[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 35 – Turn Your Holiday Tree into Medicine and More!

Turn Your Holiday Tree into Medicine and More!

As children observe, reflect, record, and share nature’s patterns and rhythms, they are participating in a process that promotes scientific and ecological awareness, problem solving, and creativity.” 

– Deb Matthews Hensley, early childhood consultant

Now that the holidays are over, you may be wondering what to do with that luscious cut pine (or spruce or fir) tree. It’s the perfect time to have a Pine medicine making party! Didn’t have a live tree? You can still do most of these activities, just go outside and prune some branches from the conifer tree in your backyard!

A word of caution: If you are using a recycled holiday tree, be sure to check with the source that the tree has not been sprayed with a flam retardant or other chemical sprays. Generally local tree farms do not spray their trees but sometimes commercial tree lots do.

From left to right: Norway Spruce, Douglas Fir and White Pine branches

From left to right: Norway Spruce, Douglas Fir and White Pine branches

What can you do with that tree? Here are 10 ideas that kids will love! (Pine, Spruce, Fir and Juniper can all be used for these projects):

~You can prop your tree outside to give refuge to birds and other small animals. It’s a special bonus for them if you have strung popcorn and cranberries on the tree for decoration. Make some peanut butter seed pinecones to hang on the branches for extra treats.

pine bird 04 - craft

To make a pine cone bird feeder, you will need:

Large pinecones
2 ft. yarn or twine
2 Tbsp. Peanut butter per pine cone
2 Tbsp. lard or butter per pine cone
Birdseed
Plate or pie pan

Make a slipknot in the end of the yarn and attach it to the top of the pinecone.

pine bird 01 - craft

Mix the peanut butter and lard or shortening together and smear over the surface of the pinecone.

pine bird 02 - craft

Pour the birdseed on the plate or pie pan. Roll the pinecone in the seed to fully coat.

pine bird 03 - craft

Place the pinecones in the freezer for about an hour to firm up the mixture. Hang in a tree outside for the birds to enjoy!

~Cut the trunk off to use as your yule log for next year.

~Prune off several branches and make a wreath out of them. To do this, get a wire coat hanger, bend the lower portion into a circle (leave the hook on the top for a hook to hang your wreath from. Prune your branches into manageable lengths, and using floral wire, tie the branches onto the wire. Continue going around the circle until it is completely filled. Decorate your wreath with winter symbols such as pine cones, snowflakes, birds or other woodland creatures and a bow if you’d like and hang it on your back door.

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~Chop up some needles to make Pine Infused Vinegar. Simply fill a jar half full with the chopped needles and fill to the top with a good apple cider vinegar. It’s ready to use in about 3 weeks and will give a citrusy flavor to your vinegar. It’s great for sprinkling on meats, salads and beans.

~Harvest some needles to dry for adding to teas. Pine needle tea is delicious and full of vitamin C. Play around with adding dried needles to your favorite herbal tea recipes.

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~Pine needle syrup is also full of vitamin C and great for soothing coughs. Make a basic syrup by first making a tea from the needles and water. Steep it for 30 minutes then strain off the needles. Measure your liquid and add an equal amount of raw sugar. Bring it to a boil and gently simmer until it has reduced to about half the amount and thickened. Pour into a bottle and store in the fridge.

~Infuse some needles in oil. Place chopped needles in a jar with your favorite oil. Coconut oil, olive oil and grape seed oil all make great oils. Place the jar in a warm place for two weeks until the oil has been infused. Strain it off. You can turn this oil into a salve by adding a bit of beeswax to the oil (melt together in a double boiler). Generally I find 1 oz. of beeswax for every 8 oz. oil to be a good combination.

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~My friend Ananda Wilson of Amrita Aromatics makes the most delightful Fir needle elixir. She has the recipe for this plus many, many more ideas in this conifer filled post.

~Does your tree have long needles? Remove them from the branches and spread them to dry. Once they are dried, you can use them for making pine needle baskets. The Pine issue of Herbal Roots zine has instructions on how to do this. 

~Use your needles for cooking. The branches can be soaked in water and added to the roasting pan to give a citrusy flavor to your foods. My friend Lisa Rose of Burdock & Rose has a great write-up for culinary uses of various conifers on her website.

BONUS idea…

~After you have stripped the needles from the branches, bind a few branches together in bundles. Once they have dried, they make great fire starters.

If you had a cut tree in your house for the holidays, what ways have you found to recycle it? Leave us a comment!


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