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Medicinal Trees: Princesstree (Paulownia tomentosa), Bay Laurel (Persea) and Spruce (Picea)

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Location: Blue Ridge Mountains
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Paulownia tomentosa, Princesstree

Princesstree has been naturalized in my region. It is an interesting tree, traditionally used to make musical instruments and carvings used for gifts and associated with royalty in Asia. In the era before Styrofoam and bubble wrap, the seeds of the Princesstree were used as packing material. When one sees a Princesstree now, it is most likely growing in an area where the seeds fell from a train in the era when they were used for that purpose. The rail lines are mostly gone, but the trees remain.

Plants for A Future states:

A decoction of the leaves is used to wash foul ulcers and is also said to promote the growth of hair and prevent greying. The leaves are also poulticed onto bruises. The leaf juice is used in the treatment of warts. The flowers are used in the treatment of skin ailments. A tincture of the inner bark is used in the treatment of fevers and delirium. It is astringent and vermifuge.

Peterson Field Guides Eastern and Central Medicinal Plants tells us:

In China, a wash of the leaves in capsules was used in daily applications to promote the growth of hair and prevent greying. Leaf tea was used as a foot bath for swollen feet. Inner bark tincture soaked in two parts whiskey, given for fevers and delirium. Leaves or ground bark were fried in vinegar, poulticed and bruises. Flowers were mixed with other herbs to treat liver ailments. In Japan the leaf juice is used to treat warts. Warning: contains potentially toxic compounds.

Persea, Bay Laurel

Five varieties of Bay have been found useful in Herbal Medicine: Persea borbonia - Red Bay, Persea duthiei, Persea edulis, Persea gammieana, Persea villosa

Two Bays are native to my region: Persea borbonia (Redbay) and Persea palustris (Swampbay)

These are coastal trees that are somewhat shrubby. Their foliage is bright and shiny, and their scent is unmistakable. All the Bays are highly aromatic.

Plants for A Future states:

Medicinal use of Red Bay: Red bay was widely employed medicinally by the Seminole Indians who used it to treat a variety of complaints, but especially as an emetic and body cleanser. It is little, if at all, used in modern herbalism. The leaves are abortifacient, analgesic, antirheumatic, appetizer, emetic and febrifuge. An infusion can be used to abort a foetus up to the age of four months. An infusion is also used in treating fevers, headaches, diarrhoea, thirst, constipation, appetite loss and blocked urination. A strong decoction is emetic and was used as a body purification when treating a wide range of complaints. A decoction of the leaves is used externally as a wash on rheumatic joints and painful limbs.

Picea, Spruce

Sixteen varieties of Spruce have been found to be useful in Herbal Medicine: Picea abies - Norway Spruce, Picea asperata - Chinese Spruce, Picea brachytyla - Sargent Spruce, Picea breweriana - Weeping Spruce, Picea engelmannii - Mountain Spruce, Picea glauca - White Spruce, Picea glehnii - Sakhalin Spruce, Picea jezoensis - Yezo Spruce, Picea mariana - Black Spruce, Picea omorika - Serbian Spruce, Picea orientalis - Caucasian Spruce, Picea pungens - Blue Spruce, Picea purpurea - Purple-Coned Spruce, Picea rubens - Red Spruce, Picea sitchensis - Sitka Spruce, Picea smithiana - Morinda Spruce

Only Picea rubens (Red Spruce), is native to my region… which, at least saves me from having to discriminate between Caucasian Spruce, White Spruce, Chinese Spruce and Black Spruce… or saluting a tree as Sargent Spruce…botanical humor! Picea abies, Norway Spruce has been naturalized.

Spruce is particularly good medicine. It is astringent. Topically, it is good for wounds. Spruce stops bleeding and prevents infection. Both the needles and inner bark are used. The bark is astringent and stimulant. Spruce tightens tissue and stimulates blood flow. This allows blood to carry the congestion/inflammation out. It increases arterial blood to tissues, so they can heal. Spruce is also diuretic.

Herbalist, Michael Moore considered Spruce good for, “Chronic pharyngitis with thick tenacious mucus. Chronic bronchitis with profuse secretions. Heartburn with vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain. Prolapse of rectal mucosa. Asthenia with poor digestion, vascular weakness, pale mucosa.”

Dioscorides included an interesting recipe for Spruce wine in his Materia Medica:


Rosin from Spruce Firs, Pines — Rosin Wine

Rosin wine is made in many nations. It is abundant in Galatia because the grapes remain unripe because of the cold, and the wine grows sour if it is not mixed with Picea resina [spruce]. The rosin is pounded with the bark, and a quarter pint is mixed to nine gallons of wine; some strain it after it is boiled, taking away the rosin; others leave it alone. Growing old, these become sweet. They all cause headaches and vertigo, and yet are digestive and urinary. They are good for those with dripping mucus and coughs, for the abdominal cavity, dysentery, dropsy, and women's menstrual flows, and it is a syringe for deep ulcers. The black is more binding than the white.

Saint Hildegard von Bingen wrote:

Spruce pitch is very hot. It is healthful in drinking vessels. If maggots eat a person, place spruce pitch over the wound. It will draw the worms to itself, so that it is possible to pull them out and scrape them off. When they have been removed, place spruce pitch on the wound a second time, until the worms are completely gone. After the flesh has been purged of them, anoint the place with olive oil and other good ointments, and it will be healed.

Brother Aloysius wrote of Spruce:

In the spring, the young shoots covered with brown scales, are gathered and made into a tea to cleanse the blood; this tea is also useful for eczema, skin rashes and phlegm in the lungs. Boil 1 cup of dried, finely chopped shoots in 2 cups water; take 1 to 2 cups daily. For seminal discharge, take 3 teaspoons of powder from the finely ground, dried needles with red wine and a fresh egg.

Plants for A Future states:

Medicinal use of Red Spruce: A tea made from the boughs has been used in the treatment of colds and to "break out" measles. The pitch from the trunk has been used as a poultice on rheumatic joints, the chest and the stomach in order to relieve congestion and pain. A decoction of the bark has been used in the treatment of lung complaints and throat problems.

Sacred and Healing Herbal Beers says of Spruce:

Spruce has been traditionally used by indigenous peoples for coughs, colds, and flu as an infusion in sweat baths, and the inner bark has been applied to stubborn skin infections. They have also used it for kidney infections, much like juniper.

Peterson Field Guides Eastern and Central Medicinal Plants tells us:

Black spruce: American Indians poulticed inner bark on inflammations. Inner bark tea a folk medicine for kidney stones, stomach problems, rheumatism. Resin poulticed on sores to promote healing. Needles used to make beer that was drunk for scurvy.

Red spruce: American Indians used tea of boughs for colds and to break out measles. Pitch formally poulticed on rheumatic joints, chest, and stomach to relieve congestion in pain.

Botany In a Day states:

A tea of the shoots is expectorant and diaphoretic, ideal for coughs and bronchitis.

The Physicians’ Desk Reference for Herbal Medicine tells us:

Indications and usage spruce needle oil, approved by Commission E: common cold, cough/bronchitis, fevers and colds, inflammation of the mouth and pharynx, neuralgias, rheumatism, tendency to infection. The essential oil is used internally for catarrhal conditions of the respiratory tract. Externally it is used for catarrhal conditions of the respiratory tract, rheumatic and neuralgic pain. Unproven uses: for tension states. Spruce shoots fresh approved by Commission E: common cold, cough bronchitis, fevers and colds, inflammation of the mouth and pharynx, muscular and nerve pain, tendency to infection. The drug is used internally in respiratory tract catarrh and externally for muscle pains and neuralgia. Unproven uses: in folk medicine it is used internally for tuberculosis and externally as a bath additive for patients with neurological illnesses. Contraindications include bronchial asthma and whooping cough. Patients with extensive skin injuries, acute skin diseases, fevers or infectious diseases, cardiac insufficiency, or hypotonia should not use the drug as a bath additive. No health hazards or side effects are known in conjunction with the proper administration of designated therapeutic dosages, although bronchial spasm could be worsened.

This article is an excerpt from The Medicinal Trees of the American South, An Herbalist's Guide: by Judson Carroll

His New book is:

Read About:

Medicinal Ferns and Fern Allies, an Herbalist's Guide
Southern Appalachian Herbs: Medicinal Ferns and Fern Allies, an Herbalist's Guide (Medicinal Plants of The American Southeast)

Available for purchase on Amazon:

His new cookbook is:

Read About The Omnivore’s Guide to Home Cooking for Preppers, Homesteaders, Permaculture People and Everyone Else"


Available for purchase on Amazon:


His other works include:

Medicinal Shrubs and Woody Vines of The American Southeast An Herbalist's Guide
Read about Medicinal Shrubs and Woody Vines of The American Southeast An Herbalist's Guide: https://southernappalachianherbs.blogspot.com/2022/06/medicinal-shrubs-and-woody-vines-of.html

Available for purchase on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B2T4Y5L6

Growing Your Survival Herb Garden for Preppers, Homesteaders and Everyone Else

Read About Growing Your Survival Herb Garden for Preppers, Homesteaders and Everyone Else: http://southernappalachianherbs.blogspot.com/2022/04/growing-your-survival-herb-garden-for.html

Available for purchase on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09X4LYV9R

The Encyclopedia of Bitter Medicinal Herbs:


Available for purchase on Amazon:


Christian Medicine, History and Practice:


Available for purchase on Amazon: www.amazon.com/dp/B09P7RNCTB

Herbal Medicine for Preppers, Homesteaders and Permaculture People


Also available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09HMWXL25

Look Up: The Medicinal Trees of the American South, An Herbalist's Guide


The Herbs and Weeds of Fr. Johannes Künzle:


Author: Judson Carroll. Judson Carroll is an Herbalist from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

His weekly articles may be read at judsoncarroll.com

His weekly podcast may be heard at: www.spreaker.com/show/southern-appalachian-herbs

He offers free, weekly herb classes: https://rumble.com/c/c-618325


The information on this site is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease or condition. Nothing on this site has been evaluated or approved by the FDA. I am not a doctor. The US government does not recognize the practice of herbal medicine and their is no governing body regulating herbalists. Therefore, I'm just a guy who studies herbs. I am not offering any advice. I won't even claim that anything I write is accurate or true! I can tell you what herbs have "traditionally been used for." I can tell you my own experience and if I believe an herb helped me. I cannot, nor would I tell you to do the same. If you use any herb I, or anyone else, mentions you are treating yourself. You take full responsibility for your health. Humans are individuals and no two are identical. What works for me may not work for you. You may have an allergy, sensitivity or underlying condition that no one else shares and you don't even know about. Be careful with your health. By continuing to read my blog you agree to be responsible for yourself, do your own research, make your own choices and not to blame me for anything, ever.

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