Did you know that trees that you may see everyday have been used as medicines for centuries….
Common Irish Tree Medicines
Birch (Betula alba): Birch is a great Spring tonic as it is excellent for detoxification. It is said to reduce cellulite and decrease fluid retention. It is a common addition to many beauty formulas for women. It can be taken as a tea, tincture or applied topically in oil.
Elder (Sambucus nigra): The berries and the flowers are useful for respiratory health and the immune system. We also use Elder for treating allergies, eczema and viruses. It can be taken in tincture or infusion (tea).
Hawthorn (Crateaugus sp.): Also known as the May tree as it blossoms on May – you can see these white blossoms everywhere right now. Hawthorn berries, leaves and blossoms are used in herbalism. They are full of anti-oxidants and flavanoids and are renowned for being a heart and circulatory tonic. Hawthorn may also be beneficial for reducing cholesterol. Take as a tea or tincture.
Horse-Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum): Although not native to Ireland this is a very common tree here. Horse-chestnut is used topically to treat haemorrhoids and varicose veins. It is also used internally for these conditions but in very small quantities and for short duration due to its highly astringent (drying) qualities which can be detrimental to the digestive tract. (Part used: seed extract). Take as a tincture, in homeopathic form or as a cream (haemorrhoids & varicose veins)
Oak (Quercus robur): commonly used for dental caries. Oak bark tincture or infusion is an excellent addition to any mouth wash as it tightens and strengthens the gums and teeth. Oak is also useful in gastroenteritis. Oak is very mineralising & astringent.
Trees from the world
Cedar (Thuja occidentalis ): Native to Canada & North America. An excellent remedy for warts, moles, skin tags and skin cancers when applied topically. Traditionally it was used to induce labour. (Part used: Leaves and twigs of young trees)
Cramp Bark (Viburnum opulus): Native to North America. Used in herbalism as an anti-spasmodic, excellent for dysmenorrhea in combination with other herbs.
Jamaican Dogwood (Piscidia erythrina): This West Indies native is used for a myriad of problems most notably insomnia. It is also useful for pain, anxiety, nervous tension, acne, uterine disorders, hysteria and neuralgias like sciatica, toothaches, and migraines. Parts used: root bark. Available as a tincture.
Lime tree (Tilia europaea): The flowers, leaves and buds of the Lime tree are used in herbalism. Tilia is used as a mild sleep tonic (sedative) and is excellent for children with “too much energy”. Tilia is calming to the nervous and digestive systems. It is also used to treat restlessness. Available as a tincture & tea.
Neem (Azadirachta indica): Native to India. An excellent anti-parasitic, blood sugar regulator, insecticide, mouthwash, liver tonic, immune tonic and much more… Neem has a long history of use in Ayurvedic Medicine (Part used: Bark, Seeds, Roots & Leaves)
Olive leaf (Olea europa): The olive tree has many uses… Food, oil, medicines, wood! In the mediterranean it is a highly prized tree. The leaf extract is commonly used to assist the immune system due to its antimicrobial actions. It is also used in the treatment of arthritis, cardiovascular disease, gout, high blood pressure and much more. Available as a tincture.
Slippery elm (Ulmus fulva): Native to North America. A great demulcent for the gastrointestinal tract. This is such a soothing remedy for the mucous membranes of the body. Useful for all sorts of inflammatory conditions, including IBS, sore throats and UTIs. (Part used: Inner bark)
Wild Cherry (Prunus serotina): Native to North America & Canada. A brilliant remedy for coughs and also for histamine reactions, such as insect bites. (Part used: Bark)
Other notable medicine trees: the Pepper tree; Eucalyptus; Pine and Cinnamon
Some of the trees listed can be seen commonly in Ireland (Oak, Elder, Birch, Hawthorn, Horse chestnut, Olive & Cedar).
If you’re a tree enthusiast I highly recommend Fota House Arboretum in Cork. It has a great and diverse range of trees from around the world – many medicinal ones there too.
About the Author
YVETTE SHERIDAN BHSC (NAT), B. COMM
Yvette has been practicing herbal medicine for over 10 years. Read more here