Latin: Pseudotsuga menziesii
Parts Used: Leaves/needles
Taste/Energetics: Pungent, spicy, gently warming
Properties: Expectorant, antimicrobial, analgesic, immunostimulant, anxiolytic
Actions: Walk through any forest in the Northwest and you will see the majestic Douglas Fir. Because of its usefulness as a timber tree, much of the Old Growth was logged in the last 150 years. This is a conifer that grows easily and strongly in full sunshine as well as shade. It has a thick bark that makes it fire resistant. It is the tough perimeter tree that eventually makes way for more shade loving hemlock and cedar trees. My friend Tracy Sprauer calls the tree “Sun Pig” because of its tolerance and love of being in the open sun.
Douglas Fir has a long history is use by Coastal Native first peoples. It has been used for coughs, colds, rheumatic pain, for skin irritations and as a kidney and bladder tonic. Doug Fir has a complex array of volatile oils that give it its distinct uplifting almost citrusy smell. It can be used for steam inhalation for bronchial infections with a nagging cough. It has immune stimulating properties and its resin can be used straight on cuts, critter bites and bruises. Resin itself can be made into incense as well as added to salves and oils for skin healing properties. The smell itself its quite uplifting and relaxing and the essential oil can be used as aromatherapy in salves, lotions and bath salts for good effect.
Perhaps the best effect for mental health is simply walking through a forest filled with Douglas Fir. Since my father moved down here to Portland we have spent many days hiking through nearby parks filled with Fir. Through our walks we have grown closer and share more deeply with each other. In Japan the term for the anxiety and depression reducing practice of spending time in the forest is known as Shinrin Yoku- Meaning “Forest Bathing.” Plant based therapies come in many forms and spending time with friends and family amongst Douglas Fir’s hanging bows and heady aroma is one of the best.
Dosage: 2-3 tsp decocted in pint of water for 40 minutes. Also standard usage as essential oil/hydrosol.
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Douglas Fir monograph by Renee Davis