Needle trees are once called as "Tree Of Life"
Christmas tree medicine
We all know the Christmas tree right? I mean, we know that people use needle trees such as spruce and fir as a decoration for Christmas. But do you know they are edible and medicinal? Not all but most of them are. Needle trees such as Spruce, Pine & Fir have a long tradition of use as a medicine by native people in many parts of the world. In this article, I am going to talk about Norway spruce.
Norway spruce, which is also known as European spruce, is a native tree to Europe. They are widely cultivated in Germany to be used as a décor tree for Christmas. Norway Spruce has a history of saving many lives in the past. The needles of this tree have been used to relief cough, flu, heal wound and most notably to fight scurvy.
What is Scurvy?
Scurvy is a disease caused by a deficiency of vitamin C, characterized by swollen gum, bleeding gum and the reoccurring of previously healed wounds. This disease has affected many poorly nourished sailors until the end of the 18th Century. Vitamin C is a very essential nutrient for our body. The human body by nature is not designed to synthesize vitamin C unlike the vitamin D, which can be made by our skin through the sunlight.
Therefore, we need to obtain vitamin C from food. Vitamin C is high in fresh fruits and veggies. There are two active forms of vitamin C: L-ascorbic acid and dehydroascorbic acid. Ascorbic acid is absorbed through our small intestine and stored in all tissues. A lack of vitamin C can be deadly, as we can read from the story of Captain James Cook and many other sailors, who had gone on long voyages in ships. Due to lack of fresh fruits and vegetables, this disease had taken a hold on them.
An estimated two million seamen died of scurvy during those years of sea exploration. Graciously, the needles of conifer tree have been introduced to Captain Cook and a tea made from spruce needles had brought a great relief to the dying sailors.
Why in colder climate we need more Vitamin C?
Vitamin C tend to deplete faster for those living in colder climate. This is because, vitamin C is used for energy production by the body. Vitamin C is used to manufacture an amino acid called 'Carnitine'. Carnitine is then used for burning fat and generating heat for our muscle.
Therefore, our human body need more vitamin C during the cold climate. In the past, people who exposed to harsh winter, became the easy victim of scurvy due to the lack of food high in vitamin C, as fresh fruits and veggies were not growing in that season. Fortunately, coniferous trees continued to grow around the year, including in winter, while all the other plants had gone dormant.
Evidence shows that certain cultures had withstand harsh winters by depending on coniferous forest for food, fiber and medicine. When crops are no longer growing in winter, people have used coniferous trees such as Norway spruce for vitamin, essential amino acids, antioxidants and other nutrients to combat many ailments, especially the scurvy.
The role of vitamin C in human body
The discovery of vitamins C played an important role in understanding human nutrition. The first symptoms of vitamin C deficiency occurs, when the total pool of vitamin C in the body falls below 5 grams.
The body need vitamin C for many important function such as to burn fat & carbohydrates, make stress hormones, neutralize free radicals, form collagen, absorb iron from food and for strengthening our immune system.
Symptoms of Vitamin C deficiency
Loss of hair
Loss of sensation on parts of leg (Femoral Neuropathy)
Peeing less (Oliguria)
Edema (especially in the lower extremities)
Poor responses to stimuli (loss of sensation)
Slow wound healing (due to capillary fragility)