Herbal Wisdom - November 2015 - Santa Fe
By Tomas Enos and Erin Galiger
Let me touch
Like golden skin
Trembling then sighing
Just as mycelia perfume
Drifts from your neck
Of smooth white bark
You take me deep into the forest
To open the eternal Womb
(“Cancion de Gaia Desesperada”)
Have you been to the forest to smell the air?
It has changed.
The sweet, earthy aroma of falling leaves and fresh humus in symphony with the sealing off of tree barks make for a sensual experience this time of year. As the leaves release their green chlorophyll to the air and metamorphose into red, yellow, and orange it is our annual reminder how much we have in common with trees.
Bark also serves to photosynthesize sunlight during the spring and summer, while in the Fall it hardens and seals the outer “skin” for protection and immunity.
Place your nose into the undulating bark of a ponderosa pine. What do you smell? Vanilla? Butterscotch? Fresh baked bread?
Where the bark has small holes or broken branches is where you will see fresh resin, the golden liquid known in New Mexico as trementina. This precious exudate serves to protect the tree against insects and further degradation of the outer bark; without it the tree would die from exposure.
Trementina has a long history of use in our region by desert dwellers of all cultural backgrounds. The medicinal value is outstanding against pulmonary infections and skin irritations. The resin can be boiled in water for hours into a tea or better yet, dissolved in an alcohol base and taken in drops to clear out lung congestion. Mountain people are notorious for chewing on a small piece of trementina to allay sore throats or swollen gums.
Perhaps most well known as a topical remedy, trementina is blended into an oil base and then applied to skin eruptions, rashes, and areas of hyper pigmentation. I have found it to be somewhat heroic in cases of non-contact dermatitis when all else has failed.
In addition, trementina is legendary when melted over a fire and applied to micaceous clay pots to water seal them and protect them from chipping. The resulting sheen is dramatic enough but then add in the sweet resinous aroma while cooking frijoles over a wood stove and the experience is out of this world.
This same material is the base for Propolis, the sticky material bees use to seal their hives from water, cold air, and insects. Trementina categorically is antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial. It enhances immunity and increases our ability to fight off infections of all kinds.
When collecting trementina from our pine forests I look first around the base of the tree trunk for dried pieces that have fallen off the bark. I store the dried resin in a jar for future use; if you do melt it for any reason be sure to use a metal pot that is dedicated to that only, as it stays on hard after it dries.
Tomas Enos studied with Michael Moore in 1990 and then created Milagro Herbs. Erin Galiger has worked with herbs for 10 years. Their philosophy of health and healing is holistic and rooted in the ancient tradition of “Solar Living,” synchronizing our bodies according to the biological time clock, circadian rhythms, and seasonal patterns found on Earth. www.milagroherbs.com 419 Orchard Drive (off Paseo de Peralta next to Kakawa Chocolate House)