Both indigenous and modern civilizations have utilized the needles, bark, wood, cones, pollen, seeds, and the resinous sap of the pine tree for medicine, food, and wound healing.
The nuts (from the seed-bearing cones), the soft inner bark, and the pine pollen are used for food.
The soft inner bark has been used historically for food during harsh winters or traveling, since the pine tree is common to many areas of the world.
“The soft, moist, white inner bark (cambium) found clinging to the woody outer bark is edible and very high in vitamins A and C. It can be eaten raw in slices as a snack or dried and ground up into a powder for use as an ersatz flour or thickener in stews, soups, and other foods, such as bark bread. Adirondack Indians got their name from the Mohawk Indian word atirú:taks, meaning "tree eaters”.”
The pine nuts and pine pollen are more commonly recognized today for their nutritive and therapeutic benefits. Pine nuts are high in essential fatty acids and vitamin E, where as the pine pollen is used therapeutically to normalize testosterone and estrogen levels in both men and women naturally.
The use of the pine needles for tea is a widespread practice throughout the world, and serves as the easiest part of the pine tree from which to access their broad spectrum medicinal benefits.
All parts of the tree contain varying amounts of the phytonutrients discovered in the tree thus far – a number that exceeds over 700 nutritional and medicinal compounds (referenced in a Taiwanese study of the pine needle’s anti-aging effects published in April 2021).
“Since early last century, more than seven hundred compounds have been identified from Pinus needles... The characterized components of Pinus needles are mostly benzenoids, diterpenoids, flavonoids, lignans, monoterpenoids, and sesquiterpenoids.”
In addition to the compounds referenced above, pine needles contain high levels of vitamin C.
One analysis found 222 mg/100g (over 20%) of vitamin C and 10.2 mg/100g (over 10%) of carotene (a precursor of vitamin A) in the Siberian Pine needles.
Resveratrol content in the bark was in the range of 1.3–1.4%
The needles were also found to be high in nitrogen ~3%, potassium ~1%, and phosphorus ~0.5% by weight.
In the Siberian Pine nuts (seeds from the female cones) were found a spectrum of about 30 fatty acids, 3 tocopherols (~50mg/100g of the oil) and vitamin E (~30mg/100mg of the oil).
Other elements and minerals identified include iron, manganese, copper, zinc, and boron in the needles, cones, and nutshells.
Make special note of these vitamins, minerals, and oils. Do any of these elements ring a bell when looking for known remedies for viruses, their potential variants, bacteria, parasites, fungus, and other pathogens?
Fortunately, the number of compounds remain similar among many of the pine species, even though the quantity of each compound will vary.
“The resulting data revealed that the qualitative composition of the EOs [essential oils] obtained from the needles and bark of shoots of the species studied (P. sibirica, P. pumila, P. koraiensis, P. cembra, and C. libani) was constant; only the contents of the components were different.”
All parts of the pine tree have medicinal and nutritional properties, including:
the needles and the twigs they are attached to
the large female cones and their seeds or nuts
the small male cones and their pollen
the soft, edible inner bark (cambium)
the beginning shoots of new branches
the resins from all parts of the pine tree, including the trunk and roots
According to the above referenced study, by weight, the needles contain the highest percentage of plant nutrients compared to the bark, twigs, trunk, roots, cones, and the new branch shoots.
Only the pure resins alone (that drip from wounds in the tree) contain greater percentages of essential oil per weight than the needles. In fact, they provide approximately 10 times the quantity of pine essential oil found in the needles.
However, resins are much more difficult to capture and extract, and a tree tends to yield small amounts relative to the ease and abundance that are available from the needle and twig branches together.
Therefore, by making tea out of both the needles and the twigs that the needles are attached to, it is possible to access a similar spectrum (though different proportions) of medicinal and nutritional compounds that exist within the remaining parts of the pine tree – and it is much easier to harvest and extract.
A pine is any conifer (“cone-bearing” Pinophyta) in the family of Pinaceae which includes the pine, fir, spruce, cedar, tsuga, and larch, with a fossil history going back over 300 million years.
There are over 200 species in the Pinaceae family.
“Pines are long-lived, typically reaching ages of 100 to 1,000 years, some even more. The longest-lived is the Great Basin bristlecone pine, Pinus longaeva. One individual of this species, dubbed Methuselah, is one of the world's oldest living organisms at around 4,600 years old. This tree can be found in the White Mountains of California.” (See The Leafy Place.)
Pines have adapted to the northern cold regions, the humid tropical areas, and even the desert.
Some of the largest and richest coniferous forests are found in Central America and across North America, Europe, Scandinavia, Siberia, Canada, Alaska, the Mediterranean, and the Caucasus.
Other tropical countries that have coniferous forests include the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Belize.
Pines may also be found in your local woods, or by making a trip to the mountains, the subtropical regions, or even the desert in some cases.
Many pine species can be found in your local nursery for planting in your own yard, if you do not already have one or more.
Here are a few references through which you may be able to identify the pines found within your local area:
Ultimate Conifer Identification Guide: Pine, Fir, and Spruce with Pictures, Charts, and Names
Types of Pine Trees with Identification Guide, Chart and Pictures
Hemlock Trees (Tsuga): Canadian, Western, Leaves, Bark (Pictures) – Identification
Note: Tsuga species are not poisonous. The “hemlock” common name for the tsuga is derived from its fragrance which resembles that of the small poisonous hemlock plant.
Larix Genus (Larch)
Types of Evergreen Trees
The Conifer Society - Pine Trees
Poisonous pine look-alikes to avoid include the Yew and the Norfolk Island Pine (both of which are conifers, meaning cone-bearing, but neither of which are true pines of the Pinaceae family). Members of the Pinaceae family have a long history of safety and medicinal benefit.
Here are a few example photographs of the two look-alikes to compare with your local evergreen trees:
Some authors indicate that the Ponderosa Pine is to be avoided, but this is not true. Not understanding some of the basics of Nature and how herbs work in the body, some repeat the phrase "Ponderosa is toxic."
The Ponderosa Pine is my second favorite of all the pine species with which to make tea due to its strength of medicinal action, high resin content, and the benefit of its pollen that is easy to harvest. The Ponderosa possesses more potent properties than any other pine that I have consumed.
It is not the tastiest. I like it for its potency and strengthening effects.
BTW, for those who are taste sensitive, the Douglas Fir (West Coast) and the White Pine (East Coast) are light in flavor, quite tasty, and loaded with medicinal qualities. The Spruce Pines are also flavorful and contain a good amount of Vitamin C relative to others.
Yet, my favorite is the Himalayan Cedar, Cedrus Deodar. More on that below.
The Ponderosa has the reputation of causing pregnant cattle that eat large amounts of the tree to abort their calf.
The truth is, any herbal medicine or homeopathic remedy taken in excess will cause the very problem that it remedies at the lesser dose.
At the same time, some plants do provide properties that stimulate menses, and exist in Nature for when such needs arise. The use of pine extracts may well be among them, though it has not been proven conclusively that mild use of the pine needle tea would cause a miscarriage. Until it has, caution is justified.
The use of plant medicine requires knowledge and skill, just like selecting a quality diet requires knowledge and skill.
Portions matter. Small amounts may tonify and stabilize, while larger amounts may destabilize and promote excess.
Centuries ago such knowledge of the properties and use of natural resources was handed down from generation to generation. We are, as a human society, beginning to regain much of the forgotten knowledge, given the recent surge of interest in herbs for health and medicine, along with a vast amount of scientific evidence now proving the health benefits of natural resources.
Herbal knowledge will be of utmost interest to many in the very near future as our global society transforms into a more cooperative lifestyle following the obvious crumbling of the current, unsustainable systems.
This is a more recent discovery for me, thanks to a good friend who has 8 of these trees in his yard.
There are only 4 species in this genus, all of which are in the Pinaceae Family, thus still a pine tree, yet happens to be the only four species among those that are called "Cedars" that are considered a "True Cedar".
Most others called Cedar are either a Pine, or a False Cedar, or in the Cypress family.
The Himalayan Cedar is not native to America, yet is highly revered in India and China where it grows naturally. In America it is provided by nurseries for landscaping purposes and is in common use in Zone 7 and warmer climates.
I enjoy its calming, mood-elevating properties, its milder flavor, its slightly laxative effects, its GABA promoting influence, in addition to its anti-microbial, anti-parasitical, and other therapeutic effects common to all pines.
Visually, its distinguishing characteristic is the needle length, being longer than a spruce, but shorter than most pines, and with 15-25 needles about 2 inches (6 cm) long attaching to the same point of the branch arranged in a circular pattern forming a bowl.
If you are not sure which trees are good for making pine needle tea, just look for the long to medium length needles of a typical pine-looking evergreen, then count the needle bundles attached to the stem.
The needles will be bundled in 2, 3, or 5 needles per attaching point. They will typically be 3-10 inches (8-25 cm) long. These are all safe for making pine needle tea (unless pregnant or desiring to become pregnant).
The Spruce, Fir, Tsuga, and Larch typically have 1/4”-2” (5-50mm) needles and are also safe, and attach individually to the stem, yet a little bit of botanical knowledge is necessary in order to distinguish some of these species from the Yew and the Norfolk Island, so study the above identification references if you are not sure.
Those called Cedar can be more complex due to the mixing of the terms "pine" and "cedar" among species, and will therefore require more study to distinguish them.
The Thuja species, often referred to as cedars, are actually in the Cypress family, as are the Juniper, Sequoia, and Redwood species, and should be treated with caution unless you are well versed in their use medicinally.
One study found that the second year growth on the pine branches held the highest content of volatile compounds compared to the one year old needles and the needles of older years.
“The authors noted that the total content of the volatile components in needles of the members of the Pinaceae family varied for materials of different age and was the highest for two-year-old shoots”
So when harvesting pine needles for tea, it is helpful to obtain needles that sprouted from the branch two years back to the present, although some benefit is clearly available from all years of growth of the pine tree that remain green.
Evidence of this has to do with the fact that many therapeutic pine oil products are derived from the distillation of the wood from branches and stumps of the pine tree, which may be decades, or hundreds of years old.
The beginning of a new year’s growth is commonly recognized by either a small knot in the length of a twig, or a branching off to the side that sprouts in a new direction.
Watch for signs of disease, like white mildew, bug-infested branches, or withering, or over-dried brown needles, etc.
Select the healthiest parts of the branch tips, typically 6-12 inches from the end, including the light green recent growth commonly seen in the spring and early summer.
If you prefer not to harvest your own, pine needles can be purchased from a number of harvesters, several of which can be found on Etsy at this link:
One knowledgeable vendor I am familiar with, and trust the quality products he personally harvests, is Joseph Mercado. This is his line of herbal products including pine needles and branch pieces (which is desirable for the additional resins).
Joseph provides chopped and dried versions which are more golden in color (instead of dark green), and which are better for long distance shipping and longer storage time. His products always include the stems and the needles together for that extra bit of nutritional benefit. Joe is a one man show, and is in demand, so be sure to ask about your shipping date:
Other places that provide pine needles (but I have not spoken with yet) include:
Sacred Smoke Herbals
In Europe: Balkan Herb
If you know of quality pine needle harvesters, feel free to let us know how to contact them. Vitality Herbs & Clay does not sell the pine needles, nor accept commissions, (which allows us to speak more freely about their medicinal properties in the future).
For those that prefer to purchase ready made extracts rather than harvest your own, or buy the needles from a harvester, there are three ways to obtain some of the benefits of the pine extracts:
Essential Oils of various species readily available at your local health food store. (A bit strong for some, so be cautious and speak with someone knowledgeable of their proper use).
Red Pine Needle Oil and capsules by Live Pine
Pycnogenol French Maritime Pine Bark Extract
The purpose of sharing this information is to make the knowledge of the medicinal properties and use of pine tea available to as many people as possible during this critical phase of human history.
The simplest method of making pine needle tea is to make sun tea from the whole or chopped needles and the twigs, or make a simple hot water extract that is common to making any hot tea.
Other options include a light simmer, a strong simmer, and a simmer with more woody parts.
The needles, bark, wood, and the female or male cones, can be mixed together if desired to derive a spectrum of nutritional benefits from each part simultaneously.
Pine pollen and/or finely ground pine needles may also be added to capture more of the many gifts available from the pine tree.
The needles contain the most comprehensive spectrum of nutritional qualities, yet the other parts of the pine tree increase the quantities of resins and other nutritive benefits available therein.
For beginners (and sun lovers), the easiest way to make pine needle tea is to do a cold water extract, similar to how you might make sun tea.
Simply add a handful or two of loose unmilled pine needles, freshly harvested or dried, to a quart or half gallon (1-2 liters) of pure filtered water.
If you have the finely milled version of pine needles, then add 2-4 tablespoons (15-30 ml) to the same amount of water.
Leave it on the kitchen counter, or out in the sun, for one or more hours. Then simply strain the water into your cup.
This light version provides the maximum amount of vitamin C and other water soluble nutrients, undiminished by the heat of simmering. It has a pleasant, slightly citrusy flavor.
Because it is a cold water extract, the oil soluble compounds will not be present in this version. This can be good for those who might experience detox reactions from a stronger hot water brew.
Starting light with the cold water extract may be just the right approach, giving your body a gradual introduction to the more potent medicinal and cleansing properties of the pine tree resins.
The pine needles and twigs still inside the sun tea jar can then be used to make the next strongest version of pine needle tea, if desired.
Boil a quart/liter of filtered water in a saucepan. Turn off the heat. Then either drop a handful of fresh or dried pine needles with twigs, or 1-2 tablespoons (15-30 ml) of the finely ground version, into the boiled water.
Let the brew steep for 5 or more minutes, as desired. Then strain into a cup.
A French press can be used in a similar capacity by simply adding the needles first and pouring the hot water over the needles, letting the brew steep for 5 or more minutes as desired, and let the French press filter the tea extract as you pour.
Employing the same method as the Hot Water Extract, leave the needles and twigs in the pan, cover with a lid to keep as many volatile oils circulating back into the water, then simmer at the lowest heat setting for 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and strain into your cup.
A French press can be employed to strain the tea, by simply pouring the stove mixture first into the French Press before pouring into your cup.
The same method as above is employed, only simmer at the lowest heat setting for a longer period of time, even up to an hour.
The longer the brewing time the more resins are extracted from the needles and the stems the needles are attached to.
This increases the therapeutic benefits of the pine needle tea, but can also present some detox reactions at first, typically beginning with an unpleasant feeling in the stomach, and possibly lower energy levels the next day.
If this is the case, go back to the sun tea or light simmer version, then try the stronger versions later as your body clears out the initial round of toxins and pathogens, and adjusts to the stronger brew.
Build the strength of the brew gradually to avoid unusual fatigue or stomach discomfort from detoxification.
By adding the new branch growth visible on some pines, but not all, or adding some of the branch wood to the tea mixture, additional resins can be extracted.
This increases the potency of a brew, and comes with a note of caution.
Extended ingestion of large amounts of the resins can be hard on the kidneys. Light versions typically do not stress the kidneys.
If some discomfort or pain is experienced in the mid back left or right sides, then discontinue the tea until the discomfort goes away, then start up on a lighter brew approach.
Typically the stronger brews activate mental clarity and a bolstering of the physical energy, but you want to be sure to be ready for the strength of resins within the tea and their detoxifying potency.
Discontinue if the slightest discomfort is experienced, and begin again later with a lighter brew.
The female pine cone is the large brown cones that fall from the pine trees seasonally. They are the seed-bearing part of the pine tree. Once they have opened and cast their seeds, they will eventually drop to the ground.
The male pine cones are the smaller pollen-containing cones that cast a yellow pollen seasonally to fertilize the seeds in the female cones.
The female pine cone tea has physical strengthening properties for the human body in greater measure than the needles alone (commonly felt with your first brew of cone tea), although not as complete in the full complement of nutritional compounds that are found in the needles.
To make a tea from the cones, the brown dried cones are typically broken down first through milling (or smashing with a hammer), or simply added whole in a larger pot of water.
The cone tea is not as pleasant tasting as the needle tea, so once experienced it may be preferable to combine the needles and cone together to gain a desirable flavor from the brew.
Everything else for brewing cone tea is the same as above. Simmer as long as desired to extract more of its benefits.
The male cones can also be added to pine needle tea. They contain some resins and pollen residuals.
The time to collect male cones is close to the season in which the male cones cast their pollen. Some species cast their pollen in the spring and some in the fall. Some varieties only produce male pollen every other year, some every year.
To collect male pine pollen, just as the cones ripen enough to begin to cast their yellow dust, the cones can be broken off and dropped into a paper sack or bucket to further their drying and maturing in the container.
Placed in a warm spot, the cones will ripen and release their pollen by expanding in the container. It may take a few weeks to fully mature and drop their full amount of pollen, after which the cones can be sifted through a colander and eventually through a fine 100 mesh screen to separate the cone material from the pollen.
This residual cone material also contains resins and nutritional properties. A male cone tea is a great way to derive the benefits of these nutrients.
The male cones can be added to any other parts of the pine tree and simmered just the same.
To add a twist, the pine pollen collected from this process (or purchased elsewhere) can be added to your finished pine needle tea. Just add 1/4 tsp. (1.25 ml) or more to each cup as desired.
There are beneficial aspects remaining inside the fibrous material that are tossed after the brewing or essential oil extraction has been done.
I like to mill a small amount of my dried pine needles into a fine powder and add them to my teacup, then consume them on completion.
The needle powder can also be added to a green drink, or encapsulated.
This way I receive the maximum nutritional profile available in the pine needles. There is even a bit of research that documents some interesting health benefits from the use of pine needle powder.
To obtain the full nutritional power of the pine tree in powder form, simply take the dried version of the needles and mill them in a Vitamix or coffee grinder. Fresh needles do not grind well, so this process is only for previously dried needles.
The essential oil of various pine species are available in most health food stores. For simplicity sake, many people prefer to use the drops added to other beverages, or even added to their pine needle teas.
Essential oils and food grade gum spirits of turpentine are very potent, concentrated extracts from the pine tree components, and can be unpleasant to some with sensitive constitutions, both from a taste perspective as well as potential detoxification symptoms. So caution is advised.
Many manufacturers indicate that their products are not for internal use. In other cases, internal use essential oils do exist. Talk to a specialist in the use of essential oils to learn the differences.
I personally found the pine essential oil varieties to be rather unpleasant with more than 1 or 2 drops in my tea. Then I came to the conclusion that they are not necessary if I have the fresh or dried needles.
I prefer to make the pine tea with the actual needles and the woody parts blended. If I want greater potency, I simply add more components, or simmer the tea longer.
(Of course, I also enjoy spending time in the cool of the woods amongst the trees and the experience of Nature.)
This way I have more control over the product, its taste, and its effects. I can also increase the strength of my tea gradually this way, to suit my preferences at the time.
The resins in the pine will accumulate to a small degree on the sides of the pan, and sometimes the lid, during a simmer. The residue is easy to clean off with this simple procedure using warmth and a dry paper towel or cloth:
Remove the spent pine parts after the liquid has been poured into your use container. The spent parts can be composted, or scattered around your plants as a mulch.
If the pan has already cooled, then place it back on the stove and warm up the pan, not too hot, but warm enough to soften the resins, yet safe to touch.
Then take a dry paper towel or cloth and wipe the residue out of the pan. As long as the pan is warm the resins will absorb into the paper towel and the pan will appear to be clean. It is now ready for the next brew.
Any invisible film left in the pan is harmless, but if desired, a small amount of dish soap can be used to dissolve any remaining film.
Pine needle tea is one of Nature’s greatest resources for both nutrition and therapeutic purposes.
There are literally hundreds of scientific studies that have been performed on various species of the pine genus due to their well established therapeutic benefits and extensive nutritional properties.
The benefits from its daily use are typically seen over a span of 12 weeks or more, with gradual improvements in overall health, mental acuity, memory, fertility, sleep depth and duration, and daytime energy levels, over time.
Some benefits, like a subtle lift in energy, a brightness of the mind, less pain, etc. are noticed early on, more so with the stronger brews.
It may take a day or two, or for some even a week or two, for the body to adjust to the potency of the pine tree water extracts, so start with the lighter methods and work your way up.
One or more cups of pine needle tea per day, alone or in combination with other herbal teas, may well provide you with just that extra therapeutic edge needed to regain and maintain greater levels of health and enjoyment in life!
Many blessings of health & success.
Enjoy the many gifts from Nature!
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