childs cold immediately plant medicine is slow medicine. Its medicine with intention that heals over time. We are a part of this earth and plants are a direct connection to that. Have gratitude for the gift our pine sister has given. I will often go back to the woods where I harvested my medicine I have made and lay some down as my gift of thanks but if that isn’t a possibility just sitting out in nature and reflecting is a great way to show our thankfulness.
Thanks for being here. Let me know if you have ever enjoyed any members of the pine family.