Pine (Pinus strobus)
Largest conifer family in species diversity
250 recognized species in the world including pines, larches, spruces, firs, and hemlock
Parts Used: bark, needles (leaves), pine resin, pollen, seeds
Energetics: warming, drying
Taste: pungent, bitter, sour
Plant Properties: stimulating diuretic, stimulating expectorant, stimulating diaphoretic, modulates inflammation, nutrient-dense food, vulnerary, antimicrobial astringent
Plant Uses: cold/flu, wounds, splinters, rheumatism, food
Plant Preparations: resin infused oils/salves, needle infused oil/salves, needles and bark decoctions, seeds as food, needles as food – best to harvest in the spring when there’s new growth
“The Commission E approved pine needle oil for catarrhal disease of the respiratory tract, and externally only for rheumatic and neuralgic ailments. It has been used as a fragrance and flavor component in cough and cold medicines, vaporizer fluids, nasal decongestants, and analgesic ointments.”
Generally considered safe
Can make bronchial asthma and whooping cough symptoms worse
Can be irritating to the kidneys if used regularly or have kidney inflammation, more irritating than other evergreens species
Per gram, pine needles have more vitamin C than an orange (3-5 times more depending on the source)
Older needles have more than younger needles, although younger needles taste better. Some sources say you can pick year round, however others say to pick in the spring when there’s new growth.
To get the most vitamin C, infuse in honey, eat them raw, or use warm water to make an infusion/decoction. Hot water will destroy some of the vitamins.
Pine Tea Recipe
Place a handful of pine needles in 1 pint of water
Steep for 15-30 minutes
Strain and enjoy!
Peel and chop inner bark
Add 2 T bark to 1 pint water
Simmer for 15-20 minutes
Strain and enjoy
Bark is slightly antimicrobial and slightly astringent making it good for diarrhea, loose stool, leaky gut or a wash for bruises, strains, and pains.
Medicinal Uses of Needles
- Stimulating expectorant and diaphoretic
- Thins mucus in the lungs and sinuses
- Soothes a sore throat
- Used in an herbal steam
- Antiseptic and astringent from the tannins
- Good source of vitamin C and A
Medicinal Uses of Pine Resin
- Warmed pine resin can be placed externally on skin for wounds, splinters, insect bites to draw out the irritant
- Can be placed on sore muscles/joints to relieve pain or on the chest
- Inner bark can be cut into strips and cooked like spaghetti or dried and ground into flour for bread or thickening agent
- Pine needles can be consumed raw, however typically chewed on for a few minutes to swallow the juices or made into a tea
- Cones, seeds, and pollen are edible
- Woody cones with seeds are female and seeds can be shelled and roasted
- Pine nuts in these trees are too small to enjoy – Korean Pine, Italian Stone Pine, and Pinyon Pine are typically eaten
- Soft male cones and pollen are edible but are best consumed cooked due to strong taste
- Pollen can be collected and consumed. The benefits of pine pollen range from boosting testosterone to immune function, however clinical data is lacking
- You can even put them in some delicious cookies! Shortbread Herbal Cookies
- Pinus strobus – “Strobes” is an ancient name for an incense bearing tree, most likely from the aromatic resin that is released from the tree when wounded.
- On younger trees, each whorl of branches signifies one year of growth
- Turpentine- a volatile pungent oil distilled from pine trees, used in mixing paints and varnishes
- Pine needles can be used as mulch, they do not acidify the soil rather the roots do
- Needles are often soft and grow longer than other conifers
- Always grow in clusters of 2 (red, jack pine, and others), 3 (pitch pine), or 5 (white pine)
- Cone shape and bark varies among the pines
- Common species in New England:
Yellow Pine refers to a number of conifer species – for example, in the western U.S refers to Ponderosa and Jeffery Pine
Pinus rigida – Pitch Pine
Pinus strobus – Eastern White Pine
Pinus banksiana – Jack Pine
Pinus resinosa – Red Pine
Tannins: Water-soluble compounds contribute to the styptic and antimicrobial properties. A strong tea can be used as an herbal wash for superficial wounds (other pines can be used similarly)
Polyphenols/proanthocyanidins: anti-inflammatory and antioxidant that support chronic health concerns like heart disease and diabetes. High concentrations are found in the inner bark.
Resins/terpenes: Volatile oils that are antimicrobial, styptic, circulatory, analgesic, antiseptic, and mild bronchorelaxants. Also can be used as liquid bandages.
Minerals/vitamins: Needles are high in minerals and water-soluble vitamins (C and B) which are essential for immune support and tissue repair.
Also in the Pine Family Pinaceae: Larches (Larix), Spruces (Picea), Hemlocks (Tsuga), Firs (Abies), and Douglas-firs (Pseudotsuga)
Cypress Family Cupressaceae: Cypresses (Cupressus), Junipers (Juniperus), and some “Cedars” (not true Cedars).