Join us on an exploration of the of Eastern White Pine. Learn about the beneficial uses and how to properly identify them. Discover how white pine was an integral part of Native American cultural and practical heritage. As well as discover how you can use it today.
I am consistently amazed to discover the abundance of free food and medicine just outside my door. This motivates me to actively research and study the uses of all the plants in my surroundings.
Up here in the cold north, most herbs are dormant and covered with snow in January, which makes the white pine a perfect herb for my winter apothecary.
The pine needles I use are Eastern White Pine (Pinus Stobus L.) which are in surplus where we live. If you don’t have white pine in your region, you can contact your local extension agency for more information.
What Did Native Americans Use White Pine For?
Native Americans used white pine for various purposes. The versatile white pine tree provided different materials that were crucial for their daily lives.
Some common uses of white pine by Native Americans include:
- Construction: White pine was used for building various structures, including homes, canoes, and tools. Its straight and tall trunk made it suitable for constructing frames and supports.
- Canoes: The lightweight and durable nature of white pine made it an excellent choice for crafting canoes. Native Americans used the bark of the white pine to create the outer covering of canoes.
- Tools: The wood from white pine was utilized for making tools such as bows, arrows, spears, and other implements. Its workable nature allowed for the creation of functional and reliable tools.
- Medicine: Parts of the white pine, including the bark and needles, were used in traditional Native American medicine. They believed in the medicinal properties of certain components for treating various ailments.
- Ceremonial and Spiritual Uses: White pine had cultural significance, and its branches and needles were sometimes used in ceremonial and spiritual practices. The tree held symbolic importance in some Native American cultures.
- Resin: The resin or sap obtained from white pine had various uses. It could be used as a sealant for waterproofing containers, as an adhesive, or even as a medicinal substance.
It’s important to note that the specific uses of white pine varied among different Native American tribes and regions, as they adapted their practices based on the local environment and available resources.
How To Identify Eastern White Pine
Properly identifying the white pine (Pinus strobus L.) is crucial for safe foraging and medicinal use, ensuring accurate knowledge of its unique properties and avoiding potential confusion with similar-looking species that may have different characteristics or even harmful effects.
The eastern white pine tree is the largest conifer native to Eastern North America. It is a fast-growing, long-needle evergreen.
- Long, soft needles
- Velvety, blue-green appearance
- Needles range from 2 to 6 inches long.
- The only pine tree in the East that has five needles per bundle.
You can read more about proper identification at Do I Have A White Pine? Additionally, you can download this PDF file from the USDA.
When Is The Best Time Of The Year To Harvest Pine Needles?
The Eastern White Pine is an evergreen, which means it stays green all year long.
Although you can harvest the needles any time of the year, the best time to harvest white pine needles is during late spring and early summer, when they are young, tender, and full of flavor.
Medicinal Benefits Of Eastern White Pine
According to the National Library of Medicine, Eastern White Pine (Pinus stobus L.) needles have high levels of vitamin C.
Pine needles are also rich in vitamin A, D, E, and K, which help support healthy eye function, blood clotting, and bone development.
Eastern white pine has been traditionally used by various indigenous communities for its medicinal benefits.
Some of the medicinal uses of Eastern white pine include:
- Respiratory Health: The needles of the Eastern white pine contain compounds such as terpenes and vitamin C, which can be beneficial for respiratory health. Infusions or teas made from white pine needles were used to alleviate the symptoms of coughs and colds.
- Anti-Inflammatory Properties: The inner bark of the Eastern white pine contains compounds with potential anti-inflammatory properties. Native Americans utilized preparations from the bark for addressing inflammatory conditions.
- Vitamin C Source: The needles of white pine are a natural source of vitamin C, which is essential for immune system support. Consuming white pine needle tea or extracts may contribute to overall immune health.
- Topical Applications: Pine resin obtained from Eastern white pine has been used topically for its antiseptic properties. It was applied to wounds or injuries to prevent infection and promote healing.
- Expectorant Qualities: White pine preparations were sometimes used as expectorants, helping to clear the respiratory system by promoting the expulsion of mucus.
- Aromatherapy: The aromatic compounds present in the needles of white pine can have a calming effect. Pine-scented products, such as essential oils or sachets, were sometimes used for relaxation and stress relief.
The medicinal values of pine include being high in vitamin C and A, abundant antioxidants, and other vitamins and minerals. They are antimicrobials, immune system boosters, and joint and muscle relief. They can help with coughs and congestion when taken internally or by inhaling infused steam.
While pine can be used in many ways medicinally, I keep it simple, I either make tincture or tea with it.
What Can I Make With White Pine?
In addition to the uses we’ve already mentioned in this article, some practical uses that you can apply to your everyday life are
- Pine Needle Infused Honey
- Tea (see recipe below)
- Medicinal Tincture (see recipe below)
- Bug Repellent (see recipe below)
- Fire Starters
How To Make A Pine Needle Tincture
Tinctures are concentrated herbal extracts made by soaking plant materials, such as herbs, in a solvent, typically alcohol, to extract their active compounds.
This process allows the extraction of medicinal properties, flavors, and aromatic elements from the plant material. Tinctures are a popular form of herbal remedy and have been used for centuries for their therapeutic benefits.
Use the simpler’s method of measuring for this recipe. Choose a jar size, and the amount of pine needles and alcohol will depend on your selected jar size.
- Eastern White Pine Needles- washed and dried.
- Glass jar with lid. Amber colored glass is best, but any color will work.
- 80 proof vodka or other spirit
- Cut the washed and dried pine needles up into half-inch or so pieces. It takes a little time to do this. I usually do it while I’m watching TV or listening to the radio. I bring in some pine bows, a pair of scissors, and a bowl and snip away.
- Add the needles to your clean jar until 3/4 the way full.
- Pour the 80 proof vodka to fill the jar about an inch above the needles.
- Write the name and date on the lid or a sticker on the jar.
- Place a lid on it and put it in a cool dark place.
- Try to shake your tincture everyday. Life gets in the way but if you can at least shake it up a couple times a week it will work.
- Wait 6 weeks and then strain out the needles (called “the mark” in tincture processing).
- Strain mine through a clean cotton cloth.
- Squeeze it like it owes me money. You want every last drop.
Light and heat are the enemy of herbal tinctures. Store your tincture in amber glass jar or in a cool dark space where light can’t reach it.
Dosage with tinctures is not an exact science. The strength of the tincture you made can vary. Start small, see if there are any negative effects and work up a little at a time.
Some people put six drops or so under their tongue. Personally with most tinctures, I take ¼ teaspoon put it in about an inch of water in a glass and drink it down.
Pine Needle Tea Recipe
Make white pine needle tea by collecting fresh pine needles (no stems), rinsing them, and steeping in hot water for ten or fifteen minutes.
It really tastes good to me; I make it when I’m backpacking for the added vitamin boost and as a general pick-me-up.
Steeping pine needles in hot water releases vitamin C. The tea provides the complete vitamin C complex, not simply isolated ascorbic acid as you would get in a vitamin C tablet.
Pine needle tea can bring relief to conditions such as heart disease, varicose veins, skin complaints, and fatigue.
To make pine needle tea
- Remove the fresh, unblemished pine needles from the pine branches.
- Rinse the needles in cold water.
- Using herb scissors or a sharp knife, cut the pine needles into smaller pieces.
- Place the pine needles in a tea strainer.
- Drink while warm.
Pine Tar Bug Repellent Recipe
Although you can make pine tar from many different pine species, I thought I would share this recipe with you that we’ve been using for several years.
Pine tar can be purchased in any farm store or online. It’s widely used for hoof care for horses as an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.
This bug repellent recipe works incredibly well at keeping biting insects away. Especially no-see-ems, mosquitoes, and ticks.
This recipe is for Bug Dope Bug Repellent Recipe:
- 3 oz Pine Tar
- 1 oz Caster Oil
- .5 oz Pennyroyal Essential Oil
- .5 oz Lavender Essential Oil
Melt together over warm (not hot) heat and mix thoroughly. Pour into a tin or glass jar, let cool, and place the lid on top. Apply a small amount; a little goes a long way.
Warnings For White Pine
Individuals with known allergies to pine or related coniferous trees should steer clear, as allergic reactions may occur.
Pregnant or breastfeeding individuals are advised to consult healthcare professionals due to the limited understanding of pine needle safety during these periods.
Those with kidney conditions should exercise caution, as compounds in pine needle tea may impact kidney function. Individuals on medications, especially blood thinners or anticoagulants, should seek medical advice to prevent potential interactions.
The information provided in “Wild Herbal Adventures: Exploring Nature’s Pharmacy, One Week at a Time” is intended for informational purposes only. My Homestead Life, LLC, does not assume responsibility or accountability for any actions, decisions, or consequences that may result from using the information presented in this course. It is essential to consult with qualified professionals or conduct thorough research before applying any herbal knowledge or practices to ensure their safety and suitability for your specific circumstances.