What are Tree Resins and Do They Have Health Benefits?

Tree resin from coniferous trees has deep roots in traditional medicine for healing burns and wounds. Tree resins have made appearances in cultures all over the world, from Ayurvedic medicine and ancient Egyptian healing to Traditional Chinese Medicine and Aboriginal medicine of Australia.

You probably know more about tree resins than you might think. Does frankincense ring a bell? This odorous substance well known for making an appearance in a certain holiday story is collected from the Indian frankincense tree and is used today to produce Boswellia salves and essential oils.

What Are Tree Resins?

Not to be confused with sap, coniferous trees secrete resin (aka pitch) on their bark, both as a natural byproduct and as a means of fighting infection and pests. While sap is more transparent and watery, resin is tacky and thick. Deciduous trees do not produce resin, but coniferous trees produce both resin and sap.

Some of the most well-known tree resins are spruce, fir, cedar, balm of gilead, Canada balsam, Boswellia, dragon tree, and Canarium luzonicum. Most people are also aware of turpentine, which is a strong product derived from tree resin and is used as a paint thinner.

Traditional Treatments That Use Tree Resin

Resins have been used as an ingredient in traditional medicine for centuries, and are still used today. They can be processed into salves, essential oils, liquid extracts, and, in some cases even encapsulated and used as dietary supplements. Here are some examples:

Boswellia: A gum resin extract from the Indian frankincense tree, purported to have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.

Bee Propolis: A byproduct of bees made from pine resin and mixed with wax flakes and pollen, believed to have antimicrobial properties. It can be taken internally or applied topically.

Guggul: A resin produced by the Mukul myrrh tree and used as traditional Ayurvedic medicine.

Do Tree Resins Have Health Benefits for Humans Too?

Janne J. Jokinen and Arno Sipponen published a research study in 2016 which made some very strong and promising claims about Norway spruce resin as a treatment for chronic wounds.

According to the duo, the spruce resin has “substantial anti-microbial, wound-healing, and skin regeneration enhancing properties”. They hoped to prove exactly how effective it could be for wounds associated with diabetes, malnutrition, vascular conditions, and systemic diseases- plus how it could fight drug-resistant bacterial infections.

Jokinen and Sipponen had actually been studying spruce resin in depth for a decade before publishing their findings. They’re strong advocates for its use because they’ve seen firsthand how spruce resin could be used medically to heal wounds, treat infections, reduce inflammation, and help heal pressure ulcers.

The team prepared a salve made from 10% pure Norway spruce resin and subjected it to a series of experiments, from in vitro tests of human pathogens like MRSA to clinical trials using patients with various chronic wounds and ulcers.

Read the full article at TheHeartySoul