Herb: Larch


Latin name: Larix decidua


Synonyms: Larix europaea


Family: Pinaceae (Pine Family)



Medicinal use of Larch:

The bark, stripped of its outer layer, is astringent, balsamic, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant and vulnerary. Its main application is as an expectorant in chronic bronchitis and has also been given internally in the treatment of haemorrhage and cystitis. A cold extract of the bark is used as a laxative. As an external application, it is useful in the treatment of chronic eczema and psoriasis. The powdered bark can be used on purulent and difficult wounds to promote their healing. The bark is harvested in the spring and should be dried rapidly. The turpentine obtained from the resin is antiseptic, balsamic, diuretic, haemostatic, rubefacient and vermifuge. It is a valuable remedy in the treatment of kidney, bladder and rheumatic affections, and also in diseases of the mucous membranes and the treatment of respiratory complaints. Other reports say that it is contraindicated for anyone with a kidney complaint. Externally, the turpentine is used in the form of liniment plasters and inhalers. It has also been suggested for combating poisoning by cyanide or opium. The plant is used in Bach flower remedies - the keywords for prescribing it are "Lack of confidence", "Anticipation of failure" and "Despondency".

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Deciduous
Tree

Height:
45 m
(148 feet)

Flovering:
April
to May


Scent:
Scented
Tree

Habitat of the herb:

Forms extensive open forests at high altitudes.

Edible parts of Larch:

Inner bark - it can be eaten raw or can be dried, ground into a powder and used with cereal flours in making bread etc. A sweet-tasting manna is obtained from the trunk, it can be eaten raw but is mainly used medicinally. Another report says that "Briancon manna" is exuded from the leaves in the summer. It is white, sweet and almost odourless.

Other uses of the herb:

Large quantities of resin are obtained by tapping the trunk. Small holes are bored into the trunk, most resin being obtained from near the centre of the trunk. When properly made, the same borehole can be used for 20 - 30 years. The resin has a wide range of uses including wood preservatives, varnish, medicinal etc. It needs no preparation other than straining through a cloth to remove plant debris etc. The hole is made in the spring and the resin extracted in the autumn. Resin can be extracted from May to October. The yield is about 40 grams per tree. A fast-growing tree that establishes itself rapidly and is also said to improve the quality of the soil, the larch can be used as a pioneer species on cleared and exposed land in order to assist the establishment of other woodland trees. The bark contains tannin. This is much utilized in N. Europe, though in Britain the oak is considered to be a better source. On a 10% moisture basis, the bark contains 11.6% tannin. Wood - durable, tough, elastic, easy to split, takes a good polish. Larch produces one of the toughest woods obtained from conifers and is also resistant to woodworm. It is widely used in construction, for railway sleepers, cabinet work etc.

Propagation of Larch:

Seed - sow late winter in pots in a cold frame. One months cold stratification helps germination. It is best to give the seedlings light shade for the first year. As soon as they are large enough to handle, prick out the seedlings into individual pots. Although only a few centimetres tall, they can be planted out into their permanent positions in the summer providing you give them an effective weed-excluding mulch and preferably some winter protection for their first year. Otherwise grow them on in the cold frame for their first winter and plant them out in early summer of the following year. The seed remains viable for 3 years If you are growing larger quantities of plants, you can sow the seed in an outdoor seedbed in late winter. Grow on the seedlings in the seedbed for a couple of years until they are ready to go into their permanent positions then plant them out during the winter.

Cultivation of the herb:

Forms extensive open forests at high altitudes.

Known hazards of Larix decidua:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.