Expect A Rant Fir this Expectorant

As you may have heard, I felt sick all week and had a fever, so I watched Seasons 1 through 3 of the newer Battlestar Galactica, using one of those hip internet TV pirate websites.

I don’t get stuffy noses, even when sick, if I don’t eat grains. I don’t know what caused this stuffiness, since I have not had grains nor dairy. It didn’t really feel that bad, but it did feel awkward. I had read that Douglas Fir tea works as an expectorant (loosens your snot). Since I have felt sick all week and had a stuffy nose for most of it, I thought I would try the fir needles I picked up on a bike ride with Penny Scout a few days back.

Step one: Find Douglas Fir Tree

Step Two: Make sure you found the right tree. See the “pine” cones?

Step Three: Grab some needles.

Step Four: Separate Needles from branch.

Step Five: Dice needles.

Step Six: Steep in hot water for a while than serve.

I did not feel that different after drinking the tea. In fact, I didn’t feel a single bit of change in my level of stuffiness. This feels weird since I remember trying it years ago and it working! WTF? What did I do wrong this time? Did I not let it steep long enough? Should I soak it overnight?

I have decided to create a new addition to my site entitled, Urban Scout’s Homework Assignment. Basically, I want you “the reader,” to try out my experiments and find out if we have the same results. This weeks homework: Go make some Douglas Fir tea and let me know if your nose runs. Just remember to catch if it does! Buh-dum ching!

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9 Comments on “Expect A Rant Fir this Expectorant”

  1. My sweetheart has been eh-eh-emming for a few days as we both stay buoyant health-wise in this sea of sick portlander. We’ve been poppin’ Yin Chao like it’s going out of style — and with homework like this it damn well better be. I will try the Doug Fir needle tea on her and report back on the status of her bronchs…

  2. Well, I tried the Douglas Fir needle tea. Thank you — a very yummy, vaguely sweet, lemony, delicious forest-smelling concoction. Aside from inhaling a bit as I sipped, and the resulting coughs, I didn’t experience much of an expectorant effect. Leslie loved the tea, but also did not expectorate — the same rate of throat clearing here.

    Browsing the web and my “Plants of the Pacific Northwest” field guide, I found that Grand Fir needle tea helps cure colds and has an expectorant effect…

  3. Hey Williaum,

    How did you prepare it? I’m thinking it may need to steep like over night or something. Make it really potent? I think the whole Fir family works as an expectorant to varrying degrees.

  4. Hi Scout,

    After asking the tree for a bit of new growth, I thanked this elder for her long life and for accepting my humble trade of gratitude and a IOU to build the soil around her roots. The twig I picked had sprouted vibrant needles and little baby cones.

    Then I followed the rest of your instructions to a T. I only steeped it for about 10–15 minutes — until it “smelled” tea-like.

    And (allow me to gush) what a mind-blowingly delicious “tea” smell it gives off. I couldn’t help myself from drinking it up right then. A top note of cinnamon, a hint of elderberry, this lemony warmth, and that LIVING FOREST aroma — it woos me. God, it makes me want to curl up in a dry pile of leaves, moss, Doug Fir and Thuja plicata boughs to recover from whatever ails me! Kinda the opposite of crawling into a hole and dying.

    As I drink another batch of this sylvan love potion, typing this, I realize the importance of finely chopping the needles (or thoroughly bruising them, releasing essential oils) to make a potent brew — like you show in the photo. Whole needles probably need overnight-steeping, as a batch of half-chopped, half-whole needles makes an aromatic but weaker-tasting tea. I know certain plants need extensive boiling to release their medicine. Does Doug Fir belong to this group?

    I might try overnight steeping next time or perhaps making a sun tea. As I finish this reply, nose dry, I find myself clearing my throat…hmm, I wonder why?

  5. Oh, and I think you speak truth about the varying medicinal, and expectorant, qualities of the Fir family. Does it matter in this way that Douglas Fir’s are not true Firs, but members of the Pseudotsuga genus? Do teas made from all trees of the Pinaceae family, perhaps? That’s a lot of trees though…and I stretch beyond the limits of my knowledge asking these quesions.

    Thanks for this homework, Scout. I want to find the line between botany and sense of place, cross it, and never look back.

  6. I tried it, and it worked. However, I had just a mild condition. Maybe the severity of your illness means that it will take a bit longer. The body might not want to give up that mucous until the bugs are under control!

  7. The Ohlone people (California Native Americans, local to the Bay Area) were among the groups who used Douglas Fir for tea. Douglas Fir needle is very high in vitamin C, so it is probably good for colds even if it doesn’t work so well as an expectorant. You can buy Douglas Fir needle tea in regular tea bags. It is just the dried needles, and it tastes good.

    I’ve read that Ishi (last surviving Yaki Native American) would use a California Bay leaf for relief from an upper respiratory infection. He would roll it up and and stick it through a hole in the septum of his nose. I find the pungent aroma of a crushed bay leaf definitely gives a sinus clearing sensation of coolness – not unlike things like Vicks Vaporrub.

  8. Try soaking the diced needles for about 1 hour in a pot (should use glass), bring to a boil and then simmer for about 30-40 mins. This decoction process will extract much better than making an infused tea. Depending on the herb you may be able to do a 2nd decoction. (1/2 the water and boil/simmer longer) Use about 30-50 grams of material per litre of water.