Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Over a Dozen Ways to Use Up Some of That Christmas Tree

We gathered up some ideas from over the years of The Essential Herbal Magazine.  If you have a nice, natural tree, keep some of the needles and use them for something to use, or keep and remember until next year!
Here are some great ideas:

From Marcy Lautanen Raleigh  
If you have a pine-phobic in your household here is a great way to make them more pine friendly by seeing the benefits of pine.
I will start with tea you can make with Balsam Fir needles.  Use a heaping teaspoon of fir needles and rose hips in a large mug and cover with water (about 8 to 10 ounces.)  Allow to steep for 10 minutes and sweeten with honey.  This tea will relieve congestion, if you drink 2 to 3 mugs of it during a day.
If you want to ease congestion but do not enjoy the flavor of pine, you can make a balsam steam too.  Add a cup of two of snipped fresh needles to a pan of water and bring to a simmer.  Drape a towel over your head and lean over the pan inhaling the steam for several minutes.

If you enjoy the scent of pine, you can make hot pads stuffed with needles.  Cut a square of cloth about 6 to 8 inches square.  Sew three sides and place some wool or 100% cotton batting inside.  Add ½ cup pine needles to the hot pad.  Sew the final side closed, then stitch or quilt the center of the hot pad to keep the needles from bunching up together.
You can also make these recipes to give as a gift during the winter season.
Sore Muscle Soak
This is a blend of herbs and pine I have been making since early in my business.  It is great for relieving aches and pains, especially those from decorating the house!
1/3 cup Epsom salts
1/3 cup baking soda
1 Tbls. lemon balm
1 Tbls. Pine needles
1 Tbls. Chamomile
1 Tbls. peppermint
5 to 10 drops peppermint essential oil
Combine all the herbs and salts, then add the essential oil.  Place the materials in a muslin bag or a square of cloth tied with string. 
To use: Hang the bag below the tap and allow water to run through and dissolve the salts, releasing the herbal oils. Soak until the water cools and begin to feel the healing.

From Kristine Brown
(If you cut any branches from the tree, you most likely have some sap.)

Pine resin, also commonly known Pine pitch or sap, has antibacterial properties and can be used fresh from the tree or melted into a salve base for treating wounds, sores and insect bites. Native Americans mixed the pitch with tallow to make a salve, which they applied on wounds caused by splinters, boils and external ulcers. Pine resin is very drawing and can help remove splinters, glass slivers and other imbedded material from the flesh. The resin can also be tinctured and great for treating colds, coughs and bronchitis by using 5-10 drops at a time. Resin is often chewed to soothe a sore throat or persistent cough. The resin can also be applied directly to wounds and cuts as an antiseptic band-aid, making it a great wilderness first aid plant to know. The resin will keep out germs while facilitating healing and easing pain.
Infusing the resin into oil creates a healing oil for soothing sciatica pain and sore muscles, as a chest rub for respiratory complaints and on skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. The oil can also be massaged onto sprains and strains, bruises and rheumatic conditions.

From Janet Gutierrez
Bohemian Prairie Alchemist

I like to take my pine and cedar needles infuse in Olive oil for about 4 weeks and make my, Winter Tree Balm.   You can also heat infuse on low for 2 days, (no higher than 120 degrees on and off in a crockpot). Fill a jar with as much needles as possible. You must make sure that there is no moisture on the needles. A dry/warm day is best to strip the branches. Then fill with the olive oil. You will use this as your base and add enough beeswax to make a salve or balm.  1.5 cups of oil to 2 oz of Beeswax.

From Sandy Michelson
The Frugal Herbalist
How to make a basic salve after you've infused the oil with pine, fir, or spruce needles:
Use a double boiler or make one with a Pyrex measuring cup in a pan of water.
Pour infused pine oil and beeswax into the measuring cup. (1 T wax per 2 oz. Oil)
Place measuring cup in water and heat until wax is melted.
Pour into clean jar to cool.
Label jar.

Pine Simple Syrup (recipe from The Merrythought)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh chopped edible pine needles
Add ingredients to a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover with a lid and let steep for at least 2 hours. You can leave it overnight. Strain mixture through a cheesecloth and then refrigerate the syrup until you’re ready to use it. (Up to one month.)

WARNING: Please be sure that the pine you are using is edible. Do all your research to make sure you have properly identified the tree. (Ponderosa Pine, Yew Tree, Australian Pine, and Norfolk Island Pine are all poisonous when ingested.)
***Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should not consume ANY pine.
And, as always, make sure no herbicides have been used on your tree.

From Tina Sams
The Essential Herbal
Make Sachets and Pillows
My favorite needles for these are Balsam Fir and Concolor Fir.

They both have outstanding scents.  Gather the needles off the branches, and lay them loosely in a box or basket so they have a chance to dry.  For a pillow, you'll want to make it very full and taut, and the scent will last for a very long time.  My sister took a trip to Maine as a girl scout (a couple score ago, and I still remember!) and brought home a balsam fir pillow made with a sturdy off white fabric, with a picture of fir stamped on it.  I coveted that relaxing and beautiful pillow!

Make a Vinegar
Fill a jar with chopped needles, and cover with vinegar.
Allow to steep for several weeks.

Strain and use in any way you'd use a culinary vinegar.

Make Christmas Tree Shortbread
Follow the instructions for Confetti Shortbread but swap pine needles for the rosemary and flowers. If you have a pine tree cookie cutter, wouldn't that be perfect?

Make a Pine Needle Basket
I've done this in the past with white pine - which are shorter than those shown in the video  White pine needles are about 4 to 5".  It's fun!

This is a basket I made several years ago NOT using good directions.
There are lots of ways to use them outside, too.  Whole trees can be used as a shelter for wildlife or chipped up to be used as a mulch.  Our municipality will mulch trees for several weeks after the holidays are over, and then allow people to pick up seasoned mulch in the spring.

Please note:  It's very easy to be confused about hemlock, because there are two very different plants.
Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum), is a poisonous herb in the carrot family that bears a striking resemblance to Queen Anne's Lace, and hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) the native North American tree in the pine family which grows widely here in the eastern US and Canada, and is the state tree of my home state, Pennsylvania.

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