What are the benefits of spruce tips?

Spruce tips, also known as spruce needles or new growth on spruce trees, are the soft, bright green ends of spruce branches. They have a citrusy, piney flavor and can be used both fresh and dried as an ingredient in food and drinks. Spruce tips have been used for centuries by Native Americans as a source of vitamins and minerals, and more recently have become popular in culinary creations like spruce tip tea, syrups, salts, and even ice cream.

What are spruce tips?

Spruce tips are the newest growth on spruce trees, located at the ends of branches. The tender tips are soft and flexible, with a bright green color. Spruce trees are coniferous evergreens, and there are over 30 species found mostly in cooler climates across the Northern Hemisphere. Some of the most common spruce trees used for their tips are:

  • White spruce (Picea glauca)
  • Black spruce (Picea mariana)
  • Blue spruce (Picea pungens)
  • Norway spruce (Picea abies)

The tips are usually harvested by hand in early spring when the buds are newly formed but still sticky with sap. The best time to collect them is a short window of just a few weeks while the tips are at their freshest. Care must be taken not to damage the sensitive new growth. Spruce tips can be used immediately fresh or preserved by drying or freezing for later use.

Nutritional content

One of the biggest benefits of spruce tips is their high nutritional value. Spruce tips are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Some of the key nutrients found in spruce tips include:

Vitamin C

Spruce tips are very high in vitamin C. 100 grams of fresh spruce tips contains about 60 mg of vitamin C, which is around the full recommended daily intake. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient and powerful antioxidant. It helps boost the immune system, heal wounds, absorb iron, and maintain healthy skin, bones, and connective tissue.

Vitamin A

Spruce tips also provide vitamin A in the form of beta carotene. 100 grams contains over 2500 IU of vitamin A activity. Vitamin A promotes good vision, reproductive health, and helps regulate cell growth and division. It also has antioxidant properties.


Manganese is an important mineral that spruce tips contain significant amounts of. 100 grams of spruce tips has around 1.2 mg of manganese. Manganese plays a role in healthy bone structure, skin, connective tissue, energy production, immune function, blood clotting, and metabolism.


Spruce tips contain some calcium, with 100 grams providing around 55 mg. Calcium is essential for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth. It’s also needed for proper muscle, nerve, and heart function.


100 grams of spruce tips contains about 1 mg of iron. Iron is necessary for carrying oxygen through the blood to cells and helps fight fatigue and anemia.


Spruce tips provide a good amount of the mineral magnesium, at around 34 mg per 100 grams. Magnesium aids in hundreds of bodily processes involving muscles, nerves, blood glucose control, protein synthesis, and more.

Unique phytonutrients

In addition to traditional vitamins and minerals, spruce tips contain unique plant compounds called phytonutrients that also provide health benefits:


Spruce tips contain lignans, which are antioxidants linked to improved heart health and balanced hormones. Lignans may also help protect against some types of cancer.


The compound pinene is responsible for the piney flavor and aroma of spruce tips. Research shows pinene has anti-inflammatory effects in the body and helps bronchodilation, opening airways in the lungs.

Bornyl acetate

Bornyl acetate is another phytonutrient found in spruce tips that has been studied for its calming, stress-relieving properties.


Spruce tips deliver a variety of polyphenols, including flavonoids like quercetin, rutin, and kaempferol. Polyphenols have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and are linked to many health benefits.

Health benefits

Research is uncovering connections between consuming spruce tips and the following health benefits:

Immune support

The vitamin C content of spruce tips makes them great for immunity. Vitamin C stimulates white blood cell production, helps neutralize free radicals, and acts as an antihistamine. Manganese and polyphenols in spruce tips also boost immune function. Regularly drinking spruce tip tea may help reduce colds.

Heart health

Compounds in spruce tips like vitamin C, lignans, and quercetin promote heart health. These nutrients reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improve arterial flexibility, and act as antioxidants against atherosclerosis.


The pinene and polyphenols in spruce tips have natural anti-inflammatory activities according to research. Chronic inflammation is at the root of many diseases. Spruce tips may help conditions like arthritis, neurodegenerative disease, atherosclerosis, and autoimmune disorders.

Diabetes management

Some animal studies indicate spruce tips may help regulate blood sugar levels and therefore be beneficial for managing diabetes symptoms. The bioactive compounds appear to aid insulin sensitivity and carbohydrate metabolism. More research is still needed.

Cancer prevention

While studies are preliminary, certain compounds in spruce tips like lignans, vitamin C, and quercetin show anticancer potential. They exhibit antioxidant, anti-proliferative, and cell-protective effects against some types of cancers.

Skin health

Applying spruce tip oil or salves directly to the skin may promote skin health. Spruce tips are antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and contain antioxidant vitamin C to help soothe and heal skin conditions like burns, cuts, eczema, or infections.

Culinary uses

In addition to health benefits, spruce tips add unique and versatile flavor to recipes when used fresh or dried:


One of the most popular uses for spruce tips is making antioxidant-rich herbal tea by steeping the fresh needles or dried tips in hot water. Spruce tip tea has a delightfully bright, citrusy taste.

Spruce tip syrup

Spruce tips can be boiled with sugar to extract their flavor into a wonderfully woodsy, pine-flavored syrup. Spruce syrup is amazing drizzled over everything from pancakes to ice cream.

Jellies and sauces

The tangy taste of spruce makes it perfect for fruit jellies or sauces for meats like venison or duck. A spruce glaze on salmon is also divine.

Spruce salt or sugar

Dried and ground spruce tips can be blended with salt or sugar to infuse them with piney flavor to season roasts, grains, popcorn, pastries, and more.


Mix up festive cocktails featuring spruce tip syrup, or add the syrup to lemonade, iced tea, or hot apple cider for an extra pop of flavor.

Baked goods

Spruce tip syrup or ground tips can add interest to all kinds of baked goods. Add them to cakes, cookies, scones, muffins, or breads for a delightful pine aroma and hint of citrus.

Ice cream

Infusing milk or cream with spruce tips and then churning it into ice cream results in a cool, refreshing treat with the essence of the forest.

How to harvest and use spruce tips

If you have access to spruce trees, try harvesting and using the vitamin-packed tips:

When to harvest

The best time is early spring when buds are newly formed but still sticky with sap, generally a few weeks each year typically between mid-April and early June.

How to harvest

Carefully pluck by hand the newest 1-4 inches of bright green growth from the ends of branches. Use pruners to snip off tips out of reach. Only take 1-10% of growth from any tree.

Storing fresh tips

Spruce tips will keep up to 2 weeks if refrigerated in a paper bag. Rinse off visible sap first. They can also be frozen for longer storage.

Drying tips

Dry spruce tips on screens out of sun. They are ready when brittle and green color fades. Store in airtight containers.

Making spruce tip tea

Use 1 tbsp fresh or 1 tsp dried tips per cup of hot water. Steep at least 5 mins, strain, and enjoy! Sweeten if desired.

Simple spruce tip syrup

Simmer 2 cups water + 1 cup sugar + 1 cup fresh tips for 10 mins. Strain liquid and refrigerate up to 1 month.


Spruce tips are generally safe to consume, but a few precautions are warranted:

– Avoid excessive consumption of spruce tea during pregnancy due to natural compounds that may affect hormones. Moderation should be safe.

– Spruce pollen can cause allergies in some people. Discontinue use if any reactions occur.

– Only harvest spruce tips from trees you know have not been treated with herbicides or pesticides.

– Take care not to overharvest tips from any one tree. Spruce tips are the tree’s new growth for the season.

– Correct identification of spruce trees is important to avoid accidentally harvesting similar members of the pine family that may not be edible.


Spruce tips are an often overlooked foraging ingredient that provide unique flavor as well as an abundance of nutrients and health benefits. Their impressive vitamin C content in particular makes them great for immunity support. Compounds like pinene and polyphenols offer anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Spruce tips can be harvested sustainably each spring season and utilized in teas, syrups, baked goods, and more culinary creations. While excessive consumption should be avoided, integrating spruce tips into your diet a few times per week can be a great way to enjoy their many benefits. When harvested, prepared, and consumed properly, spruce tips are a true gift from the forest.

Leave a Comment