Pine Trees and their Medicinal Uses

 

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As a child growing up in California, I loved to hear the breeze through the Ponderosa pines. Because these trees are so tall (over 230 feet high), there is a distinct sound that I’ve not heard in any other forest that I’ve walked through.  That airy sound of the breeze through the trees is what I miss most about my home state.  Then there is the smell of pine, which makes me feel refreshed, calm and at peace.

Until recently I didn’t know that pine (all species) have medicinal properties which have been used for centuries by Native American tribes.

Native American’s have been using Pine Medicinally for Centuries

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Native American tribes in this region used all parts of the tree for medicinal purposes. A bark decoction for coughs and colds was used by the Abanaki, Iroquois, Micmac, Mohegan and Shinnecock tribes. Bark was also used as a poultice for colds by the Algonquin and for cuts and wounds by the Chippewa. A pitch pine drawing salve was made by the Delaware and Ontario people just to name a few of its many medicinal uses. (HANE: Herbarium, pinus strobus L.)

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Here in Connecticut we have White Pine which is a shorter scruffier tree than its cousin the Ponderosa. And, today, pine needles and bark are harvested and dried for use in teas, tinctures and infused oils. Pine resin is the golden jewel of the tree as it has incredible healing properties. White Pine has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, expectorant, diuretic, antibacterial, stimulant, antispasmodic and astringent properties.

Eating my first Pine Needles

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Have you ever tasted a pine needle? After our last big snow fall, the sun came out and it was a beautiful day to go out for a walk through our woods to harvest pine needles for my pine soap and salve.  I decided to try a needle.  Honestly, it was nothing to write home about.  It tasted like a pine needle.  I had read pine needles are high in Vitamin C and boosts the immune system.  I read that not every pine tree species tastes the same.  The author encouraged readers to try different trees and go with the one you liked best.  However, since I only have one species of trees on our property, what I tasted was what I tasted – pine and I’ll have to take her word that not all pine trees taste the same…

Making my First Batch of Infused Pine Oil

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This was the fun part – after harvesting enough pine needles, I loaded up my crock pot and added my oil. As I turned on my crock pot, I was struck by a thought! How would a pine marinade work for chicken.  I decided to adapt a recipe for pine needle salad dressing into a marinade.  My husband is such a good sport about this stuff – I knew it wouldn’t faze him in the least.  I was right – after 20 years of eating my “experiments” what’s a few pine needles with dinner.

The final results were OK – I think I would prefer the chicken barbequed to add a little natural smoky flavor with the pine marinade rather than baked.  So I will try this recipe again when the weather gets warmer.   However, my husband thought the chicken tasted great.

White Pine makes wonderful Soaps and Salves

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I love working with pine.  I’ve perfected my drying technique so the pine needles keep their beautiful green color in my soap.  The needles also add a great natural exfoliatant, which is another plus.  All the benefits of pine, plus a four oil soap recipe make a well balanced soap.

The pine infused oil is another bonus as it can be used in many applications such as salves which is moisturizing for extremely dry skin.  The pine salve will also promote healing of small scratches, cuts, burns and other minor skin irritations. During these bitter cold winter months I need something like this as my hands take a beating. They get so dry and cracked (sometimes bleed) that the salve had been a perfect remedy.

I just love pine trees!

7 thoughts on “Pine Trees and their Medicinal Uses

  1. This is so awesome! Love when we use what’s in our backyards. Would love to see a picture of your soap.

    (p.s. we had a dog that would climb pine trees – very old, very tall pine trees – chasing squirrels to the very top where they had a nest. However, he couldn’t climb down. Husband willingly climbed the tree three times to get the dog before he called it quits for himself and the squirrel.)

  2. I didn’t realize all of the uses for pine! I just know that I love the smell of Christmas trees, and my pine candles. 🙂 It sounds like you can use it like aloe vera on burns.

    • Yes, I can honestly say it works on minor burns. I had spilled something while cooking and tried to clean it up and I touched the burner grate. I zapped myself good. I put my salve on it; it stopped hurting and within a few days it was healed.

    • Hello Standalonehobo! I believe what you are referring to is a process called distillation. This is a process that uses steam to separate the oils from the plant material which can float on top of water depending on the type of distillation process you are using. There are many different ways to distill oils from plant materials. To do this properly, you need a still and its not an easy process.

      The method I used is infusion with a neutral carrier oil (I prefer olive oil) and added the plant material to it and gently heated it over a long period of time then strained it. Distillation for essential oils and infusing a carrier oil with plant material are two very different processes. I hope this answers your question. Feel free to contact me again if you have additional questions.

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