Useful information

Alder: medicinal cones and royal firewood

Alder gray In our forests, a seemingly inconspicuous tree - alder - is very widespread. She easily captures abandoned arable land and vegetable gardens, prefers wet places. People rarely look into the alder forest - good mushrooms do not grow there, and it is also not suitable for walking - nettles burn, and raspberries cling to clothes. But the power of this tree is in something else. Alder is an important medicinal plant and occupies a worthy place in the list of scientific and traditional medicine. And it's also the king's firewood. But first things first.

Alder gray(Alnusincana) - deciduous tree from the birch family (Betulaceae) up to 20 m high, or a large shrub with a rounded crown, silvery-gray bark and a superficial root system.

Alder gray

The leaves are petiolate, the leaf blade is ovate or broadly elliptic, serrate. Young leaves are densely pubescent, adults are pubescent only from below. Flowers are unisexual. Female - without perianth, collected in earrings. They sit in the axils of the scales of the inflorescence, which lumber by autumn, turning into a small brown cone. Male flowers are located in the axils of the scales of long earrings. It blooms in March - April, before the leaves open and is a wind-pollinated plant. So the leaves would only get in the way. The fruits ripen in August - October. And they are flat, single-seeded nuts with narrow wings. Cones, without opening, hang on the tree until spring, at the end of February-March the seeds spill out.

Gray alder grows in the forest and forest-steppe zones of the European part of Russia, in the North Caucasus, in the Transcaucasus, in Western Siberia, in the Urals. It occurs along the banks of rivers and streams, in swampy places, along the banks of reservoirs, lakes, quickly forms thickets on abandoned arable lands, especially where groundwater is close.

Another type of medicinal raw material is allowed for use - sticky alder, or black alder, which grows in the same areas and in the same environmental conditions, only prefers even more humid places.

Alder sticky (Alnusglutinosa) has a grayish-brown bark, rounded obovate leaves, dark green above, dull below, sticky at a young age, for which the plant got its name.

Alder sticky

In folk medicine, fruit is also used. alder fluffy (Alnushirsuta) and Siberian alder (Alnushirsutavar. sibirica), common in Siberia and the Far East.

Alder fluffySiberian alder

Healing bumps

The medical use of alder goes back more than one century. In Medieval herbalists, she is mentioned with enviable regularity. V. Strabo and Hildegade of Bingent (XII century) spoke favorably about her. In the herbalists of the 16th-17th centuries, recommendations are given for the external use of a decoction of leaves for gout and fungal diseases of the feet.

In official medicine in Russia, fruit (alder cones) are used. Cones are harvested in autumn and winter, when they are completely lignified, from felled trees in felling areas or from standing trees. Fallen stems are unsuitable for medical purposes. Cones are dried under a canopy, in sheds, on the stove, spreading out in a layer of 5-10 cm and often stirring. The shelf life of raw materials is 4 years.

Medicinal alder seedlings. Photo: Elena Malankina

The raw material should consist of brown or dark brown dry seedlings, single or in clusters of several pieces on a thin stem 1 cm long, with opened scales, with or without seeds. Odorless, taste - slightly astringent. The harvested raw materials differ in the following characteristics: the infructescences collected in the summer months are green or greenish-brown, the scales are stuck together, the cones of the spring collection are easily ground into a black-brown powder.

Allowed in raw materials no more than: moisture - 12%, total ash - 3.5%, ash insoluble in 10% hydrochloric acid - 1%, twigs and individual stalks - 1%, fruit stems with a branch length (from the place of attachment stalk of the lower fruit) over 20 mm - 3%, crushed particles passing through a sieve with holes with a diameter of 1 mm - 3%, organic impurities - 0.5%, mineral - 1%.

In folk medicine, in addition to cones, the bark of 2-3 summer branches and leaves collected during sap flow are very widely used, which are collected in June and dried in a well-ventilated attic without access to direct sunlight.

Leaves and bark are used as medicinal raw materials in European countries.

Gallothanin and even selenium 

Cones contain tannins (6-34%), incl. gallotanin, alkaloids, phenolcarboxylic acids (gallic - up to 4%). Leaves contain anthracene derivatives in addition to tannins. The bark contains up to 20% tannins, flavonol glycosides, in particular hyperoside, steroids (β-sitosterol), triterpenes.

In addition, macroelements (mg / g) were found in seedlings: potassium - 5.8, calcium - 5.0, magnesium - 0.8, iron - 0.2. They concentrate selenium.

Medicinal alder seedlings. Photo: Elena Malankina


Colitis tinctures and decoctions

Broth infusion is used as an astringent for acute and chronic enteritis, colitis, dyspepsia, dysentery, rheumatoid arthritis, colds. Infusion, decoction and infusion of infructescence is a hemostatic agent for pulmonary uterine and especially gastric and intestinal bleeding.

Infusion prepared at the rate of: 4 g of cones per 1 glass of boiling water. Take 1/4 cup 3-4 times a day. In the case of using alder bark, the infusion was prepared from the calculation: 15 g of raw materials were poured with a glass of boiling water, insisted and taken 1 tablespoon 3-4 times a day. It is a very effective remedy for enteritis and enterocolitis.

For cooking decoction take 15 g of cones, pour a glass of boiling water, boil for 15 minutes, filter, cool and drink 1 tablespoon 2-3 times a day.

Compound fruits are part of gastric tea. Alder is also used in the form of a dry extract of seed fruits. With these diseases, a dry extract from the fruit is shown, take 0.5-0.6 g 3-6 times a day. The course of treatment is 3-5 days.

Medicinal alder fruits. Photo: Elena Malankina

In gynecological practice, infusion of infructescence or bark is used for uterine bleeding of various origins, uterine fibroma, inflammation. With sore throat, they gargle, and with bleeding gums, you can use it to rinse your mouth.

This plant was widely used in Russia. But leaves were often preferred. For breastfeeding mothers, for abundant milk release, with mastopathy, it was recommended to apply fresh leaves in a steamed form to the breast several times a day. In winter, for lack of fresh, dry raw materials were used for these purposes. Fresh leaves crushed with water had a beneficial effect on suppuration, severe abscesses. For various bleeding, bloody diarrhea, hemoptysis, an infusion of a handful of alder leaves filled with 240 ml of water was taken orally. The infusion, sweetened with sugar or honey, was drunk in a small teacup.

With gout, arthritis, joint pain, "dry baths" help well. Freshly harvested, fresh alder leaves are heated in an oven or in the sun and spread on the bed in a thick layer. The patient is placed on the leaves with his back, they are wrapped around the whole body, and covered with a warm blanket on top. The duration of the session is about an hour. It is even better if the leaves are placed in a deep tub, and when they get warm and "on fire", plant them up to the patient's neck or throat. This is exactly how the herbal medicine men used to heal in the old days. By the way, birch leaves are used in the same way, the effect is also remarkable.

Also used tincture of bark (25 g per 100 ml of alcohol or a glass of vodka). They took it 30-40 drops 2-3 times a day. They also treated diarrhea with these drugs.

Cows for diarrhea, dogs for fleas

Alder is an affordable and effective remedy in veterinary medicine. In a number of countries, fresh leaves are successfully used to control fleas by scattering them on the floor. A strong decoction of the leaves was used for washing beds and for treating walls to fight bed bugs. These properties of alder can be successfully recommended for pest control of garden and horticultural crops. Alder cones were given to agricultural and domestic animals for bloody diarrhea. For example, cows were given 3 tablespoons every 1 to 2 hours.

Foresters consider alder to be a weedy tree, second grade. But such an attitude towards gray alder is clearly not deserved, since this plant is remarkable for many of its advantages.One of the amazing properties of a tree is the ability to settle on completely barren land and at the same time improve, enrich the soil with nitrogen, like plants from the legume family. But unlike the latter, the nodules on its roots are formed not by nitrogen-fixing bacteria, but by ray fungi - actinomycetes.

In addition, alder produces easily decomposing, high-ash and nitrogen-containing foliage into litter. All this led scientists - geobotanists to the idea of ​​using it for reclamation, that is, the restoration of disturbed lands, mine dumps, as well as for fixing the slopes of ravines and talus. Although, on the other hand, in the Middle Lane, she often occupies abandoned arable land and it is extremely difficult to reclaim plots from her and turn them into fields again.

Alder wood is quite soft, homogeneous, reddening in the air, it is well processed, but not resistant to decay, therefore, as a building material, it is mainly used for internal work. It is used to imitate walnut, mahogany, in the manufacture of joinery, as well as for the production of plywood, matches and paper.

The firewood made of gray alder was called the Tsar's firewood, since they used it to stoke the stoves in the royal chambers. And they deserve such an honor because, unlike birch and, moreover, oak firewood, they practically do not give off fumes and soot, in terms of heat they are only slightly inferior to them. It is believed that spruce firewood is an unsurpassed material for smoking fish, hams and sausages. Dry distillation produces wood vinegar and charcoal from alder wood.

The bark and leaves contain dyes used to color the skin red. Received from alder dyes of dark brown or chestnut color, which dyed wool for carpets.