Cut or not to cut?
This year I had a dilemma. We had a chance to cut a nice fir from our own woods to serve as holiday decoration and inspiration. But I was hesitant. If million of people cut their trees every December, we have million trees less on our planet.
The other choice was to buy a plastic beauty. And you probably know my thoughts on reducing plastic waste. Plus the plastic tree production perhaps does even more harm to the planet, then cutting a fresh tree does. Choices, choices.
While I was deep in thought considering to skip the tree altogether again like we did last year, my sons (12 and 8) showed up in front of my kitchen windows carrying a perfect Christmas tree. The older son later said: Mom, you should have seen your face!
It turned out that the boys went out to play in the yard, sledding by the driveway. The town service (or electric company, I am not sure) was doing trimming of the branches along the power lines/rd. Boys saw a pile of conifer branches, and went to investigate. There in plain view was a perfect already harvested Christmas tree. We brought her inside, and decorated it with the lights and ornaments. The boys’ emotions were priceless. And the room smelled amazing.
Fir Tree Benefits
What happens after the holidays are over? Her job is not over yet. The needles are full of vitamins C, seven times more then lemons. We can not grow lemons in the Northwoods, but we have a lot of conifers around.
The needles keep the air so clean, it is almost sterile. The health spa resorts in Russia are almost always situated in a pine/conifer forests. The phytoncides (biologically active substances that work with viruses) are very beneficial and cleansing to the lungs in cases of asthma or bronchitis. In fact my one Russian friend that lives in Washburn, WI shared with me her unique way of using the needles. She harvests some branches and lays them under their beds, the scent is so fresh, clean and potent, that they skip the seasonal colds unharmed.
Inhaling the conifer rich air helps us to feel rested and calm, activates more efficient air exchange in our lungs, and improves breathing.
Vitamin C Tea
When sea explorers suffered scurvy, the siberains never had this problem. They all used the fir and pine needles as food. My favorite is picking the soft young needles in the early summer and eating them plain. They are delicious to me. I suppose it might be an acquired taste, so start with one needle. Or make vitamin tea – take a handful of needles (no brown branch parts), add water to a pot, bring to boil, pour over the needles, and let it steep for 15 minutes. Strain and enjoy.
The tea is a great mouth rinse as well. Supports healthy gums and teeth. Swish and the best part – swallow:-)
Besides the immune supporting vitamin C the needles have A, E, K, B1, B2, B3, B6, and biotin. Plus copper and iron. A nature’s drug store!
Science now confirmed that tannins in pine cones support during or after the stroke. They work on preserving the brain cells. Just make tincture, by mixing some needles and regular plain vodka to cover. Shake the glass jar daily and keep in the dark. Strain after 3-6 weeks, it keeps forever. It can be taken 1/2 ts at a time in some water for several months.
Next time you take a bath, add some pine or fir needles or essential oil. It is great for joint, muscle or gout pain as well as relaxing and helping you to have some restful and headache free sleep.
When the trees bloom, be happy. Collect the yellow pollen in a paper bag and use as supplement for longevity.
Infuse your honey with some young needles in the spring/summer.
Ice Storm Conifer Smoothie
One spring we had one of the last ice storms of the year, and I picked the needles with the icicles right off the tree. I made a conifer smoothie, blending the ice, needles and adding a little honey to taste. After two cups, my scratchy throat was gone and did not return.
If I have a cut I sometimes rub a little pine or fir sap on it for faster healing. It keeps the wound clean and securely sealed.
So this season, when you feel sorry to let go of your Christmas tree, save the needles and enjoy the benefits of this unique and healthy plant.