Spicebush facts and health benefits

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Spicebush facts and health benefits

Spicebush Quick Facts
Name: Spicebush
Scientific Name: Lindera benzoin
Origin Eastern North America, ranging from New York to Ontario in the north, and to Kansas
Colors Green turning to red as they matures
Shapes Oval, short-stalked, fleshy, ellipsoid, shiny red berry 6-10 mm long, with a single seed
Lindera benzoin commonly known as Spicebush is a flowering plant in the family Lauraceae. The plant is native to eastern North America, ranging from New York to Ontario in the north, and to Kansas, Texas, and northern Florida in the center and south. Few of the popular common names of the plant are Benjamin Bush, Northern Spicebush, Snap-Wood, Spicebush, Spicewood and Wild Allspice. In 1783, Carl Peter Thunberg honored Johann Linder (1676-1724), a Swedish botanist and physician, by naming the genus Lindera in honor of him. The specific epithet benzoin is an adaptation of the Middle French benjoin (from Arabic luban jawi) literally “Java Frankincense” and refers to an aromatic balsamic resin obtained from several species of trees in the genus Styrax.

Plant Description

Spicebush is a medium-sized deciduous, multiple-stemmed twiggy shrub that grows about 5 m tall. The plant is found growing in rich deciduous woodlands, wooded bluffs, bottomland forests along rivers, wooded slopes (usually toward the bottom), gravelly seeps in shaded areas, stream banks, low woods, margins of wetlands and uplands. It prefers fertile loamy soil with decaying organic matter. It is adaptable to cultivation in yards and gardens. The plant has woody roots that are shallow and much branched. Stem has greenish tan with light colored lenticles. Bark is brown, shiny, and sparsely covered with small white lenticels. Slender branchlets are shiny and brown; their lenticels are white, dot-like, and insignificant.


Alternate leaves are produced along new branchlets. The larger leaves are up to 5 inch long and 2½ inch across. They are ovate or ovate-obovate, smooth along their margins, wedge-shaped at their bottoms, and hairless. The slender pedicels of the larger leaves are up to ½ inch long. Smaller leaves are less than 2 inches long, more rounded and oval in shape, and less conspicuous than the larger leaves; otherwise, they have similar characteristics. Both types of leaves are medium green on the upper surface, and pale green on the lower surface. Leaves are aromatic when crushed. The larva (caterpillar) of the spicebush swallowtail butterfly feeds on the leaves of this shrub.

Flower & Fruit

Yellow flowers are perfect or dioecious (male & female flowers on separate shrubs); they occur in small clusters along the branchlets before the leaves develop. Individual flowers are less than ¼ inches across. Each flower has 6 yellow sepals with a petal-like appearance and no petals. The male flowers have 9 stamens (organized into 3 groups), while the female flowers have an ovary with a single style and up to 18 pseudo-stamens. Each fertile flower is replaced by a fleshy ovoid drupe with a single stone; this drupe becomes red when it is mature during the late summer or fall. This shrub reproduces by reseeding itself. The leaves, buds, and new growth twigs can also be made into a tea.

Traditional uses and benefits of Spicebush

  • Spice bush has a wide range of uses as a household remedy, especially in the treatment of colds, dysentery and intestinal parasites.
  • Bark is aromatic, astringent, diaphoretic, febrifuge, stimulant and tonic.
  • It is used in the treatment of coughs and colds.
  • Bark can be harvested at any time of the year and is used fresh or dried.
  • Oil from the fruits has been used in the treatment of bruises and rheumatism.
  • Tea made from the twigs was a household remedy for colds, fevers, worms and colic.
  • Steam bath of the twigs is used to cause perspiration in order to ease aches and pains in the body.
  • Bark is diaphoretic and vermifuge.
  • It was once widely used as a treatment for typhoid fevers and other forms of fevers.
  • Native Americans also used spicebush to combat intestinal parasites.
  • Drinking a tea prepared by brewing spicebush twigs effectively helped to provide relief from fever, colds, gas and colic as well as eliminate worms.
  • Tea prepared with the bark of spicebush not only helped to force out worms from the body, but was also found to be an effective cure for typhoid fever.
  • It is also effective as a diaphoretic and helped to treat other types of fevers by promoting perspiration.
  • American Indians prepare an herbal tea and it was an excellent remedy for various conditions, including cramps, croup, coughs, and measles as well as effective for treating delayed menstruation.
  • Bark of spicebush is often used for treating colds and coughs.
  • Oil extracted from them has been traditionally used for treating rheumatism and bruises.
  • Spicebush twigs are also added to steam baths to promote sweating, which, in turn, helps to alleviate body aches and pains.

Culinary uses

  • Native Americans used dried fruits as a spice and the leaves for tea.
  • Young leaves, twigs and fruit contain an aromatic essential oil and make a very fragrant tea.
  • Twigs are best gathered when in flower as the nectar adds considerably to the flavor.
  • Dried and powdered fruit is used as a substitute for the spice ‘allspice’.
  • Leaves can also be used as a spice substitute.
  • New bark has a pleasant taste and is pleasant to chew.
  • Seeds of spicebush berries were used for their fiery taste.
  • Fruit or berries of spicebush are dried out and used as an allspice substitute.
  • Leaves of spicebush can also be consumed raw, generally in the form of a condiment.
  • Fresh leaves can be used in both hot as well as iced tea.

Spicebush Tea Recipe

  1. Collect twigs, leaves, and/or berries of the spicebush
  2. Boil water, and then remove from heat source.
  3. Break twigs into small pieces and place in the water.
  4. Let spicebush steep about 10 minutes.
  5. Serve and enjoy!

Other Facts

  • Essential oils of leaves, twigs, and fruits have lent themselves for minor use for tea.
  • Dried fruits have been used in fragrant sachets.
  • Because of its habitat in rich woods, early land surveyors and settlers used spicebush as an indicator species for good agricultural land.
  • Leaves contain small quantities of camphor and can be used as an insect repellent and disinfectant.
  • Oil with a lavender-like fragrance is obtained from the leaves.
  • Fruit, upon distillation, yield a spice-scented oil resembling camphor.
  • Oil smelling of wintergreen is obtained from the twigs and bark.
  • Entire spicebush plant is fragrant.
  • During the Civil War in America, people used spicebush tea as a substitute for coffee, especially when the supplies were poor.


















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