We all know that Christmas trees can add a lot of holiday cheer to our homes, but it turns out they can also help keep us healthy all winter long. Before tossing out your tree after the holidays, you might want to try boiling the needles into a tasty, vitamin-rich tea.
OK, we know it might sound a little odd at first, but according to Gerry O’Brien, a ranger at Forest Holidays in the United Kingdom, those spiky needles contain a lot of benefits. O’Brien regularly brews up a tea from fresh needles while leading tours of the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, England, and shared a few reasons why we should all give it a try.
First of all, it tastes delightful — like sipping on a cup of liquid Christmas. Plus, the needles are full of vitamin C, which we all know helps boost our immunity and ward off winter colds. If you’re already feeling under the weather, O’Brien claims the tea can help soothe sore throats, relieve congestion, and act as an expectorant for coughs. There’s also a boost of vitamin A that can keep our eyes healthy, according to the Mayo Clinic. On top of it all, both vitamins contain antioxidants that help protect against cancer.
O’Brien also lists mental clarity as a benefit and claims, “Taoist priests drank pine needle tea as they believed it made them live longer.” That’s a pretty bold statement, but we won’t knock anything that might help our minds stay sharp for as many years as possible.
Now, we aren’t saying you should pick up any of the dried out, dead needles that land under your tree and brew those. The fresher the better, so look for bright green needles you can pluck without ruining the overall look of your tree. You should also make sure the tree wasn’t treated with any pesticides or other potentially dangerous chemicals. O’Brien additionally warns against mistaking Yew and Cypress trees for pine, as they look similar but can be toxic. Those are typically marked by retailers, but are easy to identify with by their flatter needles. You can see more detailed descriptions and photos of all types of conifers on the Gardener’s Path website. Once you’re sure you have the safe option, you just need to grab a handful and let them boil for a few moments in hot water before straining and sipping.
If you’re worried about picking out needles from a tree yourself, you can still get the delicious benefits with pre-packaged tea options like Juniper Ridge Douglas Fir Spring Tip Tea ($13, Amazon). Whichever way you go, the flavor and aroma will add an extra layer of seasonal fun to your holiday festivities!
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