Contributed by Dr. Damian Rodriguez DHSc, MS
Black Spruce is one of the most interesting essential oil stories. Picea mariana dominates the landscape of much of Alaska and specific regions of Canada because of its ability to flourish in areas with long winters and varying topography. This abundance of growth creates a significant problem: waste. Along with having a myriad of well-being promoting benefits that are unique in the essential oil world, the extraction of Black Spruce essential oil is the epitome of environmental stewardship.
How Do We Source Black Spruce?
The Black Spruce trunks are generally considered too small and too soft for timber so they are primarily used in paper and various other wood-based products, such as chopsticks. Once the trunks have been stripped, the remnants are basically left to rot. This creates a significant issue that affects both the environment and the local economy. Together with its harvesting partner, doTERRA figured out an environmentally responsible way to use what ultimately may be the most valuable parts of the Black Spruce tree: the branches and leaves (needles) that contain the woody, slightly balsamic smelling essential oils. First, the remaining branches and needles are steam distilled, then the remaining mash is burned by a local power plant, and the resulting steam is used to facilitate the extraction of more essential oils. doTERRA has facilitated an ingenious close-looped system that benefits the environment, several different businesses, and especially you, who now has access to this wonderful essential oil.
The Chemistry of Black Spruce
Essential oils from spruce species are quite rare and unique. Some varieties, such as Hemlock, Norway, and White spruces do produce essential oil, but with far less yield and spectrum of benefits than Picea mariana. Furthermore, while most tree-derived essential oils share a handful of similar characteristics (they are great for the skin and hair, and have calming and grounding aromas), Black Spruce is a little different. The composition of Black Spruce essential oil is dominated by two compounds you are likely familiar with, bornyl acetate and alpha-pinene, but it is a complex mixture also including significant concentrations of camphene and delta-3-carene.
Benefits and Uses of Black Spruce
Due to this distinct chemical makeup, Black Spruce has some properties you might not normally associate with tree oils. For instance, Black Spruce is surface cleansing, likely due to its concentration of delta-3-carene1. Not only does this make it great for use around the home, but also in your daily personal care regimen. Try adding a drop or two to your normal face cleanser to reduce the appearance of blemishes or even use it in your daily tooth-brushing routine2. Multiple experimental studies have also shown that Black Spruce may help to keep the teeth clean when used as a component of a dental gel3,4. Just be aware, Black Spruce is not recommended for internal use, so follow recommended guidelines including gargling with warm water or a high-quality mouthwash after use.
If you are looking to add another essential oil to create a relaxing environment this holiday season, or want to try something a little different to complement your daily self-care regimens, try Black Spruce. Not only will you feel better about using all-natural products to support your well-being, but also that you are doing something positive for the environment at the same time.