We all know about the holiday tradition of bringing an evergreen tree inside the house. A decorated tree is beautiful—and transports the aroma of Nature right into your living room.
But even if you don’t bring a live tree into your home, you can still enjoy all the season has to offer—by bathing in Nature’s sights and scents with a walk through a forest, or even infusing certain essential oils.
In fact, the essential oils found in fir and pine trees can actually fumigate and sanitize your house. What a great, natural bonus if you have visitors during the holiday season!
So, let’s take a closer look at the many health benefits this “Christmas tree secret” has to offer—and how you can take advantage of them…
The amazing power of airborne fir and pine oils
A recent research review found that fir and pine essential oils—like the ones found in your Christmas tree—have antifungal properties.1 And another recent study from Austria found that fir essential oils can not only remove airborne fungi, but also bacteria.2
The researchers dispersed silver fir essential oil into the air of a 1,227-bed hospital in Austria. Two hours later, bacterial concentrations in the air were reduced by a whopping 40 percent. And the fungi reductions were even more impressive—up to 60 percent.
Silver fir oil has long been known to have antioxidant properties that neutralize harmful chemicals in the air. Research shows this property helps support the respiratory system—and can even soothe muscles.3
Ways to spruce up your home
Of course, you can breathe in fir and pine essential oils directly from your holiday tree. But there are other options to get the health benefits of these oils. Here are some of my favorites:
Aromatherapy diffusers waft essential oils throughout your home. One of my favorite holiday essential oil blends includes 10 drops of frankincense oil, 10 drops of cedarwood oil, and 4 drops of fir needle oil.
You can also make your own diffuser by placing drops of essential plant oils into a glass or ceramic vessel that’s warmed with a votive candle or a low-wattage lightbulb (this type of diffuser is often sold as a kit).
Wax melts can also be infused with essential oils. In a saucepan, melt natural beeswax. Stir in about 100 drops of essential oil, pour the mixture into a cupcake mold and let cool.
Once solidified, you can then take out the individual wax “cakes,” place them in a fireproof, decorative container, and heat them up with a votive candle or 25-watt lightbulb.
Personal care products like organic soaps can contain essential oils from evergreens such as balsam pine, black spruce, and silver fir.
(My daughter uses these natural oils in her “Foggy Morning Pine,” “A Walk in the Woods,” and “Pine Forest” soaps and other products she sells through her Cozzi Family Farm Co-op Market. You can follow her page on Facebook: www.facebook.com/CozziFamily.)
Cleaning products have long used naturally antibacterial pine oils. But you want to avoid chemical-based concoctions like Pine-Sol® and make your own instead.
Start with a base of water plus white vinegar, add in essential oil(s), and mix thoroughly in a spray bottle. A good ratio is 1 cup of distilled water, 1 cup of white vinegar, 10 drops of essential pine oil, and 10 drops of another natural antibacterial oil like citrus oil or bergamot.
Make tea or infusions. All pine needles are edible. Black spruce, white fir, and Douglas fir are particularly tasty—and naturally sweet. (Note: There are many other evergreens that aren’t edible, so only use members of the pine family.)
You can make pine teas by placing the needles in a tea strainer or infuser, and steeping them for a couple minutes. You’ll find that your tea is naturally sweet, without any need for sugar or honey. And you’ll be drinking in, as well as breathing in, all of the health benefits of the natural plant oils.
You can also make natural infusions by adding pine needles or small pine branches to alcohol, or to a combination of olive oil and vinegar. Then, the alcohol infusion can be used to create a festive cocktail—and the oil and vinegar infusion can be used for a tasty marinade (see page 6) or salad dressing.
Getting the benefits of pine oil “au naturel”
Of course, the tradition of the Christmas tree (tannenbaum) started in central Europe, where evergreens grow high in the Alpine regions.
When Queen Victoria of England married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (modern-day Germany) in 1840, he began introducing European traditions such as Christmas trees and gingerbread to England. These traditions quickly spread to the U.S.
Germany was also a center of the “nature cure” tradition in the 1800s, which involved being outside among the trees and water, and breathing in plenty of fresh air. Learning to observe and appreciate the subtle (and not-so-subtle) cues of Nature is good for your health—both mind and body.
As you know, I always recommend getting out in Nature for some moderate exercise. You can even take advantage of a growing health and meditative practice called forest bathing.
How to immerse yourself in the pines
As I wrote in the March 2020 issue, forest bathing takes immersion in and appreciation of Nature to the next level.
This practice isn’t really new…or as risqué as it may sound. It’s actually a mindfulness practice that is dated back to 6th century Japan. And most people do it mostly with their clothes on (especially at this time of year!).
In essence, forest bathing consists of ambling through the forest, letting your body and your senses be your guide. The overall goal is to expose your body to the sun, air, and wind…savoring the sights, sounds, smells, and even tastes of your surroundings.
Focusing on the sensations of the forest naturally clears your mind and allows you to be present in the moment. Numerous studies show that forest bathing can lower stress; reduce blood pressure and pulse rate; alleviate depression, anxiety, and fatigue; increase energy; and promote restful sleep.
Research also shows the effects of forest bathing actually help “switch on” your immune system—which is perhaps more important now (in the age of coronavirus) than ever before.4 One study found that the essential oils in forest plants (including pines) can help boost your immunity for more than a month!5
The bottom line is that whether you commune with pines and firs inside or outside your home, you’ll improve your physical and mental health…and your emotional well-being.
1“Antifungal properties of essential oils for improvement of indoor air quality: a review.” Rev Environ Health. 2018 Mar 28;33(1):63-76.
2“The influence of air-dispersed essential oils from lemon (Citrus limon) and silver fir (Abies alba) on airborne bacteria and fungi in hospital rooms.” J Environ Sci Health A Tox Hazard Subst Environ Eng. 2019;54(3):256-260.
3“Radical Scavenging Activity of the Essential Oil of Silver Fir (Abies alba). J Clin Biochem Nutr.” 2009 May;44(3):253-9.
4“Forest bathing enhances human natural killer activity and expression of anti-cancer proteins.” Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2007 Apr-Jun;20(2 Suppl 2):3-8.
5“Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function.” Environ Health Prev Med. 2010 Jan;15(1):9-17.