Spruce resin and its composition

Spruce resin is a thick liquid product of the spruce tree. It is produced through specialized structures located both inside the trunk and on its surface. Its chemical composition began to be revealed only with the development of spectrometry and chromatography, and the knowledge of the mechanisms by which the trees discharge it, the development of electronic microscopy and its application in botany. It consists of over 80 different organic compounds. Today we know that the resin of conifers consists of an evaporative part predominantly of monoterpenes (α-pinen, β-pinen, limonene), which play an important role in the defense against insects and pathogens and of the non-evaporative part consisting of ditrepenic acids (abietic acid and others). The mechanisms of the medicinal effects attributed to the spruce resin are the result of a combination of substances in the spruce resin. (1)

40 000 000

years, the cellular structures of the insect trapped in the spruce resin are preserved.

80

different organic compounds constitute spruce resin.

7000

years ago, the use of spruce resin in folk medicine has been proven.

The history of the use of spruce resin

The use of spruce resin in folk medicine

Already in 5000 B.C. the ancient people of today's Finland enjoyed spruce resin. This was discovered by Finnish archaeologists in 2007. Already between 460 and 370 years before Christ, the father of medicine, Hippocrates, described in his works the methods of using spruce resins that were successfully used by doctors until the Middle Ages. (2) The writings of Pliny the Younger, a Roman politician, spokesmen and writer, dating from the years 61 to 113 before Christ, also say that the peasant women of ancient Rome do not wear amber necklaces only as ornaments, but as a medicine for increased glands and sore throats and gullet (amber is a polymerized resin). Similarly, the Persian physician Ibn Sina attributed healing properties to spruce resins at the beginning of the 1st millennium (2). Records from the beginning of the 16th century mention how the Prussian duke Albert Brandenburger sent a medicine from a hardened spruce resin to Martin Luther to treat kidney stones. (2) A preparation made from spruce resin and butter for treating wounds was prepared in Finland. For the same purpose, it was used by American Indians (9), and they also chewed the resin when having a sore throat and other problems in the oral cavity and gastrointestinal tract. It was from the Indians that John B. Curtis got the idea to develop the first commercial chewing gum from spruce resin in 1848. (4) In the 1970s, the Canadian chemist Henry R. Gray began to produce Grays’ syrup from the red spruce resin that was very effective against coughing, cold, loss of voice, and inflammation of the throat and bronchi.

Hippocrates

Hippocrates is one of the most prominent figures in medicine and has the nickname "the father of scientific medicine." He lived between 460 and 380 B.C. in Greece. In his works, he described the methods of using spruce resin that were successfully used by doctors until the Middle Ages.

Father Simon Ašič

Father Simon Ashič, a famous Slovenian priest and herbalist, also wrote in his works about the effects of spruce resin on muscles, body resistance and skin diseases, rashes and wounds.

Ibn Sina

Ibn Sina was a Persian scholar and is one of the greatest thinkers and doctors of the golden age of Islam. He wrote 450 works. He lived between 980 and 1037. In his works, he also wrote about the healing effects of spruce resin.

American Indians

American Indians chewed spruce resin when having a sore throat and other problems in the oral cavity and gastrointestinal tract. From them John B. Curtis got the idea and made the first commercial chewing gum from spruce resin in 1848. American Indians also used preparations from spruce resin to treat cuts and abrasions.

Spruce resin in Slovenia

The use of spruce resin in Slovenian history

In the Slovene area, farmers used resin to treat mastitis in cows, to treat wounds and various diseases in livestock and humans. In Gorenjska, the product was called "stinker", it was packed in bottles, and it got its name due to its distinctive odor. Until 1971, it was made by the Sodja family from Nemški Rovt in Bohinj. The price of the preparation was comparable to the price of spirits, the children of Sodja homestead sold it in the villages of Bohinj, and for the earned money they bought shoes. In some Slovenian regions, the pure resin of conifers, mainly fir, larch and spruce, was called "pilpuh". They collected fresh drops of resin and used it to treat boils, wounds, arthritis and many other problems. In Lesce in Gorenjska there was a very famous herbalist, "Prežle", who placed the black spruce resin on various parts of the body, thus treating pain in the spine and a number of other problems. The Slovenian herbalist, father Simon Ašič (10), also wrote about the effects of spruce resin on the muscles, physical resistance and skin diseases, rashes and wounds.

In the folk medicine of the modern era, the tradition was preserved and the spruce resin was used for the treatment of abrasions, arthritis, boils, burns, colds, tuberculosis, cough, diarrhea and other digestive disorders, headache, sore throat, rheumatism, stones, tumors and wounds. (8)

7000 years old spruce resin with teeth imprints

In 2007, Finnish archaeologists found a spruce resin with teeth imprints at an archaeological site. The find dates back to 5000 B.C. Ancient people in the area of today's Finland have enjoyed spruce resin for a variety of problems such as sore throat and problems in the oral cavity and gastrointestinal tract.

The first chewing gum from spruce resin

In 1848, the American businessman John B. Curtis got the idea to make chewing gum from spruce resin, beeswax and added flavors from the American Indians who chewed spruce resin. He succeeded in producing the first commercial chewing gum and named it "State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum".

Use of spruce resin in livestock

Until 1971, in the Gorenjska region, the Sodja family from Nemški Rovt in Bohinj produced a preparation from spruce resin, which people named "stinker" because of the characteristic odor. It was packed in bottles, and it got its name because of its distinctive odor. The price of the preparation was comparable to the price of spirits, the children of Sodja homestead sold it in the villages of Bohinj, and for the earned money they bought shoes. In some Slovenian regions, the pure resin of conifers, mainly fir, larch and spruce, was called "pilpuh". The preparations were used for the treatment of boils, wounds, arthritis and many other problems, and were also extremely successful in treating mastitis in cows.

Scientific facts about spruce resin

Research on spruce resin

The efficacy of traditional preparations such as spruce ointment from spruce resin and butter used in Finland for the treatment of wounds and ulcers has prompted scientists to conduct a series of studies on this complex natural product:

In a 6-month-long study (Sipponen et al., 2007) performed in 11 health facilities, they compared the treatment of bedsores with a traditional preparation from spruce resin, a traditionally prepared spruce ointment, and a medically recognized hydrogel. During the study (6 months), 92% of patients were healed in the group treated with the spruce resin preparation, and 44% in the second group. (5)

The same researchers tested the antimicrobial function with the same spruce ointment from spruce resin using routine microbiological methods. The preparation was bacteriostatic against all tested Gram-positive bacteria and against Proteus vulgaris, which is a Gram-negative bacteria. A very important finding is that it has a bacteriostatic effect even on highly resistant bacteria, such as MRSA and VRE. (6)

The Bosnian researchers Kalaba, Đurđevič Milošević and Marjanović Balaban (2009) also investigated the antimicrobial activity of the spruce essential oil. They found that spruce essential oil works on the bacteria Salmonella Enteritidis and Escheriche Coli, Baciullus subtilis and Stphylococucus aureus more efficiently than antibiotics used to treat infections with these bacteria (11).

In 2011, the aforementioned Finnish researchers also checked the effectiveness of spruce resin against fungi. They found that the resin acts strongly against all dermatophytes (fungi that cause the majority of fungal skin infections in humans). (12)

Bacteria

The preparation from spruce resin, spruce ointment, made in the traditional Finnish way, has been tested in 2007 and worked bacteriostatically for all tested Gram-positive bacteria and Proteus vulgaris, a Gram-negative bacteria. A very important finding is that it also has bacteriostatic effects on highly resistant bacteria, such as MRSA and VRE.

Fungus

Finnish scientists also tested the anti-fungal effects of spruce resin preparations in 2011. They found that the resin acts strongly against all dermatophytes (fungi that cause most of the fungal skin infections in humans) as well as against Candida Albicans.

Wounds and bedsores

In a 6-month study conducted in 11 medical institutions, they compared the treatment of bedsores with a traditional preparation from spruce resin, a traditionally prepared spruce ointment, and a medically recognized hydrogel. During the study, 92% of the patients were healed in the group treated with the spruce resin preparation, and 44% in the second group.