Norway Spruce - Picea abies L.

Norway Spruce

Synonyms:  Spruce Fir
Scientific Name: Picea abies L.
Family: Conifers (Coniferae)


Habitat

In the extreme north and south of the globe, extensive belts of coniferous forest span large regions of the earth: the coniferous forests of Canada, Scandinavia, Russia, Siberia and Alaska, on the one hand, those of Chile, Tasmania and New Zealand on the other.



Constituents

Essential oils, resins and vitamin C.



Description

The spruce we know today are monotonous, oppressive forests of closely packed poles. This plantation forestry is currently practiced on 36 % of Germany's wooded area. In the past, Norway spruce was only found in a few specific areas in Central Europe, whereas today it is cultivated on an industrial scale because of its rapid growth and undemanding nature. On the ground beneath such closely packed trees there is usually practically no other plant growth. The constantly falling needles decay only very slowly and acidify the soil. Together with the lack of light under the trees, these conditions are unsuitable for most other plants. Such monocultures are also sensitive to environmental influences. In heavy storms the shallow-rooted trees offer practically no resistance to the wind and are blown down in large numbers. The cultivated spruce forests are also susceptible to massive attack by pests.

How different are the coniferous forests in our high mountain regions! The mighty giants exude a resinous, incense-like perfume and, with their imposing crowns, give the impression of a vast cathedral vault between which the sun sends its rays down to the earth. In the natural habitats in the low and high mountain ranges we find majestic spruces that can grow to a height of up to 164 ft/50 m. With their outstretched branches, hung with long beard lichens, they present an impressive appearance.



Uses

The uses of spruce are very similar to those of fir. The turpentine (resin) of both is a component of many ointments and oils which are traditionally used relieve aches and pains caused by muscle tension, blunt injuries, rheumatism and gout. Its best known use is as an alcohol-based liniment. Athletes and the convalescent alike welcome its refreshing, calming action. Rubbing the back and chest with essential oils or resins is traditional for relief of colds. Resinous scented baths made from spruce or fir branch extracts stimulate the circulation and have softening and support healthy breathing. Cough syrups, cough drops, honeys and jams are also made from the young shoots. Traditionally, spruce preparations were used not only for coughs but also dry, irritated skin, swellings and boils.



Interesting Facts

The spruce was once revered as protective tree. It symbolized the protecting female element and was a tree of life and mother tree. Spruces, as well as birches, were therefore often used for the tradition of the maypole. Today this is still the case in many villages of Baden W├╝rttemberg and some villages and towns in Bavaria. In shipbuilding the spruce provided the longest and best ships' masts. This use gained it a rather unusual tutelary god in ancient Greece. It was dedicated to the sea god Poseidon who was said to protect ships against storms by way of thanks for this dedication.

The wood of the mountain spruces growing in the low and high mountain regions is much firmer and more durable than that of the fast-growing plantation trees. This was no secret to the violin makers, who valued it highly as resonance wood for their instruments. Famous men such as Stradivari, Amati and Bergonzi often searched in the mountains for weeks until they found the right tree. In order to find the spruces that had grown slowly they knocked on the old trunks and listened to the sound they made.



The plant from another perspective

The connection of the conifers to warmth is expressed in their characteristic formation of essential oils and balsamic resins which permeate the needles, in particular. As the warming action is particularly marked in the conifer family we can speak of a warmth plant family. Others are the labiates (Labiatae), to which peppermint belongs, and the rutaceous plants (Rutaceae) which include the orange. The rutaceous plants are connected with the tropical warmth processes, the labiates with those of the temperate zones and the conifers with those of the cold climates. Even in the cool climate of the far north with its bright nights, its midnight sun and the excessively light summers, the conifers draw these cosmic warming powers into their organism to such an extent that essential oils and resins are formed. The different aromas of peppermint, orange and the dwarf pine tree, for example, are the expression of the special warmth qualities of each respective warmth plant family.

The essential oils of the different conifers have very specific relationships to the human being. Thus spruce is associated with respiratation while juniper, on the other hand, with the kidneys.



The plant in our products

Spruce is contained in: