Black Spruce is a coniferous evergreen tree, native to northern North America, from Newfoundland west to Alaska, in a geographical region known as the taiga forest. Common names include ‘Bog spruce’ and ‘Swamp Spruce’ as Black Spruce forests develop most successfully in peat bogs and swamps, on soils naturally poor in nutrients.
It is a small up-right, slow growing tree (up to 25 m), with a narrow trunk, four sided dark blue-green needles and a thin bark. The fruits are small purple cones turning brown to dark grey at maturity. They are gathered in thick clusters in the upper crown of the trees and persist for several years protecting the seeds within.
The tree is bad at ‘self-pruning’ and will keep its lower dead branches for years.
Its root system is shallow and spreads widely in the first 15 cm of organic soil.
Ground wildfires are frequent in Black Spruce forests, easily fed by the lichen that grows on the dead branches at ground level, and prevent the development of uneven aged forests. The trees are easily killed because of their shallow root system and their thin bark. The species survive thanks to the post fire adaptations of delayed seed fall and delayed germination. Following a fire, seeds are released in large numbers, germinate and establish to form a new even aged forest. It will take 10 years for the young trees to produce new cones and guarantee the survival of the forest.
Similar essential oil-bearing species include:
Due to the small diameter of its trunk, black spruce has rarely been used for its timber. It has been used traditionally in Canada for pulpwood and as such is still widely commercialised.
The trees were also commonly used as Christmas trees although they have become a lot less popular due to the fact that they lose their needles as soon as they have been fell.
The essential oil of Black Spruce is steam-distilled from the needles and twigs of the Canadian Black Spruce tree, Picea mariana, also known as Abies nigra, Abies mariana, Picea nigra, Pinus nigra.
Black Spruce essential oil has a fresh-balsamic, oily-sweet coniferous aroma, with a fruity-resinous undertone.
The effect of the fragrance is calming, clearing and elevating - a excellent essential oil for aerial dispersion and to enhance yoga and meditation.
In terms of its chemical constituents, the essential oil is rich in monoterpenes including alpha- and beta-pinene, delta-3-carene, camphene, l-alpha-phellandrene; and esters including bornyl acetate.
Reported to be analgesic, counterirritant, stimulant and vulnerary, decoctions of Black Spruce were a traditional North American folk remedy for cough, catarrh, dyspnoea, sore throat, rheumatic pain, arthritis, dyspepsia, boils, abrasions and minor wounds.
Like essential oil of Pinus sylvestris, Picea mariana is commonly used in the treatment of respiratory conditions such as catarrhal coughs, bronchitis and asthma, for its mildly expectorant and antitussive properties. Here it may be employed as an inhalant or as part of chest rub formula.
It may also be used for problems of a musculoskeletal nature such as tired, achy muscles, stiff and painful joints, and osteoarthritis.
The fact that essential oil of Picea mariana is rich in the monterpenes a- and b-pinene and d-3-carene has meant that the oil has often been recommended for restoring depleted and overworked adrenal glands. In terms of Oriental medicine, this reflects its ability to strengthen deficient Kidney-Qi, characterized by chronic fatigue, lower back pain and poor sexual vitality.
Black Spruce essential oil may be considered wherever there is poor self-confidence, low morale, melancholy and a negative outlook.
Black Spruce will blend with all the fresh and pungent oils such as eucalyptus, rosemary, tea tree, rosalina, fragonia, frankincense. With its sweet floral undertone, black spruce will play as a middle note holding the blend together to ensure it provides a long lasting aroma.
It will also blend well with some of the citrus oils such as lemon and bergamot so useful for any catarrhal or asthmatic complaints.