Herb: Tamarack


Latin name: Larix laricina


Synonyms: Larix americana, Pinus laricina


Family: Pinaceae (Pine Family)



Medicinal use of Tamarack:

Tamarack was employed medicinally by a number of native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a variety of complaints. It is little used in modern herbalism. A tea made from the bark is alterative, diuretic, laxative and tonic. It is used in the treatment of jaundice, anaemia, rheumatism, colds and skin ailments. It is gargled in the treatment of sore throats and applied as a poultice to sores, swellings and burns. A tea made from the leaves is astringent. It is used in the treatment of piles, diarrhoea etc. An infusion of the buds and bark is used as an expectorant. The needles and inner bark are disinfectant and laxative. A tea is used in the treatment of coughs. A poultice made from the warm, boiled inner bark is applied to wounds to draw out infections, to burns, frostbite and deep cuts. The resin is chewed as a cure for indigestion. It has also been used in the treatment of kidney and lung disorders, and as a dressing for ulcers and burns.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Deciduous
Tree

Height:
18 m
(59 feet)

Flovering:
March
to April

Habitat of the herb:

Often forming pure forests in the south of its range in swamps and wet soils, sometimes also on dry plateau or slopes in the north of its range.

Edible parts of Tamarack:

The young shoots are used as an emergency food. A tea is made from the roots. A tea is made from the branches and needles.

Other uses of the herb:

Resin is extracted by tapping the trunk. It is obtained from near the centre of the trunk, one properly made borehole can be used for 20 - 30 years. The resin has a wide range of uses including wood preservatives, medicinal etc. The hole is made in the spring and the resin extracted in the autumn. The roots have been used as a sewing material in canoes and to make durable bags. The bark contains tannin. Wood - very strong, heavy, hard, durable even in water. It weighs 39lb per cubic foot and is used for telegraph poles, fence posts etc. The roots are often curved by as much as 90 and are used by builders of small ships.

Propagation of Tamarack:

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:

Often forming pure forests in the south of its range in swamps and wet soils, sometimes also on dry plateau or slopes in the north of its range.

Known hazards of Larix laricina:

Sawdust from the wood has been known to cause dermatitis in some people.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.