American aspen is a fast-growing botanical species that lives for a brief period and normally grows up to a height of 80 feet on maturity. This tree has a soft, almost white bark, which becomes rough and dark as it matures.
The lean, compacted leaf stalks of the tree bear disk-shaped or oval leaves that tremble even in light breeze and, hence, the species is also referred to as quaking aspen or trembling aspen. American aspen tree produces male and female flowers on separate trees during April and May and these blossoms emerge in long clusters known as catkins.
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In fact, the flowers blossom about a month prior to the emergence of the leaves. The crown of the tree is comparatively small and dispersed, while the branches are distributed. The trunk of American aspen grows straight have small taper and are generally branchless lower than the crown.
The branchlets of American aspen are thin, reddish-brown and frequently have a grey waxy coating. The buds of American aspen are pointed, reddish-brown have terminal buds and might be somewhat viscous.
The American aspen is so generously gifted that the tree provides food to more than five hundred species of animals, fungi and additional life-forms. The bark of this tree is a favorite of the beaver more than any other living species and uses the poles of the tree to build its dams, while the winter buds of American aspen form the food for grouse. On the other hand, the moose surfs through the foliage of the tree throughout the year.
There was a time, when humans also depended on the American aspen as a major supply of foods as well as medicines. Different North American Indian tribes consumed the internal bark of American aspen and even drank the syrup extracted from the inner bark of the tree as a tonic during spring time or to revitalize their energy.
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The Crees, the largest native group of North America, simmered the bark of American aspen and drank the solution as a medication to treat cough. On the other hand, the Delawares utilized the roots of the tree as a tonic for weakness and also prepared a cold remedy making use of the bark of American aspen.
They boiled the roots to prepare the tonic that supposedly infused strength. Chippewas fermented the roots of American aspen and drank it to avoid premature childbirth, applied the chewed bark externally to the cuts and also prepared medicine for the heart using different parts of this tree.
While the Fox people boiled the buds of American aspen in fat to prepare an ointment that provided relief to the nose of people suffering from cold, the Mohawks prepared an herbal tea with the bark of American aspen to eliminate worms from the body.
Later, during the 19th century, contemporary herbalists continued from where the Native American Indians left and undertook researches with the tinctures prepared with American aspen bark to prepare formulations to treat fever, arthritis, rheumatism, common cold and also to expel worms.
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Similar to the willow bark, the bark of American aspen or the trembling aspen is very familiar for its pain-alleviating as well as anti-inflammatory attributes. Formulations prepared with the bark of American aspen are generally taken internally to cure arthritic and rheumatic pains and aches.
In addition, herbal preparations with American aspen are used to reduce fever, particularly when the condition is related to rheumatoid arthritis. As the bark of American aspen possesses tonic or stimulant properties, it works as an energizer medication when treating anorexia (loss of hunger and helplessness to eat) as well as other conditions related to debility.
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The bark of this tree also possesses considerable antiseptic and astringent attributes and this makes it effective in treating diarrhea as well as the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. The bark of American aspen is also used to cure infections of the urinary tract.
Since using the bark of American aspen facilitates in encouraging the flow of bile (cholagogue), it can also be used to promote digestion and particularly stimulate the functioning of the stomach and liver, especially when one suffers from loss of appetite. American aspen may also be given to patients who are enduring feverish colds as well as infections, for instance cystitis.
Apart from the remedial uses of American aspen or the trembling aspen, this tree also has a number of other utilities. The timber of this tree is lightweight, smooth and shrinks very less. This is the reason why high quality aspen are used for boards/ planks as well as making wooden matches.
It is interesting to note that the timber of American aspen is especially ideal for making excellent sauna benches as well as structures in playgrounds since the surface of this wood does not fall apart. Nevertheless, the major portion of aspen wood is used to make pulp and flake boards. In addition, different wildlife also takes advantage of American aspen.
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For instance, the leaves of American aspen also referred to as the quaking aspen, form the food for caterpillars of different Lepidoptera species.
In Canada, the wood of American aspen is primarily used for making pulp products, for example, books, good quality printing paper and newsprint. It may be noted that the wood of American aspen is particularly suited for making high grade panel products like wafer board and oriented strand board. The planks/ boards of American aspen are lightweight and widely used to make furniture, crates, boxes, wall panels and the core stock in plywood.
Wood products made from American aspen comprise lumber, pulp, particleboard, veneer, studs, excelsior, novelty items, shingles as well as wooden flooring.
American aspen also provides shelter and home to a wide diversity of wildlife that need young forests, counting black deer, hare, deer, elk, woodcock, grouse and several smaller birds as well as animals.
Especially, the ruffed grouse makes use of all the age categories of American aspen - for instance, the sapling stands for brooding, the pole stands for shelter during winters as well as breeding and the mature stands for making their nests as well as collecting their food during the winters.
Chips of the whole tree aspen may be milled or pounded into nourishing foods for animals, called 'Muka'. Alternately, they may even be processed into biomass fuel. For such purposes, American aspen may be cultivated in thick sucker stand on regular biological rotations of anything varying between 26 years and 30 years.
The stands of American aspen have very low fuel accumulation and, therefore, have a very little inflammability and can be used as effective firebreaks. When violent crown fires engulf the conifers, generally they subside to the ground when they come in contact with stands of American aspen and, sometimes, they are even put off by trees of this species.
American aspen trees are generally very attractive visually. The pale hued bark along with the autumn shades presents a pleasing distinction to the gloomy conifers. Especially, in the western countries, recreationists use different trees of this species in all the seasons.
American aspen is indigenous to North America and this plant species has a preference for humid and damp regions. American aspen is generally found growing naturally along the rivers and in valleys, besides the roads and also in groves. In addition, it is also cultivated extensively in the regions having temperate climatic conditions. American aspen's bark, which is extensively used for remedial purposes, is collected during the early part of spring.
American aspen can be found growing in a wide assortment of soil conditions that vary from superficial to rock-strewn to deep fresh, rough loamy sands as well as heavy mud. In fact, American aspen or the trembling aspen along with an assortment of species in mixed stands (places where no single species includes over 80 per cent of the forest growth) forms an important constituent of the forests in the regions having northern temperate climatic conditions.
Chemical analysis of the American aspen or the trembling aspen has revealed that it encloses a number of valuable chemical compounds, such as tannins and phenolic glycosides (counting populin and salicin). Populin and salicin are basically salicylates - substances which possess pain relieving, fever reducing as well as anti-inflammatory attributes, which are very akin to those of aspirin.
The bark of American aspen is used to prepare decoctions as well tinctures.
Decoction: The decoction is prepared using one to two teaspoonfuls of the dehydrated bark in a cup of water and boiling the mixture. Subsequently, the solution is left to simmer for approximately 10 to 15 minutes. It is advisable that this decoction is drunk thrice every day. In order to encourage appetite, you should drink the decoction about 30 minutes prior to taking your meals.
Tincture: The tincture of the American aspen bark should be taken in the dosage of two to four ml at least thrice every day.
It is best to collect the American aspen bark, which forms the basis of a number of herbal formulations, during the early part of spring. While collecting the bark, be careful not to cut the bark in a ring around (ring-bark), as doing so will kill the tree.
Herbal formulations prepared with American aspen or the trembling aspen are used to treat a number of health conditions. If you are using the bark of American aspen to treat rheumatoid arthritis, it may be used in conjunction with other herbs like bogbean, black cohosh and celery. In order to stimulate your appetite, the bark of the tree may be used along with goldenseal and balmony.