White Spruce – Picea Glauca


The cambium (inner bark) is edible, best harvested in spring (but edible year round). It can be eaten fresh or dried into cakes. Dried cambium can be ground into a nutritious meal. This can be used to extend flour.

Tender young shoots, stripped of needles, can be boiled and eaten as an emergency food. The needles, pitch (resin/sap), tips and twigs can be made into tea (steep in hot water) or even beer. Excellent source of Vitamin C in the Winter.


The sticky sap and/or moist inner bark can be used to make a poultice for slivers, sores and inflammations.

Sap mixed with fat creates a salve for treating skin infections, insect bites, chapped hands, cuts, scrapes, eczema, burns, rashes, blood poisoning, heart trouble, syphilis and arthritic joints. Warm sap can be dripped onto the eyeball to treat snow blindness. Melted sap can also be used as a plaster when setting bones.

Spruce gum (the resin) can be chewed or boiled and take like cough syrup to relieve coughs and sore throats. It may also be taken to help digestion, treat gonorrhea and as a laxative.

Emerging, young needles can be boiled to make an antiseptic wash or chewed to relieve coughs.

Medicinal tea made from the inner bark may treat rheumatism, kidney stones, stomach problems, respiratory ailments, tuberculosis and diarrhea.

Hot spruce needle tea can stimulate sweating and treat scurvy. The vapour can be inhaled to relieve bronchitis.

Gently boil ten to fifteen cones for ten minutes (add soft branches for extra potency) to make a mouthwash for toothaches or a tea to treat venereal disease, pain or urinary problems. Tea may help women regain strength after childbirth.

An inner bark sweat bath may treat rheumatism and backaches.

Rotten, dried, finely powdered wood was used as baby powder and for skin rashes.

Roots can be pounded and boiled to make a medicine to treat trembling and fits, stomach pain and diarrhea.

Other Uses

Aboriginal cultures used spruce bark to make canoes, baskets, utensils and thatch roofs. Trunks could be used as tepee poles.

Lumps of hardened pitch can be chewed like gum and help keep teeth white. Pitch can be applied to torches. Melted pitch can be used as caulking (such as on canoe seams) or as glue, for sticking things like sheets of birch bark or strands of willow bark twine together. Can be used to preserve and waterproof strips of hide in ropes, snares, harpoons and snowshoes.

Fresh or soaked spruce roots can be peeled and split to make cord; good for stitching canoes, sewing snowshoes, baskets, tools, mats, hats and fish nets. Split roots can be woven into watertight bags for cooking.

Wood is generally strong and uniform. Used to make canoe paddles, ribs and gunwales for birch-bark canoes, canoe or kayak stringers, cabins and caches, fish traps, scrub brushes, arrows, digging sticks and bark peeling tools.

Boughs may be used for pillows, bedding and camp mattresses.

A yellow-brown dye can be obtained from rotten wood and used to dye white goods or smoke tanned hides.


All evergreen teas are mildly toxic and should be used in moderation. Do not eat the needles or drink the teas in high concentrations or with high frequency. Some people may develop rashes from contact with spruce resin, sawdust or needles. Pregnant women should avoid.


With about eight times as much vitamin C as Orange Juice, one to two cups of tea per week is all that is necessary to prevent scurvy and only a few cups over a few days will treat it.


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