No matter how many times it happens, I’m still amazed every time I recognize a powerful herbal ally right in my own yard. This fall, it was Douglas-fir who finally caught my attention. His antiseptic, invigorating properties helped kick a nasty little cold out of my household just in time for the holidays.
To be fair, I have been aware of Douglas-fir’s strong, protective presence in my life for a few years now. His thick bark and sturdy nature have helped me handle the amazing roar of energy that flows past my front yard every day. I live on a very busy street, and a central emergency route at that. When I close my eyes and let myself feel my environment, it’s like touching a raging river most of the time. Even in the middle of the night, when a whole five minutes can pass between cars out front, the energy flows. Just when it seems to be settling down, around about 5 a.m., the early-birds stir it back up. Truly, it’s not a peaceful street. Douglas-fir’s thick skin, so to speak, has been both protective and instructive for my most sensitive self. I’ve been grateful.
Until this fall, however, I hadn’t given Douglas-fir’s skills much thought when colds or flus struck my home. Nor had I considered the potential power he offers in fending off potential illness or in staying healthy and happy through our cold, damp winters. This fall, I tried a simple tea of Douglas-fir needles, kindly offered up by my friend in the for of a small fallen branch. It wasn’t at all what I expected…it was gooood! It was light and warming, mildly invigorating, and definitely comforting. Best of all, it gave my man exactly what he needed to fight off an impending cold. My boy, well, he chugged his cuppa almost without tasting it. The next day, despite his claims that the tea hadn’t helped, he seemed to be kicking the cold out of his system, too. At least he had more energy and seemed of better spirits overall.
After trying that tea, I looked a little deeper into Douglas-fir’s mysteries. I discovered that for sensitive, creative people like me, Douglas-fir is a pure genius. The protective aspects of his bark are just the beginning. An old native story from this area explains the nature of Douglas-fir’s protection in terms of shelter. The cones of Douglas-fir have what look like tails on the end of each scale. That’s because a very long time ago Douglas-fir offered protection to a family of wee field mice when a Big, Scary bird flew overhead. They crawled inside his cones to hide, and to this day you can still see those wee tails sticking out.
That generous warrior aspect of Douglas-fir shows up in the many medicines he offers to us—his needles make a healing, nutritive tea, his bark makes an antiseptic and warming decoction, and even his pitch is healthful and antiseptic in nature. All parts of Douglas-fir have been used in both ancient and modern herbal medicine.
Beyond that, his wood and pitch have been used for building and sealing for centuries. He’s the first one to start the work of rebuilding after a forest fire, including preparing the ground for those who come next, too. He gives without exhausting himself. He withstands whatever heat comes his way, then in the charred remains he finds what he needs to grow. As one who is both creative and sensitive, the world can be overwhelming and frustrating…a lot of the time, actually. The lessons of Douglas-fir, protection and developing a thick skin, practicality in daily life coupled with adaptation when necessary, generosity coupled with zeal for life and the ability to find exactly what’s needed in any situation, are exactly those that can help me be me without compromise and without suffering. Pure genius.
Douglas-fir projects you might like to try:
- Tea to prevent or fend off illness or increase your energy (pair with sage, cayenne, and orange peel)
- Salve to warm sore muscles and reduce pain
- Balm to build that protective, thick skin, particularly for use in crowds or overstimulating situations (include a little Saint John’s Wort for added protection)
- Incense for fertility, particularly for stirring the male fires (include a little ginger root to help ground the energy)