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Common names: Eastern Hemlock, Canada Hemlock


Family: Pinaceae (Pine Family) Tsuga Canadensis (L.) Carierre (2) Tsuga is derived from the Japanese name for a tree of this genus, canadensis is latinized meaning of or from Canada.


Hemlock is an evergreen tree up to 90 feet tall. It has short needles arranged in flat sprays. Needles are bright green above and silverish, white below and 5/16 and 9/16 inches long. Cones are dropping, small, up to inch, with rounded scales. (1) It flowers in May with separate male and female flowers on the same tree and is wind pollinated. It’s the “ladies” that form the cones that ripens from November to February.


Cool moist forests, especially on the North sides of ridges. It requires well drained but very moist soil. It does well in deep shade but can tolerate full sun as long as the soil remains moist. It can tolerate very acidic to slightly alkaline soils. USDA Zone 4 to 7

Food Uses

The needles and twigs make a fairly pleasant, slightly piney tea that is rich in vitamin C. The dried inner bark (cambium) can be dried and ground into a nutritious flour although not very pleasant tasting. (3) It is also used to thicken soups or mixed with cereals. The twigs can be used to make 'spruce oil' which can be used to flavor chewing gum, soft drinks or ice cream . The needles are also to make spruce beer. (4)

Medicinal Uses

Native Americans used leafy twig tips and inner bark tea to treat kidney ailments, dysentery, rheumatism, scurvy, cough, colds, fevers, stomach problems and diarrhea. The astringent bark was used to prepare an external wash for rheumatism or bleeding (1). The tannin rich bark is both astringent and antiseptic and is used to make a decoction to treat diarrhea, colitis, diverticulitis and cystitis. As a poultice it can be used externally to cleanse and tighten bleeding wounds or as a douche for yeast, vaginal discharge or uterine prolapse. A mouthwash and gargle is used for gingivitis and sore throats. A poultice has been applied to the armpits to treat axillary itchiness. The bark tea is used for the treatment of eczema and other skin diseases. It is used in steam baths for treating colds, rheumatism and as a diaphoretic to induce sweating. A decoction of the branches can be boiled down into a thick paste or the pitch can be applied to arthritic joints to treat rheumatism. (4)

Other Uses

A resin or pitch can be obtained from the wood and branches. The inner bark can be used to make baskets. The bark can be boiled with rock dust as a mordant to make a red to brown dye. The boiled bark has been used to clean rust off of iron and steel and it also prevents further rusting. The wood is coarse-grained, soft, light, not very strong, brittle and not durable outdoors. It does contain many very hard knots that make it hard to work. It should be used with caution as a fuelwood since tends to throw embers and burning wood from the fire area. (4) Rabbits, deer and moose browse on the needles. Birds, mice and voles eat the seeds. The medicinal mushroom, hemlock reishi or Ganoderma tsugea grows on it . (6)

Nutritional Value

Rich in vitamin C and tannins. Vitamin content is about 5 times greater than lemons. Also contains vitamin A and beta-carotene.


Hemlocks contain several terpenoid compounds including tricyclene, alpha-pinene, beta-pinene, camphene, and myrcene. (5)


No known hazards


(1) Foster, Steven and Duke, James A Medicinal Plants p258

(2) Jones, Ronald L Plant Life of Kentucky p172

(3) Peterson, LA Edible Wild Plants (4) Plants For a Future



eastern_hemlock.txt · Last modified: 2020/03/12 18:33 (external edit)