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Spruce oil is an essential oil, or plant extract, that's obtained from different species of spruce trees. The use of spruce oil is wide-ranging from a large variety of homeopathic remedies, to aromatic uses, to household cleaning products, to beer-brewing. Different varieties of spruce produce essential oils with different fragrances, and different flavors when used to brew beer, but the medicinal uses of each species is similar.
The essential oil in spruce trees is extracted by steam distilling the needles and twigs. Steam distillation is commonly used in the manufacture of perfumes. Spruce is known to blend well with other essentials oils such as clary sage, cedarwood, pine, oakmoss, rosemary, and lavender. Some of the most popular spruce oil extracts come from white spruce, black spruce, and hemlock spruce.
Spruce beer can be either alcoholic or non-alcoholic, and is flavored with the needle, essential oil, or the buds of spruce trees. The species of spruce tree and the time of year that the needles and buds are harvested affect the flavor of the beer. Spruce shoots are known to contain high amounts of vitamin C, and beverages made from them were historically used to combat scurvy.
Proponents of aromatherapy use spruce oil as a relaxant. Many people find that a few drops of spruce oil in a bath, or applied after bathing, to be soothing. Since spruce oil is known to have some antimicrobial properties, some people use essential oil diffusers or burners to help purify their indoor environment. Spruce, balsam, and pine oils are common fragrances in scented candles, and are particularly popular during the Christmas or winter holidays in some parts of the world.
Although pure spruce oil is ingestible in only very small amounts, it's considered non-toxic when properly diluted. Homeopathic uses for the essential oil of spruce include topical applications to alleviate pain from arthritis and muscle and nerve pain. The essential oil of spruce is also used topically to alleviate coughs and chest congestion. It's believed by some that the application of the essential oil of spruce to the kidney area can stimulate sluggish adrenal glands, making it a potential remedy for some of the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.
Homeopathic preparations vary considerably depending on the intended use. When taken orally, spruce oil can act as a cough suppressant and expectorant. Topical preparations are usually mixed with a carrier oil, which is an oil that's readily absorbed by the skin, making the delivery of the essential oil faster and more efficient. Common choices for carrier oils are coconut, sweet almond, olive, and evening primrose. Any potential adverse side effects of the essential oil of spruce on pregnant or lactating women are unknown.