Larch is a deciduous conifer, meaning that its needles turn yellow and drop each year rather than being evergreen. The Larix genus has 8 distinct species, and belong to the Pinaceae family along with Spruces, Firs, Hemlocks, Pines, and Cedars. The cones and pollen of coniferous plants such as Larch have carefully evolved to be specific to the same species, utilizing precise cone geometry and minuscule surface features on the cone scales and pollen grains to direct the pollen to the cone ovules, enhancing the success of wind-dependent pollination. Female cones (which produce seeds) of the Pinaceae family grow above male cones (which produce pollen). This ensures that the pollen of the same tree does not drop and fertilize the female cones, but rather relies on wind pollination from other trees to promote genetic diversity and integrity. Larch was used as medicine by various North American tribes for various reasons. The Abenaki tribe utilized a tea of the bark for coughs; Abitibi people used the leaves and inner bark for sore throats; Chippewa tribe would use a poultice of the inner bark for burns, and the Menominee would use a poultice of the inner bark for inflammation; The Algonquin people used a tea of the young branches as a laxative; Montagnais people used a tea of the bark and buds as a diuretic and expectorant; Ojibwa would crush the leaves and bark and apply for headaches, and would use an herbal steam for aching muscles as well as an air cleanser.
What is Larch Used For?
Larch gum is a rich source of arabinogalactans, a type of fiber made of highly branched and high molecular weight non-starch polysaccharides. Arabinogalactans from larch are bound to galactose and arabinose sugar units. Arabinogalactan molecules are fermented in the gut by the microbiome, allowing the gut bacteria to cleave off the sugar side chains and create short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are utilized as an energy source for the epithelial cells that line the lower gastrointestinal tract, as well as the liver. Preclinical studies have found that dietary larch arabinogalactans may also be incorporated into cell walls of neurons to protect sensitive brain tissue. In a study done on 199 healthy people over 6 months, Larch arabinogalactan (LAG) supplementation was shown to support wintertime wellness. In a study done on 49 healthy women, combination LAG and Echinacea supplementation was shown to increase complement properdin, an immune system regulator, by 18%. Study participants also noted improvements in overall physical health, emotional health and vitality. Supplementation of LAGs in 45 healthy adults before and after vaccination was shown to improve specific antibody count without influencing white blood cell counts in a pilot study, suggesting a supportive action of LAGs on the adaptive immune system. LAGs also act as a prebiotic for the microbiome, particularly the beneficial microbial species Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus. Interestingly arabinogalactans have been showed to decrease the Clostridia class of bacteria which are associated with pathologies.
Traditional Health Benefits of Larch
Additional Information on this Herb
Arabinogalactans and other polysaccharides
1. https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=183409#null 2. Groman EV, Enriquez PM, Jung C, Josephson L. Arabinogalactan for hepatic drug delivery. Bioconjug Chem 1994;5:547-556. 3. Owens, J. N., Takaso, T., & Runions, C. J. (1998). Pollination in conifers. Trends in Plant Science, 3(12), 479–485. doi:10.1016/s1360-1385(98)01337-5 4. Duke, James. Handbook of Northeastern Indian Medicinal Plants. 1986. Quarterman Publications, Inc. Lincoln, MA. 5. Hutchens, Alma R. Indian Herbology of North America: The Definitive Guide to Native Medicinal Plants and their Uses. 1991. Shambala Publications, Inc. Boston, MA. 6. Lim, S. H., & Lee, J. (2017). Nutrition Research and Practice, 11(5), 381. doi:10.4162/nrp.2017.11.5.381 7. Riede, L., Grube, B., & Gruenwald, J. (2013). Current Medical Research and Opinion, 29(3), 251–258. doi:10.1185/03007995.2013.765837 8. Kim, Linda & Waters, Robert & Burkholder, Peter. (2002). Immunological activity of larch arabinogalactan and Echinacea: A preliminary, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Alternative medicine review : a journal of clinical therapeutic. 7. 138-49. 9. Udani et al. Nutrition Journal 2010, 9:32. https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-9-32 10. Elpel, Thomas J. Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification, an Herbal Field Guide to Plant Families of North America. 6th Edition. 2013. Pages 46-47. HOPS Press, LLC. Pony, MT.
Not for use during pregnancy. If you have a medical condition or take pharmaceutical drugs please consult your doctor prior to use
- This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.
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