Herb: Western Larch

Latin name: Larix occidentalis

Family: Pinaceae (Pine Family)

Medicinal use of Western Larch:

The gum obtained from under the bark is used as a dressing in the treatment of cuts and bruises. An infusion of the bark has been used in the treatment of coughs, colds and tuberculosis. A decoction has been used as a wash on wounds and sores. The sap has been chewed in the treatment of a sore throat. The leaves and stems are antirheumatic, antiseptic, appetizer and blood purifier. A decoction has been used both internally and externally in the treatment of cancer, and is said to help an emaciated patient get better and gain weight. A decoction of the stem tips has been taken internally and also used as a soak on arthritic limbs and as a wash for cuts and sores.

Description of the plant:


45 m
(148 feet)

Habitat of the herb:

Mountain valleys and lower slopes, often in swampy areas, usually in mixed stands.

Edible parts of Western Larch:

A gum, or resin, is produced under the bark. It is a gum arabic substitute, very soluble in water, and is used as a thickening agent, stabilizer, emulsifier and for chewing. It exudes from the trunk and branches but commercially it is usually obtained by extraction from wood chips as a by-product of the lumber industry. The sap can be harvested in the spring and, when concentrated by boiling off much of the water, is made into a sweet syrup. A source of an edible manna. No further details are given, but this report probably refers to the gum mentioned above.

Other uses of the herb:

A red powder can be made by heating the resin and then grinding it. This powder was mixed with fat and used as a cosmetic, or mixed with balsam poplar buds (Populus spp.) and used as a paint. The bark contains tannin. Wood - hard, strong, very heavy, very durable in the soil. The tree produces long straight knotless trunks and is a very important commercial crop in its native range. It is used for posts, cabinet making, construction, plywood etc. A very good fuel.

Propagation of Western 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:

Mountain valleys and lower slopes, often in swampy areas, usually in mixed stands.

Known hazards of Larix occidentalis:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.