White pine is one of my very favorite herbal teas – it’s so delicious! “Like drinking a Christmas tree” might not sound super appealing, but give it a try sometime. I bet you’ll love it.
A Giving Tree
Not only that, white pine has a lot to offer, starting with its needles. You don’t even have to cut anything off the tree to harvest pine needles – just go for a walk after a storm and collect any fallen branches! You’ll always have a good supply of pine needles. (Lucky, because a mature white pine tree is way too tall to have to go up and cut branches!) It’s a very generous tree.
It’s easy to dry pine needles too – I just put them in a brown paper bag and let them sit on the counter for a week or so. You could put them in a basket if you prefer, but I prefer a bag because it keeps the light out. If you use a basket, just put a cloth over it. this weekend, my mom brought me a whole bunch of new pine needles – and we’re feeling so grateful to have abundant pine tea!
In this post I’ll share some of my favorite things about pine, so read on!
White pine needles are an excellent source of vitamin C, which was particularly helpful during the long winter months before we could store fruits and vegetables (or ship them from far away places). Pine also has a complex of volatile oils that is super helpful for respiratory health – stimulating heat in the lungs and making life difficult for microbial invaders. Put those things together and you have the perfect cold-and-flu fighting combination!
How do you know that you have white pine? Check the needles. See how they’re in little “bundles” on the branch – groups of needles bound at the connecting point there? If there are five needles in each bundle, and they’re flexible (not too stiff) you’ve got white pine! (And, there are five letters in “white” – easy to remember!)
It’s not just the needles that have deliciously potent medicinal action – white pine resin is an amazing antiseptic and wound healing agent. And of course, it would be: that’s its function for the tree, too! Remember, plants make their chemicals for their own purposes. We love to prepare it into a salve along with some plantain-and-calendula-infused oil.
You’ll find globs of resin anywhere the tree has been wounded – it kind of looks like bird poop, just in a place a bird couldn’t actually have pooped! When you gather it, be considerate: the resin is the immune system and scab for the tree, so don’t take it all! Make sure you leave a generous amount covering the cut in the bark, and only take the extra globby part on top.
Your fingers will get very, very sticky – bring some olive oil with you to wash the resin off afterwards (it’s highly oil soluble). Don’t worry about bits of dirt, twigs, or even bugs in the resin – that will all come off in the process of making salve. Of course, if you’re hiking and don’t have the time or tools to make salve, just smear some of the sticky resin directly on your clean wound – it will be sticky, but it will help! (Make sure to cover it with a clean bandage or cloth, otherwise that stickiness will attract all kinds of dirt!)
Pine Resin Salve
This is how we harvest pine resin! Teamwork is how to reach the higher spots.
Turning it into salve couldn’t be eaiser – you’ll find complete instructions on page 219 of our new book, Herbal Medicine for Beginners, but here’s the quickie version:
- Get a bunch of pine resin and melt it into olive oil on low heat (we like to use plantain and calendula infused olive oil).
- Strain out any bits of dirt and stuff.
- Add in shaved beeswax, and let that melt slowly.
- Once it cools, presto! The best first aid salve you EVER had!
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