Sugar maple is a deciduous tree, normally growing to heights of 12-24m. The leaves can reach up to 20cm long and wide, and have 5 palmate lobes. In spring/summer, this tree will be filled with green leaves but towards fall, it will start to color unevenly. It may be distinguished in the wintertime by its sharply pointed, multi-scaled, narrowly conical buds, which are pale brown The end bud is about ¼ inch long, with side buds being smaller. Sugar maple branches are opposite.
|Parts Used: |
Inner bark, leaves, sap, seed, seedlings
Syrup!!! (pancakes, French toast, sweetener for tea...) Some First Nations people combined maple sugar with powdered sweet corn as an energy food for long journeys, or as the base for a sauce used in roast venison preparations. Sap can also be converted into vinegar (7).
Seedlings gathered in early April could also be washed, chopped and added to salads or soups (7).
Traditionally used in treatment of coughs and diarrhoea. Sap is used as cough syrup. Boiled leaves can be applied topically as a poultice for boils. Decoction of leaves and bark in the treatment of sore eyes. A decoction of leaves/bark is also thought to strengthen the liver and kidneys. Generally considered a tonic (for liver, kidney, spleen and nerves)(6).
Maple sap is often high in oligosaccharides (biochemically, a small sized carbohydrate consisting of 3-9 simple sugars/monosaccharides). It has been shown that oligosaccharides serve as pre-biotic nutrients. Pre-biotic oligosaccharides have been shown to feed beneficial intestinal micro-flora, while suppressing other intestinal bacteria. Some studies have shown that maple sap may serve as a good medium for the growth and production of probiotic bacteria for supplemental use in humans. Thus, maple sap may be a good option for non-dairy source probiotic drinks. However, some people may have difficulty digesting oligosaccharides, making the consumption of pre-biotic rich foods, such as maple sap, problematic in these populations(8,9).
Maple sap and syrup contain antioxidant properties. Syrup has more anti-oxidant capacity than the sap. Maple syrup has a similar ORAC value (a measure of anti-oxidant value) as strawberry and orange juices. Some maple syrup extracts have also shown in vitro anti cancer action (4).
Maple sap is said to contain Abscisic acid. Studies using mouse models have shown promise for maple sap, via Abscisic acid, to have potent anti diabetic effects in mice along with anti-inflammatory action in inflammatory bowel disease and atherosclerosis. This research is preliminary and requires further research.
|Body System’s Treated:
Respiratory, nervous system,liver, kidneys, spleen, digestive
Fuel, Potash, preservative, wood
Maple trees should be at least 1 foot in diameter (about 40 years old) before they can be tapped, and no tree should have more than 3 taps. Place taps near bottom of the tree slanting upwards to allow sap to slowly drain into containers. Make sure containers have lids so rain water cannot dilute the sap. Look to harvest in late winter/early spring. A large maple will yield 3-6pounds of sap annually.
4) Jean Legault, Karl Girard-Lalancette, Carole Grenon, Catherine Dussault, and André Pichette.Journal of Medicinal Food.
April 2010, 13(2): 460-468. doi:10.1089/jmf.2009.0029.
5) Some Aromatic Compounds in Sap Composition of Maple Sap and Syrup V. J. FILIPIC and J. C. UNDERWOOD. Journal of Food Science vol 29 issue 4 pp 464-469 , July 1964.
6)Hutchens, Alma. Indian Herbology of North America. Shambhala Publications, 1973.
7) Harris, Ben Charles. Eat the Weeds. Barre Publishers, 1971.
8)Lett Appl Microbiol. 2008 Dec;47(6):500-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1472-765X.2008.02451.x.Maple sap as a rich medium to grow probiotic lactobacilli and to produce lactic acid.Cochu A1, Fourmier D, Halasz A, Hawari J.
9) Bode, L. (2009). "Human milk oligosaccharides: prebiotics and beyond.".Nutrition Reviews 67(2): S183–91. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00239.x.
10) Bassaganya-Riera, J; Skoneczka, J; Kingston, DG; Krishnan, A; Misyak, SA; Guri, AJ; Pereira, A;Carter, AB; Minorsky, P; Tumarkin, R; Hontecillas, R(2010). "Mechanisms of action and medicinal applications of abscisic Acid". Current medicinal chemistry 17 (5): 467–78.