Wintertime is a rough time for most people due to the cold weather and shorter days, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't still go out, explore, and spend time in nature. As an earth worker and birth worker and running a family household, I definitely struggle with finding the time to get out there but I make sure to set aside the time. One of my favorite activities to do, year-round, is to ethically forage from local abundant plants and either make food, drinks, or self-care products for my family and friends. A wide variety of my hand-made wild crafted wellness products can be found in my shop.
This winter, I have been called to work with local plants like pine, cedar, bayberry, and wintergreen. It's funny to me how the plant world works because certain plants will speak out to be explored by curious minds. I am one of those curious minds and I hear the call. I have been doing this for years out of passion, but I have learned to identify much of the flora and fauna on Long Island. Once I correctly identify a species, I enjoy researching the medicinal benefits of the plants. If the stars align with the plants I have found and the benefits of them, then I work towards creating special ethically harvested products by hand. In ancient times, winter time was a period of hunting. On Long Island, we historically have always hunted a wide variety of fowl, large game such as deer, and small game such as rabbits.
To forage was quite difficult. We have a good amount of tree nuts which can be roasted or ground into flour. There are also many roots which can be boiled or roasted. These edibles are for another day, because we are going to discuss pine, cedar, bayberry and wintergreen. These plants are all aromatic and can be used for either topical uses, tinctures, or teas --- however, I cannot stress it enough that anything that will be ingested needs to be thoroughly researched and if planning to use it for medicinal purposes, please consult a medical professional. It is to be noted the majority of these plants are evergreens, and not suitable for consumption during pregnancy, however used for aromatherapy is to be considered safe. Pine is so abundant on Long Island, as we have our beautiful pine barrens which make up tens of thousands of acres.
Pine is very high in vitamin C, vitamin A, carotendoids, and functions as an antiseptic. Cedar is also high in vitamin C. Vitamin C is crucial for collagen production, building immunity, and increasing the body's ability to heal. Where as, carotenoids act as an antioxidant and fight free radicals in skin cells.
Both pine and cedar are beneficial for your skin. They have been used historically as teas as well to improve the immune system and circulation. Northern bayberry bush has been used for centuries to produce a delightful smelling wax from the berries to make candles. The leaves can also be used to substitute bay leaves that you may use to flavor soups and stews.
The bayberry plant does contain tannins so it is great for an astringent to keep your skin clean and healthy, but can lead to a less than delightful flavor if used too much in cooking. Wintergreen is a wonderful little creeping plant, a gem hiding on the forest floor. When the leaves are crushed a delicious minty aroma is released. Wintergreen can be used to make a tea, however it needs to be extracted in alcohol to obtain a strong flavor, which then can be used with a dropper to make a tea or minty beverage.
Wintergreen does contain menthol which has been documented to assist somewhat with topical pain relief and contributes to having antibacterial properties. It is for these reasons, my wild crafted wellness products use these plants only for topical use, however for those who are willing to be daring there are many uses to be explored!