From festive evergreens to showy holly and romantic mistletoe, did you know that these popular Christmas plants have medicinal uses too? Use these holiday plants to keep you merry and bright.
I am a trained herbalist with a degree in Complementary and Alternative Medicine, I am not, however, a doctor. Posts in this blog are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Before using any herbs, check for appropriate dosage, drug interactions, and contraindications. Information contained herein is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prescribe. Please consult your primary care physician regarding your specific health concerns.
The holiday season is a botanical wonderland. While herbalists have been filling their homes and workspaces with botanicals since time immemorial, it is during the holiday season that average folks cozy up to festive solstice or Christmas tree, swag the mantle with evergreens, hang mistletoe in conspicuous places, and find infinite uses for greenery and berries by way of wreath, centerpieces and bouquets. Plant lovers like myself hardly need an excuse to adorn our spaces with botanicals, but those certain Christmas plants make our holidays grand.
But did you know that some of our favorite Christmas plants are more than just pretty? Some holiday plants are actually medicinal. Here are a few to consider adding you both your home and your apothecary.
Keep your home happy & healthy with these medicinal Christmas plants
Fir (Abies species + Pseudotsuga menziesii): If you have been hanging ’round this blog long enough, you know that I have a thing for firs. The coniferous kinds. Particularly Douglas fir (which technically isn’t a fir), but I do find that my love extends to the greater fir family. These aromatic evergreens are perhaps the most ubiquitous of Christmas plants as they so often serve as our Christmas or solstice trees. Fir has a profound affinity for the respiratory system, opening airways and encouraging deep, lung filling breaths. Additionally, fir needles are extraordinarily high in vitamin C and other antioxidants which come to the aid of the immune system in this season of close quarters.
Fresh, budding fir tips collected in spring, or the more balsamic needles of winter are equally tasty and medicinal; use fir in teas and a variety of holiday treats like shortbreads, eggnog, and tarts. Rooted in both Christianity and pagan cultures, the fir tree is representative of stamina and perseverance.
Holly (Ilex aquifolium): Perhaps, like me, you grew up thinking this most festive Christmas plants was poisonous. While it is true that saponin-laden holly berries are relatively toxic and must be avoided, the dried leaves of this holiday plant actually have a long history in botanical medicine. While seldom used in western herbalism these days, dried holly leaves were traditionally used to reduce fevers, encourage a productive cough and expectoration, to alleviate pain associated with pleurisy and rheumatism, as well as to serve as a diuretic and an astringent to slow bleeding.
Holly has come to represent peace and joy in both pagan and Christian traditions — perhaps the reason we are invited to “deck the halls boughs of holly.”
Pine (Pinus species): Much like fellow evergreen fir, pine trees are ripe with health benefits. Spiky pine needles are a valuable source of vitamin C and antioxidants, and are a soothing expectorant. I particularly love using the sticky sap infused into oil to making all purpose healing salves.
Pine is also a flavorful food source, with the needles offering dishes are bright citrus flavor and the nourishing pine nuts within the characteristic cones are an excellent source of nutrition. While many of us consider this botanical among the Christmas plants, pine is celebrated by many Native American cultures as a symbol of longevity and wisdom.
Mistletoe (Viscum album): Another one the Christmas plants that has a reputation for be poisonous is mistletoe. Indeed the white berries of this parasitic plant are highly toxic, but the dried leaves are actually medicinal if used under the supervision of an experienced herbalist or naturopath. While generally speaking western herbalism considers mistletoe to be low therapeutic value (meaning that the herb has the potential for toxicity), this botanical offers anticonvulsant, antispasmodic, nervine, and cardiovascular action.
This popular Christmas plant is often hung above thresholds and doorways, inviting those under its boughs to kiss. Mistletoe was revered in ancient Druidic tradition, supposed to bring peace, love and protection to those that honored it.
NOTE: Women that are pregnant, nursing, or seeking to become pregnant should avoid this herb. Only European mistletoe (Viscum album) is considered medicinally valuable by most herbal traditions.
Juniper (Juniperus species): While one might not consider juniper among the Christmas plants, I find if often boughs of this botanical tied into garlands and swag, and its festively blue-silver berries adorning wreaths. This aromatic evergreen is one of my favorite herbs for infusing into oils for soothing chest rubs to banish wet heavy cough and congestion.
Juniper is associated with protection and fortune making it the perfect herb to usher in the new year.
Eucalyptus (Eucalytpus globulus): Perhaps another of these botanicals that may pass unnoticed beside flashier Christmas plants is the aromatic eucalyptus. Often used in arrangements and wreaths, eucalyptus offers a multitude of medicinal uses such as promoting expectoration, speeding healing and prevent putrefaction of wounds, combating fungal infection and normalizing blood pressure.
Considered a holy tree to the Aboriginal peoples of Australia, eucalyptus is associated with purity.
Spruce (Picea glauca): And finally, the stately spruce wraps up my list of Christmas plants and their medicinal uses. Much like pine and fir, spruce offers respiratory support, reduces pain and inflammation, repels insects, and soothes a fever. The needles are another great source of antioxidants and the young catkins are considers a survivial food.
Particularly revered in Scandinavian cultures, the spruce tree symbolizes endurance and courage.
Learn more about medicinal tree and shrubs here.