Essential oil of the month - Black Spruce
Black Spruce (Picea mariana) is a coniferous evergreen tree native to Canada and the northeast of the United States. It thrives in cold, wet climates and is sometimes known as the 'Bog or Swamp Spruce' as it is usually found growing in boggy areas.
Black Spruce has been used by native Americans for thousands of years. They used it in ointments, salves and lotions for healing skin problems such as boils, burns, sores and wounds. They also used the resin as a chewing gum and smeared it on their skin to protect against insect bites.
Today the essential oil is extracted via steam distillation from the leaves and twigs which are normally harvested between January and April when the essential oil levels are at their highest. The branches that are exposed to the sun yield more oil than those that are shaded in the dense forest.
Black Spruce essential oil has a warm, sweet, fresh balsamic, slightly sweet coniferous aroma with fruity-resinous undertones. It smells similar to Fir or Pine, but is smoother, sweeter and milder than the other evergreen oils. Many think of Spruce as a winter or Christmas oil but its beautiful fresh-forest scent and wide array of healing properties make it useful all year round.
The oil is thought to have the following properties: analgesic, antibacterial, anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, disinfectant, expectorant, nervine, stimulant, stomachic and vulnerary therapeutic properties. It is especially beneficial for the endocrine glands.
In the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, Black Spruce is listed as being helpful for diarrhea, cystitis, gingivitis, uterine prolapse, and pharyngitis (sore throat).
In modern day aromatherapy the main uses of Black Spruce essential oil are as follows:-
Supporting the respiratory system
Black Spruce can be useful for soothing respiratory problems such as coughs, colds, flu, bronchitis, catarrh, sinus congestion, asthma and allergies. It helps open the airways and clear mucous and congestion and works particularly well in steam inhalations, diffuser blends, aromatherapy inhalers and chest rubs.
For helping prevent asthma attacks vaporise 3 drops Black Spruce, 3 Vetivert and 5 Marjoram.
For helping ease coughs, colds and congestion try regular inhalations with 2 drops Plai, 3 Black Spruce and 4 drops Tea Tree.
Or mix 7 drops Black Spruce, 8 drops Eucalyptus smithii and 5 drops Roman Chamomile into 100ml of fragrance-free cream or lotion and apply to the back and chest before bed. The same blend can also be used in a burner, diffuser or in the bath - the steam from the bath water will create an ‘inhalation’ effect.
Tip: Before using Black Spruce for a respiratory problem have a sniff of the oil from the bottle top. If it makes the chest feel tight or constricted it would be better to choose an alternative oil. If it makes the chest feel less tight, then it will be fine to use.
Easing muscle and joint pain
Black Spruce can help to ease muscle and joint pain, sprains, strains, swelling and muscular cramps and spasms. It is helpful for conditions such as arthritis, rheumatism and sciatica and its restorative effect makes it a good choice for those aches and pains when feeling ill. It is also good for poor circulation.
Try an aromatic bath with 15ml SLS Free Bath & Shower Gel mixed with 2 drops Black Spruce, 2 drops Vetivert and 6 drops Lavender.
Or make up a soothing massage gel with 75ml Aloe Vera & Seaweed Gel, 25ml Rosehip Seed Oil, 8 drops Black Spruce, 8 drops Plai and 4 drops of either Lime or Spearmint essential oil.
Easing anxiety, stress and fatigue
Like many of the resinous essences, Black Spruce is both calming and uplifting for the emotions making it helpful for stress, tension and anxiety, particularly when stress levels are persistently high. It also has a restorative effect that can help ‘spruce’ up energy levels when feeling sluggish. Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt, in his book 'Advanced Aromatherapy', indicates Black Spruce for strengthening and supporting the adrenal glands during periods of stress and fatigue. He states that it is particularly effective when blended with Pine essential oil - he recommends 5% Black Spruce and 5% Pine blended with Hazlenut Oil, applied regularly to the kidney area.
For anxiety and stress try regular massage with 25ml Sweet Almond Oil, 5ml St John's Wort Oil, 4 drops Sweet Orange, 3 drops Black Spruce and 8 drops Lavender.
Black Spruce can help ground the energies to aid a state of calm, balanced inner peace. It is a good oil to use during meditation or yoga practice to help you drop into the present moment and clear the mind of distracting thoughts.
Try vaporising 3 drops Black Spruce with 2 Frankincense and 5 Sweet Orange.
Caring for the skin
The oil can be useful for soothing skin conditions such as dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis and for calming outbreaks caused by hormone imbalance or stress. It can also help treat or prevent infection in wounds and sores.
Blends well with:
Cedarwood, Clary Sage, Fir, Galbanum, Lavender, Pine and Rosemary.
Black Spruce oil is very safe and non-irritant/sensitising to use when fresh, however if the oil is older – it can become irritating. It is safest kept in the fridge where it can be used for up to a year – otherwise it is best used for vaporising only after 6 months.
Disclaimer & Safety Advice