Herb: Mountain Hemlock
Latin name: Tsuga mertensiana
Family: Pinaceae (Pine Family)
Medicinal use of Mountain Hemlock:The bark is astringent, diaphoretic and diuretic. A tea made from the inner bark or twigs is helpful in the treatment of influenza, colds, 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. The powdered bark can be put into shoes for tender or sweaty feet or for foot odour. A poultice of the chewed leaves has been used to treat burns. The warm gum obtained from the trunks has been used as a dressing on cuts.
Description of the plant:
Habitat of the herb:Exposed ridges and slopes at high altitudes, often to 3000 metres. The best stands are found in sheltered areas with deep moist well-drained soils, high precipitation and long cold winters.
Edible parts of Mountain 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. It is best used in the spring. An emergency food, it is only used when all else fails. A herbal tea is made from the young leaves and shoot tips.
Other uses of the herb:The slightly unripe cones are used in pot-pourri. They retain an attractive scent for several years. Yields a resin similar to Abies balsamea, it is gathered by incisions in the trunk or by boiling the wood. The bark contains 8 - 14% tannin. The inner bark is used according to one report. A brown dye is obtained from the bark. The boughs are steamed or rubbed on furniture and used as a room deodorant and disinfectant. A pitch (called hemlock pitch), is obtained by distillation of the young branches. Tolerant of light trimming, plants can be grown as a tall hedge. Wood - strong. Used for heavy construction. Close-grained, light, soft and weak according to other reports, which go on to say that it is occasionally manufactured into lumber when other wood is not available.
Propagation of Mountain 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:Exposed ridges and slopes at high altitudes, often to 3000 metres. The best stands are found in sheltered areas with deep moist well-drained soils, high precipitation and long cold winters.
Known hazards of Tsuga mertensiana:None known
Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.