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Title: Using Trees As Medicine
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From: USA
Registered: 11/21/2008

(Date Posted:01/25/2009 00:56 AM)
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Using Trees As Medicine

by Ellen Ever Hopman

Many common North American trees can be used as medicine. Their advantage over medicinal herbs is that tree medicines can be used year round. In fact, trees make amoung the most versatile medicine you will find.

In early spring and summer the leaves of trees are useful healing agents. In fall and winter, the bark and twigs or of the roots may be used to treat common ailments. Some simple rules must be learned, however, and followed for tree medicines to work.

Preparing Tree Medicines for Use

Here are several rules to ensure you are mindful in gathering tree medicines. First never cut the bark off of the trunk of a living tree. Especially avoid girdling the tree by removing the bark as this will kill the tree. To gather bark use that found on a twig or a root of felled tree. In these cases, it is a simple matter of striping the bark off the twig or root with a sharpe knife. Medicinal agents are found in the cambium-the living green or greenish yellow layer just under the outer bark.

Once you have gathered the bark of a tree you can use it immediately or dry it for later use. To dry the bark, carefully lay it to dry in the shade, making sure that the strips do not overlap. Leaves can be tied together and hung in bunches from a string or rope in a dry, shady area.

To use the bark, simmer two teaspoons of bark per cup of water for twenty minutes in a nonaluminum pot with a tight lid. Strain and drink. The dose is one-quarter cup, taken four times a day with meals. This assumes a 150-pound adult. A child weighing 75-pounds should take half as much, and a child weighing 40-pounds should take half as much again. The tea may be stored in a glass jar with a tight lid, in the refrigerator, for up to week.

When using the leaves they should be picked in the early spring no later than Summer Solsitice. Steep two teaspoons of fresh or dried leaves per cup of freshly boiled water for about twenty minutes, in a nonaluminum pot with a tight lid. The dose is the same as above. Add lemon and honey to the medicines as desired.

If you are making a tea to use as a wound wash or to add to the bath it may be much stronger. Use more of the tree parts and less water, and simmer or steep for longer periods.

To make a tree leaf poultice, use fresh leaves, or dry ones that have been soaked in enough boiling water to make them soft. Place the leaves in a blender with just enough water to make a mush. Pour into a glass or ceramic bowl and then add powdered slippery elm bark, a little at a time, until a pie dough consistency is acheived. Spread the poultice onto a cotton cloth and apply to the affected area. Leave on for one hour, and then discard the poultice material. Repeat daily.

A fomentation may be made of the bark or leaf tea by soaking clean cotton cloth in the tea and then applying it to an affected area. Tree leaves, bark, and nuts may also be used in healing salves. To make a salve simply place the plant material in a large nonaluminum pot, and just barely cover with cold-pressed virgin olive oil. Simmer with a lid for about twenty minutes.

In a seperate pot melt beeswax, and bring to a simmer. After oil mixture has simmered for twenty minutes add three tablespoons of melted beeswax for everycup of olive oil used. Stir and then strain into very clean glass jars. Allow to cool and harden before putting on the lid.

Some tree parts are used to make massage oils or oils for other purposes. Take the fresh tree parts, and put them in a shallow nonaluminum baking dish. Cover with a light oil such as almond, cover, and bake in a slow oven at 110 degrees for several hours until the plant material wilts.

To tinture buds, barks, or roots, place the chopped plant material in a clean glass jar. Cover with vodka or other alcohol {80 proof or higher}, cover tightly, and allow the tinture to sit for eight days. Shake occasionally. Add 10% spring water and a teaspoon of vegetable glycerine. Strain and bottle for later use. Store in cool, dark place. For leaves and flowers; pack the plant material into a clean glass jar, barely cover with alcohol, and allow the tinture to extract until the plant material begins to wilt. Add spring water and vegetable glycerine, and strain and bottle as above. The dose is about 10 drops, three times a day, taken with water.

Green Etiquette

It is only polite to thank a tree when you have used its parts for medicine. Make a habit of giving back to the trees. A meal of fertilizer, a drink during a hot spell, or offering of herbs such as sage or tabacco are always correct. In ancinet European tradition, vervain, honey, or apple cider were often given. Or a simple prayer was spoken, that the tree and its relations always have abundant sunshine, pure water to drink, healthy winds, and the companionship of birds and other friendly spirits. In this time of global warming it is wise to plant trees wherever possible and to nurture living ones. Trees are cooling. They prevent evaporation of rainwater, hold back water to prevent floods and erosion, purify stagnant and polluted water, and maintain the balance of oxygen and carbon in a world increasingly polluted by greenhouse gases. Ancient tress especially should be honored and protected.
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