"Natures Medications" By Rolly A. Chabot
Welcome again to the Fireside. Now that Nano Write is all behind us I have found my way back to the keyboard. This year was a successful year as I completed a full 146,000 words and it looks like I will be able to use it as novel series. I know I have a great deal of editing to do.
We have dipped in temperature here again. This will be a long winter for us because it started just before Halloween and we have had snow the entire time. My in floor heating system failed me and I think I have it repaired now. It heats all the developed basement and garage and it has been missed.
Many over the years have suggested I share a little wilderness medicine with them. For those who do not know me I spent several years living in isolation in the far reaches of the Yukon Territory here in Canada. I was somewhat adopted into the Cree Native Culture where I learned much of what nature provides. Thus I thought I would make an attempt at something most of us have access too. Evergreen trees such as the Fir, Spruce and Pine.
They are an abundant source of many natural remedies most people are not aware of. We had one particular species which was very abundant. Most often it would be the first I would go to for my needs. Gather around while I attempt to recall what I know about what the tree can give. Welcome to the Fireside and know that you are loved here.
It provides All
Lets stop and take a look in the forest or a single tree and see what it gives to all who choose to stop and visit. Homes for many creatures, big and small. It can act as a huge umbrella during a rain storm. Notice how the base of a tree is always dry from the drip line or branches inward to the trunk. A great place to have a dry bed during a rain storm. A shelter ready made for you.
Should you get tired when you are out hiking stop and lean up against a tree with your back touching the tree and in a few minutes you will be rejuvenated from the energy it produces.
In the evergreen family there are so many benefits I will list a few here just so you have an idea. They truly are remarkable, living and offering much of themselves for us and we can take without doing any great harm to them. Most often the smaller inhabitants will just scold us.
Chewing Gum and Antiseptic
Dried spruce gum peeled off of a tree looks very unappetizing and yet it has many qualities most people overlook. When you first place it into your mouth and start to chew it you will find it to be very granular and maybe if a bit distasteful. Fear not it will get better.
Chew the gum for several minutes not spitting and allow the gum and the saliva to mix well. Eventually the gum softens. Now you may spit. Do this a few more times spitting occasionally. It will become very pliable it will become more and more pleasant to the taste. Feel free to swallow now. The gum has many great qualities and is an internal antiseptic for your mouth, teeth and yes even your digestive tract.
After awhile it will start to become granulated again and you can discard it. No need to worry about saving wrappers and it will not stick to a sidewalk. It could likely be called the first gum ever known to man. The best part is you know where it has come from and it is free.
They are fairly common in the outdoors. They have a multitude of uses. My favorite is for an upset stomach or yes even a headache. They can be picked directly from the shrub. They are generally a grey/purple in colour and are easily accessible.
Two or three popped under your tongue and you only need to wait a few minutes and what ever ails you will be gone. A word of caution do not bite down on them. They are generally very bitter and will leave you with a very nasty taste in your mouth for the longest while.
On a hot day slip a few into your mouth and just flip them back and forth across your tongue and your thirst will subside somewhat. The needles when they are young and a lighter green can be used for making tea. Just boil water and toss in a spoonful of crushed needles and allow it to steep. This as well can be used to cure a headache very quickly.
If you have a toothache slip a half a dozen needles in along the infection and it will rid you of the infection.
Spruce gum can also be used as a throat lozenge for coughs and sore throats. It can be drank as a hot tea or the sap simply sucked on. Sap contains many properties mainly as an antiseptic but also an analgesic and if boiled over a low heat source can be used as a vaporizer with a towel over your head. If you lungs are congested they will soon clear.
One thing I found to be amazing is if you have a stubborn sliver which most of us get is to place a drop of fresh resin on the wound and it will draw the sliver out painlessly within a few hours, at the same time acting as an antiseptic.
Young needles in the spring are and excellent source of vitamin C when drank as a tea. It is a very potent form of vitamin C and should be drank only once a day. The needles will sink to the bottom eventually. Natural sources of sweetener like honey can be added if the taste is too bitter.
I found this recipe from my old Yukon cook book and it works better than anything I have ever found for a wound, old scar tissue and an itch. It can be diluted to the consistency that works for you and or the application. Just mix them all together and cook it slowly over a flame and allow each ingredients to blend together. After a few hours strain the contents into a jar and seal it.
1/4 cup of beeswax (Not Paraffin Wax.)
1/3 of a cup of sap, crystallized or fresh.
One cup of pure Olive Oil.
A Tablespoon of Kosher or Sea Salt
1/3 of a cup of Lichen. The best is the moss that grows on Spruce called Usnea.
This recipe can be played with a little depending on your personal preferences. The Natives in the far north have many mixtures and varieties they use. The first real test for me was once I had severally burned my hand in the backwoods and immediately applied this. The burn was bad enough it should have blistered badly but two days later my skin was completely healed.
Acorns can be picked directly off of the tree or harvested off the ground. It is a good idea to rinse them off and wrap them loosely in tinfoil. Place them on the rocks close to a fire or on top of a wood burning stove for a few days. After a few hours you will hear the snapping and they will expand and open up, sending the young seeds out inside the tin foil. Only pick the ones that are still closed.
It does take several cones to make a pot of coffee but be patient the taste is well worth it. By sitting close to the fire they take on a natural roasted flavour. Open the package and give the expanded cones a good shake saving all the seeds. Once you have a half a cup or so crush them and dump your bounty into a pot of boiling water.
Be careful as it may boil over on you. Just set the pot off to the side and allow it to cook on its own. A few minutes later you have a lovely nutty tasting coffee that will refresh you. It almost has a okra taste to it.
In the Cree Native language it is called "Astâskamkwa." We have seen it growing and hanging from trees. The natives used it to line the inside of baby carriers because of its insulating properties from the cold. Yet another use it is absorbent.
It provides a great lining for birds and their nests. Moose, Deer and Woodland Caribou treat it as a source of food and it is extremely high in protein and is readily available. Go into an area where the lower branches have been picked clean and you know there is game close by.
Usnea can be harmful to some humans as it contains some nettles that are hard to spot with the naked eye. Recent studies have shown it can have an adverse effect on the urinary track if ingested. I would avoid taking it internally. It can however be used as a poultice dressing for infection or even an open wound. Gather as mush as you think you will need. Boil it for a few minutes and apply it to the area as hot as you can stand it and wrap it. You will feel it drawing immediately. Remove it after a few hours. Apply it every few days and before long you will see the results.
Usnea has many uses. One of my favorites is as a fire starter. Take a small amount of the whiter coloured moss and place in in a nest with a few small dry twigs. With a flint and steel one small spark will set it ablaze. It has a natural accelerant that will catch. Matches and a small magnifying glass, even bifocal glasses and sunshine will ignite it quickly. It burns very quickly so be ready to add more fuel right away. In the case of a wildfire crowning from one tree to the next usnea is usually the culprit for fuelling the flame.
Hug a Tree
Do I like trees you may ask? Over the years they have brought much comfort in the log homes they have built for me. Heat in te winter months. They give shade on a hot day, protection from the elements. Yes I do like trees. They are living and give life. all likelihood they have built the home you find yourself in today. They are a great renewable resource which have provided millions with and income over the years. But again a resource which we need to manage properly.
There are many other functions trees have in our everyday lives we forget about. The clean the air we breath, provide nourishment to the younger trees as they die off and much we still are to discover.
The best part of hugging a tree is when you find one like this I found myself sitting in last summer that hugs you right back.
© Rolly A. Chabot
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