Everybody knows the spruce tree. There are about 35-40 species of spruce in the world, but all they can be easily recognized by pyramidal shape and evergreen needles. You can meet spruce trees everywhere in the world, but naturally, they live in boreal forests and in the mountains. That’s funny, in non-English speaking countries many people don’t even know English word ‘spruce’, they call it as ‘Christmas tree’ instead. But did you know, that spruce tree is not only a Christmas decoration? This is a real gem of the forest.
Some facts about spruce
For most of the common spruces, the lifespan of 150–200 years is an average. However, even 800-900 years is not unheard of. In the mountains of western Sweden scientists have found a Norway spruce tree, which by reproducing through layering has reached an age of 9550 years and is claimed to be the world’s oldest known living tree.
Spruce wood is soft but durable and elastic, used for many purposes, ranging from general construction timber and furniture to highly specialized uses in wooden aircraft. The Wright brothers‘ first aircraft, the Flyer, was built of spruce. Spruce is one of the most important woods for paper uses, as it has long wood fibers which bind together to make strong paper. Spruce is the standard material used in soundboards for many musical instruments, including guitars, mandolins, cellos, violins, and the soundboard at the heart of a piano and the harp.
The needles and branches, or the essential oils, can be used to brew spruce beer. The alcoholic spruce beer was common in the colonial United States and eastern Canada. Ancient Scandinavians and their Viking descendants brewed beer from young shoots of Norway spruce, drinking the beer for strength in battle, for fertility and to prevent scurvy on long sea voyages.
Needles for your health
Some of the constituents of spruce needles have a stimulating and calming effect on the nerves. It may help boost the energy level of an individual who is feeling sluggish and depressed via its stimulating scent. Fresh spruce needles or essential oil may provide a calming effect that helps the body relax and sleep, which can be attributed to its monoterpene content.
Spruce may be helpful to effectively treat a cough. With regular inhalation, the spruce essential oil may cure bronchial congestion and relieve tightness in the chest, so that there is no difficulty in breathing.
The fresh shoots of many spruces are a natural source of vitamin C. Captain Cook made alcoholic sugar-based spruce beer during his sea voyages in order to prevent scurvy in his crew. The tips from the needles can be used to make spruce tip syrup. Spruce needles can be directly ingested or boiled into a tea. This replaces large amounts of vitamin C. Spruce can be used as a preventive measure for scurvy in an environment where meat is the only prominent food source.
I’m lucky enough to live surrounded by spruce woods. I have no reasons to visit pharmacy – natural pharmacy is just behind the door. Walking in spring forest is the best way to boost energy. But what to do during long winter? I think in advance and I can give you a good advice. Should you go for a walk in the forest in late May or early June, take a plastic bag with you. Pick fresh shoots from spruces. They look like light-green soft needles. Put the bag in the fridge and forget until Christmas time. And when Christmas comes to your home and fills the air with the smell of the fresh spruce tree, remember about your frozen bag. Add shoots to the tea or just put into boiling water. Enjoy the smell of spring and vitamin C!