Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Medicine Musings

It's that time of year where playing in the kitchen and making new concoctions is sounding more and more like something fun to do! Nothing more fun about concoctions in the kitchen then herby medicines! I got an order for some pinyon salve this week, and so was making pinyon salve. It's a rather simple process, but slightly messy. I just melt hard pine sap nodules, olive and beeswax together in a pan, until mixed. Then strain out the bark bits and pour into a jar. Pure pine scented heaven!
anyway, it got me thinking about pine medicine, in all its versatility. Pine salve is always a good thing to have around for drawing out thorns and splinters, sometimes even random pieces of stone that get lodged in shins while riding bikes that have healed over. (Yes, I've used pine sap to draw out a stone lodged in a shin!) I've used it on chapped lips, little inflammed slightly infected cuts. Pretty much anything that might need antiseptic action and protection. Pine sap is a star at sealing wounds if you dont have a band aid around. Mind you, sometimes sealing wounds is NOT the thing to do, but in wilderness first aid, when you need to protect something from more dirty and goo getting in it, pine sap works great. So the salve gets used this way as well.

Well now, in addition to its myriad topical uses, I've long been thinking about its internal uses, It's a very strong and effective warming, stimulating expectorant for thick, congested, stuck mucus with coldness. Sometimes we herbalists call it Chronic lung gunk. When your cold has moved on, but the cough is still hanging on three weeks later. I've got pine sap tincture for this case, but I've also recently thought about making a nice aromatic decongestant/expectorant chest rub (thinking along the lines of Vicks). Pine sap, perhaps a little ginger infused oil, and peppermint. I used to make one with infused eucalyptus oil, but seeing how I dont live among eucalyptus anymore, I think Pine is a fine local, abundant and widespread substitute. Possibly even more effective and appropriate.
I've also been tossing around the idea of a cough/expectorant syrup based on Pine. Originally the idea started with adding pure pine sap tincture to honey, as a simple. (Pine sap tincture is kind of nasty to take straight from the bottle!) Then I wanted to add some hyssop, and elder flower and berry to relax the lungs. Honey is pretty moistening by itself, but possibly the addition of licorice or marshmallow to keep things nice and moist and flowing, while the more stimulating actions of pine move the old mucus up and out. Of course all this will require me to either infuse honey with the herbs, or make a strong decoction and add honey and pine sap tincture to that. Still thinking on this.
OR how about pine lozenges? With marshmallow powder, honey, licorice, pine sap etc etc, flavored with mint or fennel. Mmmmmm, fennel!
Oh the possibilities are endless. Time to get into the kitchen!!


Tara said...

My dad would boil the sap, and then slather it on. It hurt like hell, but the burning cauterized things and killed germs, and the pitch healed things up.

Mrs. Gunning said...

I know this blog post was written some time ago, but I am doing some studying on pine sap (I am fairly new to herbal healing) and was wondering how I can get pine sap myself. Do I get it from the bark of the tree? From the needles? How is this done?
Thank you for any time you can give me. I am very interested!

Shamana Flora said...

well mrs gunning, the best way is to find yourself a pine forest and wander amongst the trees looking for ones that have large chunks of hardened sap on their trunks. Sometimes you can break these chunks off with your fingers, sometimes you might need to use a tool. My rule of thumb is only to collect sap which comes off with pressure from my own hands. I dont use any tools to remove sap that doesn't want to come off. I feel that sap is still doing it's job of protecting the tree. If a tree is willing to give the chunks easily, then it is safe to take.

I collect the chunks into a jar ( plastic doesn't work well, it tends to stick) and viola!

Pine needles make a lovely tea or infused oil as well, but slightly weaker than sap, and significantly less drawing power for lodged items in the skin.


Mrs. Gunning said...

Fantastic! Thank you so much! I can tell already that I will love your site. I added it to my Google Reader. ;)
You are so quick, too! :) Thank you.

Shamana Flora said...

Thanks! I do hope you will enjoy my musings! Enjoy your pine sap experiments! I'd love to hear how they turn out!

"The mother of us all, the oldest of us all, Hard, splendid as rock, Let the beauty you love, be what you do. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the earth"~ Rumi ~