Pop quiz: what’s the state tree of Pennsylvania? You have no idea, right? Well, how about this: name one evergreen tree that can grow to 60m (197 feet) tall and live over to 800 years old. Still no luck? Well the answer to those questions is simple : Hemlock or the latin name for it : Tsuga canadensis. It goes by many other names like eastern hemlock, eastern hemlock-spruce, Canadian hemlock and as the french-speaking Canadians call it, “pruche du Canada”.
The Tsuga species are one of the oldest trees in the world and the most recognized for their many benefits. Tsugas are conifers. This means their needles have a fresh, crisp aroma of spruce and fir. You’ll always find them growing in cool and humid areas with lots of summer rainfall. Being pine trees, just the smell of them makes you feel like it’s Christmas. Actually, many industries consider Hemlock trees a year-round Christmas present because of all the uses they can get out of them.
For one, their wood is used in the timber industry, mainly as pulp for paper manufacturing. Their bark has been used for a long time in the leather tanning industry. Even their tiny little needles are used in manufacturing perfumes and some teas. Every part of the tree has a specific use but the greatest use of all comes from the needles and twigs. They’re the source of the most important thing you can get out of Tsuga canadensis : hemlock essential oil.
To get hemlock essential oil, you have to gather the twigs and needles of hemlock trees and put them through a process called steam distillation. The end product is a thin clear liquid with a woody, earthy aroma. That’s the essential oil we want. That’s the essential that can improve your circulation and respiration, help with cold and flu, relive muscle and joint aches and so much more. So what’s inside this oil? 5 major components responsible for its action:
Let’s start with the first one: alpha-pinene. You can probably tell it gets its name from the word “pine”. This chemical compound has something called “antiulcerogenic activity”. It’s just a fancy, scientific way of saying it helps prevent gastric ulcers. Not everyone has had a gastric ulcer but those who have, know it’s the worst. With gastric ulcers, your stomach lining is basically damaged. Even a small sip of water will leave you with excruciating pain. Billions of dollars are spent every year on ulcer medication which are not only expensive, but also have dozens of side effects. That’s why researchers started looking for natural alternatives that are just as effective.
One group of researchers came across alpha-pinene which is one of the main components of hemlock essential oil. They had research suggesting that alpha-pinene could help prevent gastric ulcers. So they decided to test it out. They started an experiment on a bunch male Swiss mice ( I guess everything Swiss-made is great, even mice). The researchers gave the mice some alpha-pinene. 45 minutes later, they tried to induce a gastric ulcer in their stomachs by giving them pure ethanol. Fortunately, the mice survived and no ulcers were formed thanks to the alpha-pinene. It inhibited the ulcer formation and reduced the harmful gastric fluids that cause ulcers. It even made the stomach wall thicker and stronger. Unfortunately, to prove all this, the researchers had to remove the stomachs. But thanks to these brave Swiss mice, we now know how important alpha-pinene is to your stomach.
Asthma and better respiration
Let’s say your not someone who’s liable to gastric ulcers. What else can the alpha-pinene in hemlock essential oil do for you? For one, it’s a strong bronchodilator. That means it helps open up your airways and makes it easier for you to breathe. This is perfect for asthma, chronic bronchitis and any chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. And even if you don’t suffer from any respiratory problems, just having more oxygen flowing into your body can do wonders for you. Your heart, brain and every vital organ in your body functions much better with a larger oxygen supply. Have you tried yoga? The first thing yogis learn to do is how to “breathe deeply”. That’s just to get more oxygen flowing to their organs. But no need for yoga, hemlock essential oil has your back.
Still not convinced? Well how about this one: pain. Everyone’s suffered from some sort of physical pain before. The worst type is chronic pain. It doesn’t go away. It’s always there in the background, either a dull ache or a sharp stab. Usually, it’s caused by an underlying disease like arthritis. People with chronic pain have to constantly take different medications that might or might not even help. And honestly, you get tired of all the daily pills, right? That’s why hemlock essential oil is a much better natural, cheap alternative. The alpha-pinene inside is not only a proven analgesic but also an anti-inflammatory that helps with the underlying causes like arthritis.
That’s a big one. For something to work against cancer, the worst disease of all, it has to be very strong. Cancer is basically a cell that refuses to die when it has completed its lifespan. It grows at an alarming rate and starts to infect surrounding cells until it has formed a tumor. There are many ways to fight a cancer cell. Sure, radioactive chemicals and chemotherapeutics can get the job done, but there’s also another simple approach. Think about it, didn’t cancer start with a cell refusing to die? What if you could reverse that? That’s what pinene does. It encourages “apoptosis” which is programed cell death. When the cell has finished its lifespan, it simply fades away. In addition to all that, the pinene in hemlock essential oil prevents the alarming growth due to its anti-proliferative properties.
We’ve all had that moment where you bang your head against the wall trying to remember something and you still don’t remember it. Your mind is selfish, it remembers what it wants and throws out the rest. But sometimes, your mind has no say in what goes on at a cellular level. Everyday, chemical reactions take place and byproducts called “free radicals” are formed in your brain. These free radicals are small unstable chemicals that are very reactive and harmful to your brain tissue. They’re responsible for memory loss, reduced cognition and even behavioral changes. Simply, they’re bad news. So how do you get rid of them? Antioxidants like alpha-pinene. They act as free radical-scavengers, running around looking for and eliminating them. With enough antioxidants, your memory, cognition, and brain functions improve significantly.
The wonders of antioxidants aren’t limited to memory. That’s only when you take the oil orally. You can apply hemlock essential oil topically to your skin for even more benefits. Your skin is the outermost layer of your body. It’s only natural that it has to deal with pollutants, chemicals, toxic material and even harmful sun rays on a daily basis. Some of these sun rays can target certain parts of your skin layers and cause a release of free radicals. These free radicals make your skin wrinkle and become aged. They literally accelerate your skin’s aging process. That’s why you need hemlock essential oil. Being the antioxidant that it is, it penetrates deep into your skin layers and gets those harmful free radicals. This lets your skin rejuvenate and remain healthy. The result: glowing, radiant, young skin.
Ulcers, asthma, cancer, pain, skin… not bad for just one component of hemlock essential oil.
Giving cancer the old one-two
Cancer usually doesn’t give up easily. It’s a good thing hemlock essential oil has another component to put it down. Limonene. Research has proven that limonene can help prevent different types of cancer such as :
It mainly stimulates your liver enzymes making them work hard at trapping and metabolizing harmful carcinogens into harmless components. It basically helps your liver act as a cancer filter. In animal studies, limonene was able to cause regression of even the most malignant tumors. It also reduced the cancer cells’ growth, similar to pinene. It even lead to the tumor cells’ death by depriving them from important proteins they needed.
Another great thing limonene in hemlock essential oil does is strengthen your immune system. Your immune system is your first and last line of defense. Any microbes, bacteria, fungi or viruses trying to get into your body have to deal with it. As long as your immune system is strong, you’ll never get sick or show signs of disease. Don’t we all have at least one person we know who NEVER gets sick? Flu season or not, they’re as healthy as a horse. All thanks to their immune system. So it’s a good idea to always use immunostimulants like hemlock essential oil. Especially if you’re someone who gets sick a lot.
Limonene also gives hemlock essential oil a pleasant flavor and aroma. That’s why it’s added to many foods, drinks and even chewing gum. Perfume manufacturers also benefit from its unique fragrance. Pharmaceutical companies use limonene as what they call a penetration enhancer. That means when you add it to creams or oils, it helps all the other components get absorbed much faster through your skin layers. It’s basically a spoon, feeding your skin the healthy ingredients it needs.
Let’s take another component of hemlock essential oil. Phellandrene. This chemical was studied quite a lot by researchers. They’ve all acknowledged its strong “antinociceptive property”. That simply means it’s a strong analgesic. Even stronger than pinene. Some people consider it to be on the level of opioids, like morphine. Even better, it’s natural, so it has none of the side effects of synthetic opioids.
The phellandrene in hemlock essential oil has also been proven to be a strong anti-fungal. To make sure, researchers tried it out on a certain fungi called “Penicillium cyclopium”. Just a small amount was enough to cause complete distortion of the fungal cell. In English, it absolutely destroyed it. See, hemlock essential oil not only increases your immunity, but if something slips by, it gets rid of it.
Anti-inflammatory and analgesia
The iso-bornyl acetate in hemlock essential oil is another thing that augments the analgesic effect of the oil. It also been proven to effectively tame inflammations such as ear swelling. Its therapeutic benefits aside, iso-bornyl acetate is loved by pharmaceutical companies for its odor. It gives their products a fresh, pine, balsamic aroma. This earthy, pine odor is used in many household fragrances as well as lavender colognes.
The last component of hemlock essential oil is mycrene. It gets its name from a medicinal shrub in Brazil called Myrcia sphaerocarpa. Traditionally, Brazilians would use this shrub to treat diabetes, desentery, diarrhea and hypertension. Although they had no scientific basis for using it, recent studies have proven that they were right all along. A study carried out by The University of Jordan in 2007 proved that mycrene can really mitigate the effects of diabetes. A few years before that, in 1990, the scientist Lorenzetti proved that myrcene was a very powerful analgesic. It had the unique ability of releasing your body’s own natural opiates, which provided pain relief without the need for pills. He predicted that a whole new class of aspirin-like pain medication could be based on mycrene.
One year later, in 1991, Lorenzetti proved that mycrene had sedative-like properties. They were even compared to powerful synthetic barbiturates. This is why hemlock essential oil gives you a sense of calmness and relaxation. It soothes away all the stress.
Some people even say hemlock essential oil can get rid of emotion blocks and give you a sense of balance, strength and security. It’s perfect for yogis and people who practice meditation.
Doesn’t get easier than a bath
The great thing about hemlock essential oil is its simplicity when it comes to use. You can diffuse it, apply it topically to the troublesome area or spread it all over for a full body massage. These kinds of oil massages help both your body and your mind. They can take away the aching pain and numbness resulting from everyday work. They are also a fast relief for mental stress and can leave you with a refreshed, positive mentality. You might be too lazy or too busy to rub the essential oil on your whole body. No one can blame you. So here’s an easy solution. Add a few drops to your bathtub for a nice aromatic bath. See, no excuses. Just don’t fall asleep in there. And while you’re simply taking a bath, the hemlock essential oil is working on your skin. Perfecting it, nourishing it and making it years younger.
For asthma and respiratory problems, it’s best to inhale the hemlock essential oil. Unlike most essential oils, it doesn’t worsen your asthma or induce an attack when inhaled. On the contrary, it makes the asthma attack go away.
Lots of people keep a bottle of hemlock essential oil right next to their facial steamer. They know those will be the perfect combination when they catch a cold or flu. And the best part, use it all you like. Hemlock essential oil is non-toxic, non-irritant and non-sensitizing. It just has to be diluted before use. And be careful not to get any in your eyes. It’s also common practice to do a skin test before trying any essential oil that is new to you. This helps avoid skin irritation in rare individuals who might be allergic to some components of the oil. Simply put a couple drops on a small area of your skin and see if any allergy signs develop. If not, you’re good to go.
Hemlock essential oil can be mixed with other essential oils to augment its therapeutic benefits. It’s compatible with :
-Clary Sage oil
You might have heard some people say that hemlock is actually a poisonous plant. They’re right and wrong at the same time. The hemlock they’re talking about isn’t the Tsuga canadensis the essential oil is extracted from. The “poisonous hemlock” is called Conium maculatum. It’s a garden plant that was brought from Europe to America because it simply looked nice. The fear of poison hemlocks started when whistles made from their hollow tree stems caused the death of a few children. Even a small amount ingested was able to kill sheep, cattle, horses, swine and other domestic animals.
Not to worry, manufacturers and farmers can never mix up the poisonous and non-poisonous hemlocks. Why? Well the poison hemlock only grows to 2-3m and lives for about 2 years. It also grows on roadsides, ditches and waste areas. How can they mix that up with an evergreen, 60m tall, 800 year old tree?