Spruce Pine Resin

Miscellaneous - Turkey

Spruce pine resin is naturally found among spruce pine tree bark in a pellet form and is collected hand, one by one, mainly in the southern areas of Borçka and Artvin, in northeastern Turkey, at altitudes higher than 1200 meters above sea level. Besides its role in culinary culture, where it is mainly used in traditional milk-based sweets such as ice creams and milk puddings, this unique product also has medicinal properties.   For instance, it has been used to treat stomach and gastrointestinal diseases. It has also been believed to be effective against respiratory diseases and pneumonia, and is can treat coughs and relax the vocal cords. The spruce pine resin serves as a stabilizer for gastric fluid and regulates the stomach’s PH level, and so it is highly recommended for people with stomach diseases. Its only disadvantage is that fresh resin can stick to the teeth easily when chewed. However, it can be removed naturally during the day from eating and drinking water. This resin gets harder and harder when it is chewed, working the face muscles, and therefore it is an alternative therapy for patients with facial paralysis. Spruce pine resin is also considered as a powerful antiseptic. In Ardanuç and Yusufeli villages, it is crushed until it becomes a powder and used for treating burns and cuts, because these villages are far from the hospitals and it is not easy to get medical help all the time.   Primarily, spruce pine resin has been collected by shepherds in small amounts (individual portions) and given to friends and neighbors as a gift, when the shepherds would return from the upland meadows. There is a famous saying in the Turkish language based on this history. When somebody gives an inexpensive gift that is of high emotional value to someone, this rhyming saying has been used: “Çam sakızı, çoban armağanı” (“Spruce pine resin is the shepherds’ gift”). Spruce pine resin can be found at some local shops in the area, and some producers have launched a web site to sell their product online.   Pine resin collecting is a craft handed down from father to son over the years, but this unique product is at risk of extinction due to the difficulty of resin collecting and damage to the forests in the area. In the past, spruce pine resin was easily found in Artvin, and its price was lower than today. However nowadays, total production continues to decrease due to forest destruction and overexploitation through woodcutting. Consequently many sellers tend to buy spruce pine resin from other nearby areas such as Georgia.