We are all familiar with the therapeutic virtues of fir, pine, cedar or juniper. Less known are the medicinal uses of some other conifers, usually praised for their ornamental value, such as the beautiful larch, yew and thuja trees.
Larch (Larix decidua)
Due to its expectorant and astringent properties, a tincture made from its bark was traditionally used in the treatment of chronic bronchitis and internal hemorrhages. Larch is also known to possess antiseptic and diuretic properties, making it efficient for treating urinary infections. Some species contain arabinogalactan, a compound proven to have anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects.
Yew (Taxus baccata)
Its leaves are highly toxic, because of taxine alkaloid and taxicatine glycosid; that’s why nowadays they are rarely used, and with great precautions. Traditionally, yew was used, in small doses, for treating rheumatisms, epilepsy and other nervous system disorders, amygdalitis, and diphteria. In Japan, it was widely used for treating diabetes. In some parts of the world, yew was also used in cases of intestinal worms and typhoid fever. Recent studies have revealed that yew bark contains paclitaxel, a medication used in the treatment of a number of types of cancer including: ovarian cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer and pancreatic cancer.
Its leaves contain tannins and thuyone and have expectorant, emmenagogue, diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties. It is mostly used in the treatment of rheumatisms, condyloma, polypus, epithelioma, adenopathy, neurosis, but also in cases of cystitis, prostatic hypertrophy, urinary incontinence, intestinal worms and cancer.
Its chemical composition is almost similar to that of Thuja occidentalis: lignan, caryophyllene, pinene, pinipicrin (with analgesic and vasoconstrictive action), quercetin, tannins, and thuyone. Its leaves have antipyretic, astringent, diuretic, and emmenagogue properties and are used for treating catarrh, dysmenorrhea, menometrorrhagia, epistaxis, hematemesis, hematuria, gastric ulcer, duodenal ulcer, ulcerative colitis, and gonorrhea. Young leaves are indicated for the treatment of cough, rheumatism, dysenteria, and skin parasites. The seeds have sedative properties and are used in cases of insomnia, neurasthenia, and tachycardia. Traditionally, the seeds were also used for amnesia, anxiety, asthma, bronchitis, convulsions etc. The root bark was used for burns and scars.
Preparation and administration
- Infusion: Add 10 g of dried plant in 500 ml of hot boiled water and let steep for 20-30 minutes. Drink 2-3 cups a day.
- Decoction: Add 10 g of dried plant in 500 ml of water and boil for 5 minutes. Drink 2-3 cups a day.
- Tincture: Add 20 g of dried plant in 100 ml of alcohol 40% and let them macerate for 10-20 days. Take 20-40 drops a day in a glass of water.