Trees have many benefits and one of the most overlooked is its sap. Sap serves the tree as blood does the human body – but how does the sap benefit life outside of the tree?

There are actually many ways sap is beneficial. First of all, there are two kinds of sap; both are water-based and contain minerals and hormones. Xylem sap contains additional nutrients, while Phloem sap has sugar. Pholem sap is technically made up of water, sugar, hormones and mineral elements.

With this, how is the sap used?

1. Food – Syrup is sap – maple syrup to be exact. We use sap on our pancakes, in candy and in butter. Birch sap is also made into a drink. Birch beer soda is made of birch sap, a popular drink by the Pennsylvania Dutch. A lesser known use of sap is through gum arabic which is a derivative from acacia tree sap. The gum is used in gumdrops, marshmallows, M&M’s and other candies.

2. Medicine – Sweetgum has been used by Native Americans as a balm. Some cultures mix tobacco and sweet gum to help people sleep. Sweetgum and gum arabic are used to make incense. Sweetgum is made into a salve and sold under names like Copalm Blasam and Liquid Storax. It is used to treat skin cancer, diarrhea, ringworm and other conditions. In South Korea, there is a festival that honors the sap of the gorosoe tree and it is used as a revitalizing tonic. Gum arabic is also used by drug companies as an emulsifier or binder in drugs. Gum arabic can be used to inhibit periodontal bacteria. Sap from the tree in the Amazon called Sangre de Grado or dragon’s blood, provides powerful relief from inflammation and pain. This sap is also used on insect bites.

3. Products – Sap in the form of gum arabic is used as a binder in watercolor paint, in making fireworks, as a non-toxic adhesive for cigarette papers and postage stamps. It is also used in photographic printing, cosmetics and perfume making. Some saps are made into rubber which of course is used in a million different ways. Natural rubber is used in everything from balloons to sterile gloves.

A tree usually holds its sap within itself but on occasion it will ’bleed’ over. Such bleeding is usually cased from a build up in carbon dioxide which in turn builds pressure within the tree. If there are any wounds or openings on the tree, the sap will ooze from these. Oozing sap can also be heat related. In early spring, fluctuating temperatures can affect tree sap flow. The warmer weather produces pressure within the tree. During cold weather, the tree pulls water through the roots and replenishes its sap until weather stabilizes.

Trees do not typically leak sap unless they are damaged in some way. Openings within the tree’s bark can be caused from bacterial canker, which is brought on by pruning or freezing. These cankers allow bacteria to penetrate the tree through these openings. This bacteria in turn causes the tree to produce an abnormally high sap pressure, which forces fermented sap out to flow from cracks or opening. Effected trees may demonstrate wilt or dieback on the branches. Slime flux is another bacterial problem characterized by tree sap oozing. Sour-smelling, slimy-looking sap leaks from cracks or wounds on the tree, turning gray as it dries.

Sap has a great amount of value to trees, humans and animals alike.

About the Author: Andrew Johnson is the owner of Central Texas Tree Care, a leading provider of Austin tree services in Central Texas. Certified ISA Austin arborist services including: tree trimming, tree removal, tree care and stump removal. For more information on Austin tree service please visit

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