Herb: Carolina Hemlock

Latin name: Tsuga caroliniana

Family: Pinaceae (Pine Family)

Medicinal use of Carolina Hemlock:

The bark is astringent, diaphoretic and diuretic. A tea made from the inner bark or twigs is helpful in the treatment of kidney or bladder problems, and also makes a good enema for treating diarrhoea. It can also be used as a gargle or mouthwash for mouth and throat problems or externally to wash sores and ulcers. A poultice of the bark has been used to treat itchy armpits. The powdered bark can be put into shoes for tender or sweaty feet or for foot odour. An infusion of the stem tips has been used to treat kidney problems. A decoction of the roots has been used as a birthing aid to help expel the afterbirth. The roots have been chewed in order to treat diarrhoea.

Description of the plant:


15 m
(49 feet)


Habitat of the herb:

Usually found growing singly or in small scattered groves of a few individuals on the rocky banks of streams at elevations of 750 - 1200 metres.

Edible parts of Carolina Hemlock:

Inner bark - raw or dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickening in soups etc or mixed with cereals when making bread. The leaves and twigs yield "spruce oil", which is used commercially to flavour chewing gum, soft drinks, ice cream etc. A herbal tea is made from the young shoot tips. These tips are also an ingredient of "spruce beer".

Other uses of the herb:

The inner bark has been used to make baskets. A rosy-tan dye can be obtained from the bark. The bark is a source of tannin. All the uses listed below are based on the uses of T. canadensis and reports in that this species has similar uses. Yields a resin similar to Abies balsamea, it is gathered by incisions in the trunk or by boiling the wood. A pitch (called hemlock pitch), is obtained by distillation of the young branches. "Oil of Hemlock" is distilled from the young branches according to another report. The boiled bark has been used to make a wash to clean rust off iron and steel, and to prevent further rusting. Tolerant of light trimming, plants can be grown as a hedge. This species does not make a good hedge in Britain. Some cultivars can be grown as a ground cover when planted about 1 metre apart each way. "Pendula" is slow-growing but makes a very good cover. Wood - coarse-grained, light, soft, not strong, brittle, not durable outdoors. Difficult to work because it splits easily. The wood weighs 26lb per cubic foot. The trees do not self-prune and so the wood contains numerous remarkably hard knots that can quickly dull the blade of an axe. A coarse lumber, it is used occasionally for the outside of buildings. It should be used with caution as a fuel for outdoor fires because it can project embers and burning wood several metres from the fire.

Propagation of Carolina Hemlock:

Seed - it germinates better if given a short cold stratification and so is best sown in a cold frame in autumn to late winter. It can also be sown in early spring, though it might not germinate until after the next winter. If there is sufficient seed, an outdoor sowing can be made in spring. Pot-grown seedlings are best potted up into individual pots once they are large enough to handle - grow them on in a cold frame and plant them out in early summer of the following year. Trees transplant well when they are up to 80cm tall, but they are best put in their final positions when they are about 30 - 45 cm or less tall, this is usually when they are about 5 - 8 years old. Larger trees will check badly and hardly put on any growth for several years. This also badly affects root development and wind resistance.

Cultivation of the herb:

Usually found growing singly or in small scattered groves of a few individuals on the rocky banks of streams at elevations of 750 - 1200 metres.

Known hazards of Tsuga caroliniana:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.