Beyond the basic precautions of good hygiene and spatial distancing, what other steps can you take to help make your immune system less vulnerable to COVID-19 and other illnesses?
Here’s one idea: Make your own evergreen tea, using the needles from white pine, balsam fir, cedar or spruce trees. The power of evergreen tea to boost immunity, overcome viruses, and promote respiratory health has been commonly known in many cultures for generations.
In addition to the physical benefits of evergreen tea, spending time outside collecting greens provides an opportunity to connect with the natural world. This has important benefits for psychological resilience in the face of frightening times.
It’s also a reminder that the health of the earth and that of humans are deeply intertwined.
Why evergreen tea is medicinal
Unlike synthetic pharmaceuticals, which often have a narrowly targeted mode of action, herbal medicines work in multifaceted and complex ways on the body. While there hasn’t yet been time for research to acknowledge a definitive effect on COVID-19, people have known for many generations about the immune-boosting benefits of various types of evergreen teas, including impacts on colds and flu.
Evergreen tea provides a plentiful dose of vitamin C, which is proven to have a beneficial effect in preventing and relieving symptoms of virus-induced respiratory infection, in addition to promoting general immunity to illness.
One early case demonstrating the impressive levels of vitamin C in evergreen tea happened in 1536, when explorer Jacques Cartier's crew were saved from scurvy in New England thanks to the knowledge of the area’s indigenous people.
How do herbal antivirals work?
Herbal antivirals don’t act like conventional antibiotics in terms of directly killing the pathogen. Instead, they inhibit viruses from attaching to human cell walls and inhibit the replication of any viruses that have already entered cells. This slows down the replication of the virus so that your immune system gains the power to heal the infection.
Other plants that show promise in the prevention and treatment of colds and flu include elderflower and yarrow, among many others.
In addition to their antiviral and immune-boosting properties, herbal medicines can also boost your health on many other levels. As just one example, white pine needle extract has demonstrated antioxidant, antimutagenic and antitumor effects on cells, offering benefits that extend beyond viral infections.
Tips for making evergreen tea
For the best taste, use the youngest and freshest needles located toward the tips of the branches.
As stated in the video above, do not bring the water to a boil, as this reduces the medicinal value of the tea, destroys vitamin C and causes the release of bitter-tasting terpenes.
A cautionary note
While most evergreens are safe, there are some trees that look like pines but botanically are not. These include Yew pine (Podocarpus macrophylla) and Norfolk Island pine (Araucana heterophylla). Plants of the yew genus (Taxus) are toxic and need to be avoided as well. However, the four species recommended in the video are easily identified as correct and safe to use.
Cedar, one of the trees described in the video above, contains a compound called thujone, which is medicinal in small amounts but unsafe in large amounts. Avoid drinking more than one cup per day if your tea is made primarily or entirely of cedar. However, the level of cedar consumption as described in the video does not warrant concern for the overconsumption of thujone.