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8 forms of capital active hope agroecology agroforestry alder buckthorn Amazon anxiety apples arthritis back yard beans Bec Hellouin beech tree bees beneficial berries biochar biodigester biodiversity blackberries blackthorn book review brain brassica cage budget build building campesino capital card deck Celtic festivals change changes chemical-free chickens christmas circular clay pot cleansers cleansing milks climate change climate emergency climate grief climate solutions climbers climbing cob comfrey community compost compost teas connection consciousness conservation container cooking coppice coppicing cordial cosmology courgettes crafts crisis crop protection Cross Quarter Festival cultural emergence culture cut flowers cycles degraded design diary diversity DIY do it yourself dryland earth care Earth's energy ecoculture economics ecopoetry ecosystem ecosystem restoration camps ecosystems edges edible edible flowers education efficiency elder elderflowers elements elixir energy equinox ethics face mask fair shares Fairtrade farming feedback feminine ferns figs film firewood floristry flower essence flower garden flowers food food forest food garden footbath forage foraging forest garden forest gardening forests fruit fruit leather fruit trees fungi future future care gardening garlic gift economy gin Give Nature a voice Glennie Kindred global poverty glut grapes greenhouse grief groundcover grow grow food grow your own growing guilds habitat habits handcream harvest harvests hawthorn hazel hazelnut healing shrubs healing trees health healthy soil heart health hedgerow hedging herbal herbal remedies herbal teas herbalist herbs holistic holistic planned grazing home homeless homemade wine homestead hope Hugelkultur humanure hummus hungry gap IBC tanks Imbolc incense increase yields Indigenous inexpensive influence inspiration International Womens Day jam keyline kitchen garden lacto-fermentation Lammas land landscape landscapes life lifestyle limeflowers livelihood livestock living labs logs Looby Macnamara lotion low cost low-impact Lush Spring Prize macerations Manda Scott Mangwende Orphan Care Trust market garden market gardening marmalade marshmallow mass heater meadowsweet medicinal microbes microfarm Midwest Permaculture mimic mindset mitigation money Morag Gamble moringa Mother Earth mulch multifunctional mushrooms native plants natural natural building natural fertiliser natural skincare natural swimming pool nature nature connection nitrogen no dig no waste no-dig novel November nutrition nuts observe oca October off-grid oil cleansing orchard orchards organic organic flowers organic gardening outdoor shower oven oxymel oyster pallets pasture-fed patterns people people care peoplecare perennials permaculture permaculture design permaculture magazine award permaculutre permayouth pesto pests philippines pine tree pips pizza oven plant profile plants pollinators pollution polyculture polycultures preserving principles propagating protection pruning prunings psycho-spiritual awareness psychospiritual transformation rainforest rainwater raspberries recipe recipes reduce reed beds regeneration regenerative regenerative agriculture relative location relative matter remedy renewable renewable energy resources restoration reuse revolution rhythms rootstock rootstocks roundhouse roundwood runner beans sage salad salads salve Samhain schools Scotland scotts pine seasonal seasons seeds selfcare Sepp Holzer september septic tanks sewage treatment shade shamanism sheet mulching shrubs skincare sloes slugs small solutions small-scale smallholding social justice soil health solar solutions sowing spiritual spring squash stacking functions stock-free straw straw bale summer sustainable Sweet Bay syntropic systems temperate terraces thistles thrutopia timber timber framing tincture tonic toolkit tools transformation trees upcycle urban urban gardening veg garden vegan veganic vermicomposting vinegar walnuts waste water water cleansing watering weeds wellbeing wetland wild edges wild food wild garlic wildflower wildlife wine recipes wings winter winter greens winter salads wood stove woodburner woodland woodland management woodlands worms yarrow year round year-round food yield young people youth zai pits zone 00 zoning

Topics

8 forms of capital active hope agroecology agroforestry alder buckthorn Amazon anxiety apples arthritis back yard beans Bec Hellouin beech tree bees beneficial berries biochar biodigester biodiversity blackberries blackthorn book review brain brassica cage budget build building campesino capital card deck Celtic festivals change changes chemical-free chickens christmas circular clay pot cleansers cleansing milks climate change climate emergency climate grief climate solutions climbers climbing cob comfrey community compost compost teas connection consciousness conservation container cooking coppice coppicing cordial cosmology courgettes crafts crisis crop protection Cross Quarter Festival cultural emergence culture cut flowers cycles degraded design diary diversity DIY do it yourself dryland earth care Earth's energy ecoculture economics ecopoetry ecosystem ecosystem restoration camps ecosystems edges edible edible flowers education efficiency elder elderflowers elements elixir energy equinox ethics face mask fair shares Fairtrade farming feedback feminine ferns figs film firewood floristry flower essence flower garden flowers food food forest food garden footbath forage foraging forest garden forest gardening forests fruit fruit leather fruit trees fungi future future care gardening garlic gift economy gin Give Nature a voice Glennie Kindred global poverty glut grapes greenhouse grief groundcover grow grow food grow your own growing guilds habitat habits handcream harvest harvests hawthorn hazel hazelnut healing shrubs healing trees health healthy soil heart health hedgerow hedging herbal herbal remedies herbal teas herbalist herbs holistic holistic planned grazing home homeless homemade wine homestead hope Hugelkultur humanure hummus hungry gap IBC tanks Imbolc incense increase yields Indigenous inexpensive influence inspiration International Womens Day jam keyline kitchen garden lacto-fermentation Lammas land landscape landscapes life lifestyle limeflowers livelihood livestock living labs logs Looby Macnamara lotion low cost low-impact Lush Spring Prize macerations Manda Scott Mangwende Orphan Care Trust market garden market gardening marmalade marshmallow mass heater meadowsweet medicinal microbes microfarm Midwest Permaculture mimic mindset mitigation money Morag Gamble moringa Mother Earth mulch multifunctional mushrooms native plants natural natural building natural fertiliser natural skincare natural swimming pool nature nature connection nitrogen no dig no waste no-dig novel November nutrition nuts observe oca October off-grid oil cleansing orchard orchards organic organic flowers organic gardening outdoor shower oven oxymel oyster pallets pasture-fed patterns people people care peoplecare perennials permaculture permaculture design permaculture magazine award permaculutre permayouth pesto pests philippines pine tree pips pizza oven plant profile plants pollinators pollution polyculture polycultures preserving principles propagating protection pruning prunings psycho-spiritual awareness psychospiritual transformation rainforest rainwater raspberries recipe recipes reduce reed beds regeneration regenerative regenerative agriculture relative location relative matter remedy renewable renewable energy resources restoration reuse revolution rhythms rootstock rootstocks roundhouse roundwood runner beans sage salad salads salve Samhain schools Scotland scotts pine seasonal seasons seeds selfcare Sepp Holzer september septic tanks sewage treatment shade shamanism sheet mulching shrubs skincare sloes slugs small solutions small-scale smallholding social justice soil health solar solutions sowing spiritual spring squash stacking functions stock-free straw straw bale summer sustainable Sweet Bay syntropic systems temperate terraces thistles thrutopia timber timber framing tincture tonic toolkit tools transformation trees upcycle urban urban gardening veg garden vegan veganic vermicomposting vinegar walnuts waste water water cleansing watering weeds wellbeing wetland wild edges wild food wild garlic wildflower wildlife wine recipes wings winter winter greens winter salads wood stove woodburner woodland woodland management woodlands worms yarrow year round year-round food yield young people youth zai pits zone 00 zoning

Healing Trees: Douglas Fir

Anne Stobart, medical herbalist and forest gardener, shares the healing properties of douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and how to make fir shoot vinegar for colds and flu.

Latin name Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco.
Family Pinaceae
Habit Very large tree
Hardiness USDA zones 3-6 | UK zone 7 
Parts used Bark/leaves/resin
Harvest time Young needles in June-August, bark all year

A large North American conifer with aromatic needles and bark offering much help in respiratory complaints.

Douglas fir is a tall conical-shaped evergreen conifer growing with a single trunk fast up to 60m tall and 10m wide. Red-brown buds produce fragrant soft dark green flat leaves with two white bands beneath. Female cones, 7-10cm long, are produced from March to May and ripen September to November. The cones are recognisable by their three-pronged bracts (like a mouse back legs and tail). Seed is produced from trees of 10 years or older.

Habitat/Origin 
Western North America, from Mexico to the Canadian Rockies, from sea level to mountains. Now widely planted as a forestry timber tree. 

Herbal actions
Needles and bark are anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, expectorant, diuretic, antiseptic, antifungal, antiviral, immunomodulating, astringent. The resin is antiseptic.

Traditional use
Most parts of the Douglas fir were used by native North Americans for a wide range of complaints including coughs, colds, rheumatism and bladder problems. 

Indications and research
Douglas fir is an excellent remedy for respiratory ailments from colds to coughs and bronchitis. It provides a gargle for a sore throat and mouth ulcers. Research evidence is somewhat limited. Based on other studies of essential oils in conifers, the active components, such as pinenes and terpinolene, have been shown to have antimicrobial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects.

Active constituents
Cones, needles, bark and resin contain monoterpenes including alpha- and beta-pinenes, sabinene, alpha-terpinolene, alpha-terpineol.

Parts used
Bark, leaves, resin

When to harvest
The young needle shoots can be harvested from spring to mid­summer, the mature needles at any time. A study found that terpenes increased significantly in concentration from mid-June to early August. Bark can be harvested year-round and dried for later use. The green bark of young trees is laden with blisters full of sticky resin. 

Sample preparation and dosage
Infusion of needles, a handful of fresh needles per cup of boiling hot water 15 min.
Steam inhalation of needles or resin.
Infusion of needles in oil, honey, vinegar, brandy.

Safety 
Take care when handling the trunk or bark as the resin is very sticky, remove it with alcohol or oil. 

Related plants
Although called a fir, the Douglas fir is a pine and not part of the Abies genus. 

Cultivation
The Douglas fir does best in full sun and acid, moist, well-drained soil. It can tolerate some shade and the soil can be poor or fertile, but it does not grow in chalky or waterlogged soils. Slow growing when young but can then increase at over 1m per year.

Further uses
A valuable timber tree. Young ­needles are edible and rich in vitamin C. Incense.

Cautions
Resistant to honey fungus, young growth can be damaged by late frosts. Fast growth means that branches are liable to break in wind and so this tree is not ideal to plant near buildings and fences.

Recipe – Douglas fir vinegar

2 cups Douglas fir shoots
500ml apple cider vinegar

Place the shoots in a jar and cover with the vinegar, weigh down the needles to keep submerged. Infuse for 4-6 weeks, strain and bottle. Add to hot water with spices and honey for a drink for colds and flu.

This is an extract from Anne Stobart’s Trees and Shrubs that Heal

Further Resources

Watch

The Medicinal Forest Garden

Books

Trees and Shrubs that Heal
by Anne Stobart

The Medicinal Forest Garden
by Anne Stobart

Trees for Gardens, Orchards and Permaculture
by Martin Crawford

Articles

Healing Shrubs: Raspberries

Restoring Diverse Edible and Medicinal Forests

Drying Herbs & Herbal Recipes with Glennie Kindred

About the Author

Anne Stobart is a medical herbalist and herb grower based in Devon, UK.

She is the author of The Medicinal Forest Garden Handbook and runs various medicinal courses.