- Alternative & Natural Medicine
Medicine From Tree Sap
During the spring, when all of nature begins to wake up, it seems that our bodies are waking up too from the slower inactive days of winter. In spring, we become interested in living with nature again, we venture outside to smell the fresh air and to feel the cool refreshing breezes. Flowers begin to peak up through the snow and color decorates the world around us after a long winter of drab and dreary days.
Unfortunately, spring also seems to bring a re-awakening of a myriad of health issues. Allergies, digestive problems, headaches, weakened immune systems, congestion, and on and on. For more than just some, spring is not the promise of renewal and joy that it should be. After a winter spent indoors breathing stale recycled air, eating devitalized foods and bundling up in tight restrictive clothing, our bodies become sluggish and toxin laden.
With the coming of spring, Mother Nature provides us with many tonics to get our bodily systems moving. Spring encourages us to breathe deeper and move our legs, both of which increase the circulation of blood and lymph fluids, major aids in detoxifying. Mother Nature also provides us with other natural remedies, such as dandelion, to aid in cleansing our bodies of toxins that have, not surprisingly, been stored for the winter. Furthermore, if, during the winter, our bodies have not received the nutrients they need to maintain their health and vitality, they become unable to defend themselves from the bacteria and germs that are also awakening. This is where tree sap can be beneficial.
Tree sap brings to mind in most people the process of making maple syrup. The Sugar Maple tree is best known for its flavorful sap that is tapped in the spring when the days are warming up and the nights are still quite cool. The sap is boiled down in a lengthy process to make the maple syrup that graces many breakfast tables. But did you know that the sap straight from the tree can be used as a medicinal tonic? Did you know there are other trees, besides the Maple, suitable for tapping for their sap too?
Scientifically, tree sap is defined as the fluid transported in the xylem cells of a tree. The purpose of xylem cells is to transport water and soluble minerals via the sap from the roots up through the tree trunk to the branches and leaves, as well as to support the structure of the tree itself. Sap has a similar function in the tree as does blood in humans. It contains nutrients that are vital for the health and longevity of the tree, including vitamins, minerals and sugars, and in some cases hormones and enzymes. These nutrients are also vital for building the human body’s defense systems, so an individual is better prepared to maneuver through spring detoxification, in addition to having many other internal and external applications.
Historically, sap was used for its anti-bacterial actions and to treat rheumatism, arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. Maple, birch and ash sap’s laxative properties are considered mild enough for children and pregnant women. The sap from these trees can also be used for their diuretic properties.
If you choose to tap for your own sap, remember to thank the tree for their generosity in sharing their healing waters with you. It is also recommended to keep the sap in the refrigerator for no more than 6 days, or it can be frozen for future use. Drinking the sap is like drinking diluted sugar water. It is suggested to drink a small amount at 3 separate times of the day. It can even be used to make coffee or tea, or in any recipe that could benefit from a slightly sweet water. One tap on a tree can easily provide enough sap for 8 people.
Your own body will tell you which type of tree to tap. As you consider the Elements that rule each tree, identify where or what the weaknesses are in your body, and choose the appropriate tree. For example, the Maple tree is ruled by the Element of Air, giving it the powers of longevity, the Ash’s Element is Fire and has the power of Health, and water, with its power of purification, is the Element of the Birch tree.
Common Sap Trees
The Sugar Maple’s sap has the highest sugar content of 3-4 % in a good year, but the Silver Maple, Red Maple and Ash Leafed Maple can also be tapped, although they have a lower concentration of sugar. South Koreans are especially noted for their drinking of maple sap for a wide variety of health concerns and to cleanse the body. It is a treasured elixir, they say, that is good for the bones. This is due to its rich content of minerals, including calcium. In South Korea, the sap is also used for stomachaches, high blood pressure and diabetes. The South Koreans, who drink it in copious amounts in the spring, recommend relaxing on a heated floor while taking the tonic. The Vermont Sweetwater Bottling Company was started when two brothers came to the conclusion that the sap tapped right from the Maple tree with a little added carbonation would make a terrific beverage. They now include other unique flavors in their product line, and none of them contain any artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.
The sap from the Ash tree, or Fraxinus spp , is called manna. The term manna has been widely used since biblical times to describe the sweet taste of various plants. Specifically, the flowering ash, called manna ash (Fraxinus ornus ), is where the sugar-alcohol, mannitol, was originally derived. Medicinally, it can be used to help flush out fluids and toxic debris from the body. It is capable of opening the blood-brain barrier, thus allowing nutrients into the brain that normally would have difficulty passing the blood-brain barrier. Mannitol is also an excellent alternative sweetener for diabetics since it contains a very small amount of glucose and has a low glycemic index. According to A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve, manna has a peculiar odor, but a sweetish taste that is not bitter or acrid. It has sometimes been used to disguise the taste of other not so pleasant medicinal preparations. Ash sap is a gentle tonic that was mainly used in times past as a mild laxative and purgative. Commercially, it is sold in the forms of flakes, fragments or thick droplets.
Birch sap is extracted from the North American Sweet Birch or Silver Birch. The sap is a slightly sweet, thin syrupy type liquid. It contains sugars, namely in the form of xylitol, proteins, amino acids, enzymes, vitamins, namely thiamine and vitamin C, and minerals including potassium, manganese, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, sodium and iron. Birch sap is a traditional beverage in countries such as Finland, Russia, northern China, Poland, as well as other Northern European countries. It can also be drunk after it has naturally fermented. In addition to being overall good for the health, it can be used for lung diseases and the common cold. Birch sap is believed to contain antiseptic, anti-parasitic and anti-inflammatory properties. I even read a blog where the individual found after drinking it that his allergy symptoms to the birch pollen were greatly reduced. If you are doing your own tapping, be aware that the fresh sap from a Birch tree should not be kept in the refrigerator for more than 2-5 days.
Vermont Sweetwater Bottling Company
Other Sap Trees of Interest
The Sangre de Grado, or Croton lechleri , is also known as “Blood of the Dragon” for its thick red sap. It grows in the South American Amazon. For centuries, indigenous peoples in the Amazon have used it to treat wounds, ease pain and relieve gastrointestinal distress. A team of researchers in Canada has recently found through clinical studies that Sangre De Grado prevents the sensation of pain while blocking tissue inflammatory responses. This painkiller effect is broad acting, working equally on internal and external stimuli. The sap is loaded with phytochemicals that contain protective and disease preventing properties, and is believed to be an excellent source of anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties.
The sap, also referred to as resin or pitch, from the Pine tree was chewed by Native Americans to alleviate joint pain, while reducing inflammation and increasing mobility. During the Civil War, a Confederate surgeon named Francis Porter used pine resin as a stimulant, diuretic and laxative. There is evidence that colonial Americans used spruce sap as a cold and cough remedy and in the treatment of cancer, and physicians even recommended ground pine resin mixed with water for ulcers, smallpox and syphilis. The Chinese used the resin from a particular pine tree to treat abscesses. Although these historical uses for pine resin have not been confirmed by modern science, there are many centuries of claims for its effective use.
Guggul, sap from the Indian Bedellium tree (Commiphora mukul ), was used in Ayurvedic medicine in India for at least 2,000 years for a variety of ailments, including supporting normal joint function. Modern researchers have found it to be effective in controlling cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the body. Guggul is still commonly used for its anti-inflammatory, pain killing, rejuvenative, detoxifying, immune system modulating, antioxidant and fat burning properties, while also protecting against ailments, such as the common cold and various other skin, eye and dental infections.
Myrrh, the reddish-brown dried sap of the Myrrh tree, Commiphora myrrha , derives its name from the Hebrew word, murr or maror , meaning "bitter". The tree grows throughout the Middle East. Besides being used to preserve mummies, it was also used as a remedy for many types of infections, including leprosy and syphilis, and as a blood stimulant. Internally, it is commonly used as an effective remedy against infections, stomach disorders, and bronchial, lung and sinus congestion. It can also be used for external complaints.
Frankincense, the dry resin of the tree sap, is extracted from the Boswellia thurifera , or Frankincense, tree. For thousands of years, this native Middle East and African tree has been revered for its aromatic and healing properties. It can be ground into a powder, dissolved in water and added to balms and salves for treating various skin ailments, wounds and burns. In herbal medicine, edible frankincense has been used for digestive disorders including stomach upset, indigestion, intestinal gas and colic, as well as arthritis and respiratory complaints.
It is interesting to note that in most cases, at least with the common sap trees, tapping trees for their sap can be done easily (do a google search) and by most anyone who has a deep respect for trees and Mother Nature. The sap can be used as a home remedy or you can even consider drinking it for the nutrition it provides. There is a high probability that it may become a necessity to investigate other sources of nutrition in the near future.