Ask a Scientist: What value do reddish male cones have for humans? 

Hello Scientist, 

I’ve read the info you provided on what the reddish male cones are. I’d like to ask what medicinal or nutritional value they may have for humans? Thank you. 

Becky Downs 

The answer: 

Hello Becky, what a great follow up question! The red male spruce cones do have both medicinal and nutritional properties. I reached out to the local plant expert, Raven Cunningham, to help me answer this question. She informed me that the cones, similar to the needles, can be made into a tea and used to relieve skin irritation and help with head colds. Spruce is high in Vitamin C, which is what helps fight against colds and infections.  

Raven also informed me that the pitch of the spruce tree — resin released from the tree in response to injury — was traditionally used as a medication for cuts and scratches. The pitch should be clear and soft. It should be covered with a bandage when applying it to a cut. Pitch can also be used to help with urinary problems. All you have to do is boil the pitch and drink as much as you can.  


A special thanks to Raven Cunningham for consulting with us to answer this question. We are currently seeking out more Ask a Scientist questions. Whether you are out in the Sound or out the road, if you observe something strange and have a question about what is going on please email it to [email protected]. 

Cristina Reo is an education specialist at the Prince William Sound Science Center.