The first day of spring on the lunar calendar is always on Chinese new year. Many believe that this time of year signifies spring because of the energetic shift of the cosmos. However, as many of you know it is still considered winter in western culture. Whether you consider it as late winter or early spring, this time of year signifies the season of the wood element in Chinese medicine. A time where the trees start to come alive and extend the growth of their roots and stems. This made me consider all the medicinal wood that is out there and how it is a great time to harvest a lot of the tree medicine, right before it starts to put energy into new growth.
I wanted to explore the tree medicine that is in Colorado and how we can all forage and benefit from it. I have learned a great deal about the powerful effects of tree medicine through my herbalism journey and the spirit of the trees and their relationship with humans have been an intertwined bond ever since our existence. We cannot live without these gentle giants and we must learn how to honor them by taking the time to sit with them, feeling their energy, and how their presence can heal all our worries and troubles.
One of the most captivating sights to see are the giant aspen forests here in Colorado. Aspen trees represent resilience and power. they naturally are able to withstand fire, wind, flood, drought and blizzards. Become invincible with this powerful tree medicine.
Aspen is considered the cottonwood of the high mountains. Both are part of the Poplar species. Collect the leaf buds in early spring. And use the fallen branches as medicine after thunderstorms roll in. The inner bark can be used in a decoction 2-4 oz 4 times a day. Leaves can be used in a infusion 2-4 oz 5 times a day. Leaf buds can be tinctured (fresh 1;2 in 75% alcohol) 15-30 drops or infused in oil (1 part bud to 10 parts oil for topical use.
The precursors of aspirin is salicin and populin found in aspen trees. A safer more natural alternative for inflammation, fevers, UTI, and used as a bitters for poor digestion. For muscle aches, sprains, and swollen joints, prepare a poultice with the inner bark. For burns and skin irritations prepare a ointment infused with aspen bark. If you forget to put sunscreen on use the white powder on the outside of aspens bark. There are so many gifts these trees have to offer.
These majestic beings are always connected to the water and moon energy. Enchantment, love, healing, protection, friendship, joy and peace are the most common spiritual uses. It is used medicinally for inflammation, fevers, and pain. The cottonwood cycles represents the ebbs and flows of the seasons, nature, and the universe. when you sit among the groves of trees you will gain inspiration, skills, and prophecies.
Cottonwood trees are early season food for pollinators. They play an important role in the production of bee propolis contributing to the antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. Cottonwood medicine, specifically the early sticky buds in oil, help with inflammation, pain, arthritis, injuries, headaches, and fevers. Even serves as an antimicrobial for wounds, a diuretic, and digestive bitter. Use the early bud tincture as an expectorant for coughs. Find the fallen buds on the ground this time of year and taste the green sap on the outsides to feel the sensation of the medicine on your tongue.
Russian olive trees are an invasive species here in Colorado, which offers some of the most abundant medicine for us. These trees spiritual specialty is the crown chakra. Her spirit connects us to the cosmos and universe. Using her medicine teaches us how to be more present to our surroundings and how to use the resources that are abundantly growing in the environment that we inhabit.
Russian olive originally came from southern Europe and Asia. Prepare the leaves, bark, thorns, and fruit can as a tincture, tea, or liniment. Traditional uses in China and the Middle East include remedies for upset stomach, diarrhea, arthritis, gout, coughs, colds, fever, asthma, respiratory infections, kidney stones, and liver disease. Pain associated with muscle spasms and inflammation, use the bark thorns or fruit. The olives are also traditionally used in Turkish cuisine .
Spiritual Medicine of Pine
The needles are a source of vitamin c and help to loosen chest congestion. When you are feeling stuck in self pity and blame, burn pine to find emotional release. The smoke helps purify a space so you can start new. Once we have clarity we can better connect with higher powers like our ancestors and wisdom of the Earth.
Sit beneath these ancient beings to connect deeply to yourself and to unearth your purpose that will help you see a clear path to follow. Pine will help you find connection with all beings around you to discover ancient wisdom and feel the energetic frequencies of nature. I have personally felt this experience when forest bathing underneath a circle of Pinon Pines.
Physical Medicine of Pine
The American West is home to more than twenty different native pine species. Pine is a slow growing conifer that take 75 to 200 years to reach maturity. They most often reside in lower more arid elevations from 4,000 to 9,000 feet. Climate change has significantly hindered the populations of pine with droughts, wildfires, and bark beetle outbreaks that have wiped out entire forests.
The resin or pitch is a valuable medicine, and the nuts are staple food in the western states since the earliest human settlements. The nuts contain a important amino acid called tryptophan which is normally missing from a corn based diet. Harvest the nuts around the first frost of fall. The needles, inner bark and pitch are medicine. The oil from the pitch is used for muscle tension, arthritis and deep body injuries. For inflammation, aches, pains, and for bringing splinters to the surface, make a pine salve. Expel parasites using a decoction or burn the needles to treat colds. Tea of pine works well as a expectorant and a diaphoretic for fevers, flu, and syphilis.
A tree of reincarnation and another invasive species in Colorado. Sit next to a Siberian elm and experience memories, visit your ancestors, manifest healthy visions of the future, gain guidance among her shade. Working with elm trees helps us leave bad behavior and habits behind and dig deep into your life’s work.
Siberian elm is originally from Asia. Collect the inner bark to make a powder. Similar to slippery elm in its medicinal properties and uses, which is now a endangered and over harvested species. Siberian Elm makes a great alternative. The inner bark is mucilaginous and is a demulcent for sore throats and dry coughs. It also produces salicylic acid and other hormones that contribute to its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Other known compounds are antimicrobial, anti-cancerous, and the seeds are good source of food.
Chokecherries are a bountiful harvest here in Colorado. Growing everywhere. The tree represents solitude and survival. Seeking the company of a chokecherry tree helps us find inner peace, sustenance, and a new spark of creativity. when you seek the berries they help you find your sense of place and you can more easily re-align yourself in society.
Find this medicine near the water in the cottonwood forests. The bark is reddish to reddish brown and marked with gray stripes. The flowers are typical of the Rosaceae family and are white. The berries are blueish-purple turning almost black when they are peak ripeness. When summer rains knock over a few cherry tree you can safety and sustainably harvest the bark. Then you can peel the bark of the trunk and twigs. The bark is a simple sedative especially useful when experiencing a dry cough. And makes a great addition to your cough syrup recipe. If you don’t have the time to make cough syrup Wish Garden Herbs also has a great option that you can buy.
Become more empowered with herbal wisdom by reading my other blog posts about my favorite herbs and how to use them.
***Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. The information is not a substitute for medical treatment.
**This post contains affiliate links
The Ecology of Herbal Medicine by Dara Saville
Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West by Michael Moore
Tree Medicine Class by Laura Cascardi of Equinox School of Herbal Studies