Using herbs for winter baths is one of my favorite cold weather rituals. There will come a day in February when one is low in energy and craving a sensual experience that enlivens your very soul. When it comes to formulating a bath mixture I am all about letting instinct and aesthetics guide my hand. There are no measurements or proportions. Let the time of day, month, weather, and your garden whisper instructions as to what you need to harvest and how much. Feel free to add in essential oils. Though if you choose the right fresh plants you won’t have too. Good choices are mint, rosemary, hyssop, horehound, thyme, or lemon balm. Anything in the mint family or with aromatic/volatile oils
I used to think that wild fires happened in late summer. We have had several grass fires this late winter and early spring. Fueled by high winds that also brought down several tall spruce trees in our neighborhood. Never to let anything go to waste, I harvested a big basket of spruce boughs. After stripping the needles I ground them up with epsom salts in my food processor. When added to a bath they release the volatile oils that soothe the lungs, tired muscles, and the sprit. An inexpensive, easy, and lovely addition to to my fire victim care packages.
I recommend that you harvest only pine, fir, or spruce when making medicine or food. Some species of conifers could be toxic when consumed internally. It is best to use a field guide for identifying trees so I will not attempt the botany and descriptions in this post. Conifers have needles instead of leaves, “cones instead of flowers”, resins, and highly aromatic essential oils.
Those conifers with a historical use as medicine tend to be similar in their properties and uses. You will find them in syrups for cough, laryngitis and flu. An infusion can be made for indigestion and fever. As a bath they promote sweating and sooth aching muscles. A liniment can be used for arthritis, sciatica, and rheumatism. Steam inhalation can be helpful for congestion and sinus infections. Ointments and poultices have a history of treating wounds, eczema, boils, acne, and splinters. Tips are particularly high in vitamin C and have been used for blot clots and scurvy.
Contraindications. Use sparingly. Avoid if you have issues with your kidneys. Contact dermatitis may result from contact with the bark or pitch.
In years past I have used fir tips in a tincture and simple syrup. They make fantastic pickles, similar to capers in dishes that include wild salmon as a main ingredient. I have a jar that is two years old. They seem to last quite awhile if refrigerated.