When my husband and I first moved to the PNW, we immediately began to explore the vast wilderness areas around us so we could get to know our native plants here. One of the first things we started noticing about the trees in one particular area was that they had been drilled by woodpeckers and the resulting holes were full of gorgeous, aromatic resin. Those fragrant little pockets of sticky medicine are still one of the first things we point out to visitors who come to see us and want to know about some of our local plants. Pines are plentiful here.
Pine trees have been partnered with to support health and healing for many generations. Traditionally, they are symbols of wisdom, peace and longevity. The pitch, bark, needles, hydrosol and essential oil of many varieties of Pine are used medicinally. Note: There are a few varieties of Pine whose needles are toxic, so be sure you know how to identify the species prior to wildcrafting or ingesting needles.
Pine pitch is sometimes referred to as resin or sap. It is often used in survival situations to start fires and in first aid situations to help keep a wound clean and protected until it can be addressed more thoroughly (another herbal bandage, so to speak). It is often melted down into carrier oil and made into Pine pitch salve or ointment, which are common first aid preparations used to address minor cuts, scrapes, and wounds. The pitch is also a drawing substance, so it can be used to help pull splinters out of the skin.
If you’ve ever collected a bit of Pine pitch, you know that it’s incredibly sticky. It’s often referred to as nature’s glue and can be used as a type of natural glue when living off the land. It’s often melted down and applied to baskets, boats and shoes to give them a waterproof coating as well.
Pine resins can be mindfully harvested and used to formulate infused oils, salves, lotions and butters that can be valuable additions to your home apothecary. Native Americans used Pine resin in poultices and salves to help draw out splinters and other toxins, seal and protect [clean] wounds, and increase circulation to injured areas of the body. It is still used in first aid applications for these same purposes today. It’s not uncommon to see Pine drawing salves even in conventional stores. Pine resin possesses antibacterial and possibly even anti-inflammatory properties, but is quite warming, so it can sometimes increase irritation if the area where it is applied is already red and inflamed. Use discernment when choosing which herb is best for your case, but generally speaking, Pine resin salve can be a wonderful ally for your first aid kit.
Traditional uses of Pine Resin Infused Oil:
- in a chest rub when feeling congested
- in a warming salve for achy muscles, joints, and areas where increased circulation is needed
- as a base for herbal / aromatic perfumes and colognes
- in drawing salves, sometimes combined with activated charcoal and Plantain (great for splinters, etc.)
- in lotions and creams for skin issues and skin care (in low dilution for skin care products), usually with Violet leaves or Comfrey leaves also infused into the oil to help soften its effect
INGREDIENTS FOR MY PINE PITCH SALVE RECIPE
- 2 ounces of mindfully harvested Pine resin
- 4 ounces of organic olive oil that has been infused with Violet leaves, Plantain leaves, and Comfrey leaves
- 1/2 ounce of organic beeswax
- organic essential oils (optional)
For chest rub applications – Cedarwood, Rosalina, Black Spruce or Siberian Fir
For skin care or first aid applications – Lavender, Helichrysum, Vetiver, or Rose
For warming, circulatory applications – Ginger, Lavender, Chamomile, or Black Pepper
To make your own Pine pitch salve, place 2 ounces of Pine pitch in a quart sized mason jar and set the jar into a saucepan of water over low heat on the stove (double boiler method). Add 4 ounces of herb infused carrier oil – I’ve used Violet leaf, Comfrey leaf and Plantain leaf infused oil as my carriers for this particular batch. It will take a little while for the pitch to melt into the carrier oil. Stir it occasionally and make sure the heat is kept very low. 1/2 ounce of beeswax melted into the mixture will help the salve to solidify once cooled. Once everything has been incorporated, strain the mixture through a coffee filter, a piece of muslin cloth, or a fine mesh sieve, pour it into a jar and let it sit until cool.
- Preferred species of Pine for use of the resin include White Pine (P. strobus) and Pinyon Pine (P. edulis), but all of the Pines will produce usable resin. Some of them are stronger than others.
- Mindful, respectful harvesting of resins is paramount. The tree produces resin to protect itself from infection when it has been injured or compromised. Be mindful of the size of the wound you’re collecting from. Does the tree need the resin to stay there in order to protect itself in that area? Harvest elsewhere if needed. Don’t harvest large pieces.
- Pine resin is super sticky. You can use olive oil to remove it from your hands if needed. I prefer to keep a separate jar and utensils just for working with resins. You may want to adopt this practice as well.
- Don’t ever leave resins unattended while they are heating. Always use a double boiler method.
Pine needles are commonly used to make baskets and were traditionally used to stuff cushions and mattresses as well. They can be used to create a sort of soft bed on the forest floor and provide a great mulch for the garden.
In herbal medicine, they are mainly used to support the respiratory and immune systems. Coughs, congestion, sore throats, lung ailments, etc. are all situations for which Pine needles could be used. The needles are often used to make cough syrups and teas and are rich in vitamins A and C, among many other nutrients.
To make a Pine needle serum that can be used topically, infuse dried Pine needles into a lightweight carrier oil for 4 to 6 weeks, then mix that carrier oil with a skin-rejuvenating essential oil (optional) at a 0.5 to 1% dilution. This serum can be used as a facial serum and as a body or massage oil (2% dilution).
Pine cones can be used to start fires and yield seeds that we know as Pine nuts, which are a valuable wild food for humans and wildlife. Nuts can be harvested in late fall.
Pine pollen can be gathered in the spring and is a nutrient dense super-food that has long been considered a sacred medicinal by native peoples. It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, is rich in flavonoids and essential fatty acids, and is a potent androgen. It can be tinctured (1:5) or sprinkled into food.
Pine hydrosols are incredible skin tonics. I like to use them as facial toners and incorporate them into my herbal skin care regimen. I also use them when I’m making back lotions and creams for sore muscles. They’re perfectly suited for that purpose and leave the formulas smelling forested and fresh.
Pine Essential Oil
Pine essential oils are mainly used to support the respiratory system and the musculoskeletal system. They have analgesic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antispasmodic, circulatory and expectorant properties and smell uplifting and refreshing, like walking through a pine forest and stopping to take a few deep breaths. Energetically, Pine essential oils are balancing and help us to feel like we are grounded deep into the earth with a clear, focused mind.
Pine’s Test Results
Pine extracts and products have been tested in various trials in recent years and are starting to become more popular as the test results continue to show promise. Here are a few noteworthy examples of Pine’s test results.
- Maritime Pine extract improves symptoms of allergic rhinitis.
- Two studies suggest improvement of erectile dysfunction when used in combination with other things.
- Shows potential for improving mental function and blood pressure.
- Lowers oxidative stress in smokers.
- Improves photo-aged facial skin and has been used to treat melasma and other skin complaints.
- Shows promise in treatment of ADHD.
- Improves symptoms and reduces need for NSAIDS in cases of knee osteoarthritis.
- Seems to have a positive effect on type 2 diabetes. Reference One, Two and Three.
- Potential to help reduce the severity of migraines.
- Improved asthma symptoms and reduced need for medication.
- Has shown potential for anticancer and antitumoral activity. Reference One, Two, Three, Four, Five and Six.
- Shows promise against multiresistant bacteria, as well as Hepatitis C (in vitro) and oxidative, inflammatory and microbial diseases.
- Has potential for supporting oral health.
Have you ever used Pine in your apothecary?