Black Spruce (Picea mariana) is a coniferous evergreen tree native to Canada and the northeast of the United States. It’s sometimes labelled ‘Bog Spruce’ or ‘Swamp Spruce’, because it is usually found growing in boggy, swampy areas.
Black Spruce has been used by native Americans for thousands of years. They used it in ointments, salves and lotions for healing skin problems such as boils, burns and wounds. They also used the resin as a chewing gum and smeared it on their skin to protect against insect bites.
Essential oil of Black Spruce is steam-distilled from the needles and twigs. These are usually harvested between January and April when the essential oil levels are at their highest. Branches that have had exposure to direct sunlight yield a lot more of the essential oil than those that are in the shade in the deeper parts of the forest.
Black Spruce essential oil has a fresh, sweet, fruity, balsamic aroma, with a resinous undertone. It’s reminiscent of Fir Balsam or Pine essential oils, but is milder, sweeter and smoother than other evergreen oils. A lot of us associate Black Spruce with winter and Christmas, but its many healing properties coupled with its fabulous outdoorsy aroma make it a useful and welcome oil all year round.
The oil is considered to have a comprehensive range of therapeutic actions including analgesic, antibacterial, anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antiviral, expectorant, stomachic and wound healing properties.
In aromatherapy the main uses of Black Spruce essential oil include:
Respiratory system support
Black Spruce can be helpful for soothing respiratory ailments such as coughs, colds, flu, bronchitis, catarrh, sinus congestion and asthma. It’s decongestant action helps clear mucous and open up the airways of the lungs. It works especially well in diffuser blends, aromatherapy inhalers, steam inhalations and chest rubs.
To help soothe coughs and relieve congestion in the chest and sinuses try regular inhalation with 3 drops of Fragonia, 3 drops of Black Spruce and 3 drops of Cypress added to your diffuser or burner. Or add 2 drops of each to a very warm bath.
For a chest rub, combine 8 drops of Black Spruce, 7 drops of Eucalyptus Radiata and 5 drops of Roman Chamomile with 100ml of a fragrance-free base lotion and apply to the chest and upper back at bed time.
This blend can be used in a very warm bath – a lovely way to naturally inhale the blend of oils. Add the oils to a base oil such as Jojoba and add 6 to 10 drops of the blend to your bath. Make sure that the bath is at your desired temperature first. Close the bathroom door and allow yourself to relax in the bath for at least twenty minutes.
A word of caution
Before using Black Spruce (or any of the Eucalyptus oils) for respiratory problems such as asthma, take a sniff of the oil from the lid of the bottle. If you find that this makes your chest feel constricted, it would be best to choose another oil such as Cedarwood or Frankincense. Do this test on any of the oils mentioned. If your chest feels less tight, then the oil will be okay to use in your blends.
Musculoskeletal system support
Black Spruce can be used for musculoskeletal issues such as muscular aches and pains, stiff, swollen or painful joints, rheumatism, osteoarthritis and sciatica. It’s also good for poor circulation.
Try an aromatic bath with 2 drops Black Spruce, 2 drops of Lavender and 2 drops Vetiver. Or you can make up a massage blend by mixing 75ml Jojoba or Sunflower oil with 25ml Arnica Oil and adding 15 drops of Black Spruce, 15 drops of Ginger, 10 drops of Helichrysum and 20 drops of Lavender essential oil.
Ease fatigue, stress and anxiety
Black Spruce is a good essential oil to think about whenever you your morale is low and you feel low in self-confidence and motivation.
Like many of the resinous essential oils, Black Spruce has a calming and uplifting effect on the emotions making it helpful for low mood, stress and anxiety, especially when the stressful conditions persist and stress levels are constantly high.
Black spruce essential oil is especially good to use at this time of the year when we can feel energetically dull and flat. It instils courage and a lighter outlook, helping to bring back our sparkle. This essence can help to shift ‘stuck’ energy, so it’s a good oil to use when you’re feeling lethargic and listless and want to feel more alive and vibrant.
For anxiety and stress try regular massage with 25ml Jojoba Oil, 5ml St John’s Wort Oil, 7 drops of Lavender, 5 drops of Sweet Orange and 4 drops of Black Spruce
Black Spruce is often recommended for restoring depleted and overworked adrenal glands. In terms of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Black Spruce strengthens deficient Kidney Qi. This includes helping with symptoms of burnout such as the aforementioned depleted adrenal glands, chronic tiredness, lower back pain and poor libido.
In his book ‘Advanced Aromatherapy’, Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt says that Black Spruce is particularly effective for strengthening and supporting the adrenal glands during periods of stress and fatigue. He says it works really well when combined with Pine essential oil.
Subtle energy levels
Black Spruce is mentally grounding and steadying. It’s a great oil to use during your meditation or yoga practice to help calm and bring focus to a busy mind.
Inhaling the essential oil can brings a sense of strength, perseverance and vitality. It lends clarity and objectivity to our intuitive processes and helps us stand our ground and to dig deep for that inner strength needed to deal with life’s challenges and difficulties.
For your meditation session, try diffusing 3 drops of Black Spruce with 2 drops of Frankincense and 5 drops of Mandarin in your diffuser or burner.
A couple of blends
Cold and flu peaceful sleep balm
50ml Fragrance-free base lotion (available from Neal’s Yard Remedies)
7 drops of Black Spruce
8 drops of Eucalyptus Radiata
5 drops of Roman Chamomile
1 drop of Vetiver
Apply to the chest and upper back areas before going to bed.
Restore your sparkle
To boost self-confidence and morale and restore positivity, make up the following blend of essential oils in a small (10 ml) bottle with a dropper (available from Materia Aromatica or Neal’s Yard Remedies).
10 drops Black Spruce
10 drops Frankincense
6 drops Clary Sage
4 drops Rosemary CT Cineole
Add 6 to 10 drops of the blend to your diffuser (depending on the size of your room). Or add 6 drops of the blend to a very warm bath, making sure that you stir the water vigorously to disperse the oils.
In 50ml carrier oil such as Jojoba or Sunflower add 20 drops of Black Spruce and 20 drops of Pine. Apply the blend regularly to the kidney area.
Blend the following essential oils in 50 ml of a base oil such as Jojoba or Sunflower.
10 drops Black Spruce
8 drops Cedarwood
4 drops Thyme CT Linalol
4 drops Spike Lavender
4 drops Ginger
This is a 2% dilution. You can use a lotion base, such as the lovely one available from Neal’s Yard, instead of the Jojoba oil.
Black Spruce oil is a safe and non-toxic essential oil. However if the oil is older, it can irritate the skin. It is best stored in your fridge, where it can be used topically for up to a year after the date of opening. After that date it’s best to only use it in your diffuser or burner. If in doubt, stick with using it in your diffuser.
Schnaubelt K. Advanced Aromatherapy, Healing Arts Press, Rochester 1995
Battaglia S. The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy Third Edition Volume 1, Black Pepper Creative Pty Ltd, Australia 2018