Historical books tell of pioneers making a tea from pine needles in order to keep their children fed during harsh winter condition in the Rocky Mountains, when food supplies had run low. I have always wondered, did they know that pine needle tea would sustain life, or did they boil the needles out of desperation? As most books suggested the latter, I did not think of pine needles as an herb worth studying until they appeared unexpectedly in a story I was writing.
My initial research was none too deep. After looking in my favorite herbal books and finding nothing, I headed out to a pine tree in my yard, and began muscle testing for ways in which the pine needles would be useful to me.
Do not use pine needle tea if pregnant or considering pregnancy. Some have linked pine needle tea to miscarriages.
Through muscle testing, I found pine needles to be:
- anti fungal
- anti bacterial
- anti viral
- useful in relieving sore muscles
- stimulating to the liver
- an astringent for the bladder
- relaxing to the mind/stress relieving
- helpful in restoring overall balance to the body
Armed with this information, I gathered a handful of pine needles and defused them in some oil. This was good for topical applications, such as massaging my husbands back and feet.
I also put some pine needles in a jar with water, on a candle warmer, and experimented with the sent. I found it to be stress reliving and calming. Mixing it with lavender and orange peel made for a very pleasant, uplifting smell, that helped to chase away the winter blues. The children studied better when I kept a batch simmering.
"Jacques Cartier, in his book, “Voyages to Canada” (1534-5), credited a herbal tea made form the needles and bark of the Anneda Tree, a Canadian pine tree, with saving the lives of his crew when they were stranded by ice on the St. Lawrence River. Of his 110-man crew, 25 were dead, 50 were seriously ill and the remainder of the crew were too weak to even bury the dead. All looked lost until they were rescued by friendly Quebec Indians who were experts on the medicinal properties of the local plants. The Indians told the Frenchmen how to brew a tea from the bark and needles of pine trees growing in the area. They tried the tea on two of the sickest crewmembers; they improved so quickly that Cartier gave the tea to all the surviving members of his crew. All the crewmembers recovered from the dreaded scurvy due to this tea." -Pine Tree Bark or Needles
Pine Needle Tea
Happy with the initial results, it was time to try it as a tea. My sister, Fern, and I wandered around my parent's farm, muscle testing a wide variety of pine trees.
Each kind had it's own properties, strengths and degrees of usefulness. Somewhere best as a tea, some would be strongest, used in an oil, and others would deliver the most smoked.
The Blue Spruce tested to be most useful in chasing away the flu, while the Ponderosa pine had the best mix of uses. The Australian pine and a shrub pine, whose identity had been forgotten where more useful than the Blue Spruce, but less so than the Ponderosa.
We gathered a few needles from the Ponderosa and made our tea. The aroma was delightful. The taste pleasant, and within half an hour, we were ready for sleep. Muscle testing showed the tea to be chasing toxins out of our bodies, and sleep would allow it to work better. We each drank about half a cup, made with two needles.
In the morning, we determined to try some more pine needle tea. This time we found it refreshing and a nice change of pace from our normal routine coffee.
How To Make Pine Needle Tea
To make pine needle tea, gather a small handful of pine needles from a tree which grows away from pollution.
Cut the needles into 3/4" lengths. You will need 1 teaspoon of needles for each 1 cup of hot water.
Pour boiling water over pine needles, cover, and steep for 15-20 minutes.
I recommend drinking your first cup or two before bed, in case it knows you out, the way it did my sister and I.
The pine needles can be dried out and reused several times. I have found the latter uses to be more invigorating.
Satisfied with my own research, I began to look at what others had to say, concerning the use of pine needles.
- Pine needles are rich in Vitamin C. Thus, its usefulness in preventing scurvy. The Vitamin C is readily available to the body when made into a tea, especially when pine bark is included. Pine bark contains flavonoids, which enhances the functions of the Vitamin C. The blend is know as Pycnogenol.*
- Pine needles have a long history of use as a pain reliever for arthritis, aches, pains and sore muscles. Mattresses filled with pine needles are used for treating rheumatic ailments, in Switzerland.
- Native Americans filled mattresses with pine needles to repel fleas and lice.
- Native Americans used pine oils to treat lung infections. Today, pine oils are used mainly as an anti-infectious, antimicrobial agent in colds, flu, urinary and viral infections. Pine needle oil has been used to reduce or eliminate the symptoms of asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory infections, and for digestive disorders.
- They also added pine oil to baths, to revitalize those suffering from mental or emotional fatigue.
- Pine oil, added to your household cleaner, will disinfect surfaces and help to purify the air.
- Pine needles bring relief to conditions such as heart disease, heart ailments, varicose veins, fatigue, kidney aliments, sclerosis, they also gives you better eyesight and smoother skin.
- Cancer patients drink pine needle tea to make them feel better.
- Pycnogenol is known for it's ability to stop free radical damage. This helps the internal body maintain its youth and it is considered an oral cosmetic for what it can do to maintain youthful skin.
- Pycnogenol inhibits the natural enzymes of the body to restore collagen. All cells in the human body are glued together with collagen. By restoring collagen, Pycnogenol helps return flexibility to skin, joints, arteries, capillaries and other tissues.
- Pycnogenol strengthens the entire arterial system and improves circulation. It reduces capillary fragility and develops skin smoothness and elasticity.
- Pycnogenol has been used successfully for diabetic retinopathy, varicose veins, and hemorrhoids. It is one of the few dietary anti-oxidants that readily crosses the blood-brain barrier to directly protect brain cells and aid memory.
Note: As far as I know, none of these statements are approved by the FDA.
The reason pine needles are anti viral is because they contain high amounts of shikimic acid, from which Tamifu is derived. Tamiflu is the number one anti viral agent against pandemics, as approved by the FDA.
- Pine Essential Oil Medicinal Uses:Pinus sylvestris
The key uses of pine oil are as an anti-infectious, antimicrobial agent in colds, flu, urinary and viral infections and as a pain reliever
- Pine Tree Bark or Needles Pinus Maritima
Pine Needles, container rich assorted bioflavonoid, Proanthocyanidins (Pycnogenol), enhances Vitamin C. Used for diabetic retinopathy, reduces capillary fragility, improves circulation.
- botanical.com - A Modern Herbal | Pine
Providing botanical, folk-lore and herbal information, plus organic herbs, and herbal products.
- A Russian Herbal
- Drink Some Pine Needle Tea
- Health Benefits of Scots Pine
- Wind In The Roses - What To Do About The Flu
- Ancient herbal medicine boosts influenza arsenal
- Oseltamivir - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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John from Philly on November 12, 2012:
Ivorwen,i have found through my hiking adventures that a person can also chew the needles until they get enuff juice out of them. Spit the needles out and swallow the juice(this is if a person does not have a stove to boil the needles. Also scatter some needles around your tent,this will keep the critters away at night,especially porcupines. The bark&nuts are also great to boil&eat with your oatmeal;yet take caution to only eat a little of the bark cause too much will give you an upset stomach,i have been experimenting with needles&bark as a poultice for sore muscles which works well. I am an avid hiker who is about wild edibles which can supply a person in dire need for wks;till they are rescued. I would appreciate any&all comments ty god bless
Julia on November 29, 2011:
I find your blind faith in what you call "MEDICINE" both suspicious and naïve.
How do you know pine trees have antifungal compounds? Because they grow whrere fungi look for food: in an often damp forest, and if pine trees did't know how2 protect themselves, they would be eaten alive by mold. Pine trees don't do it for Tamiflu, mind you, they do it for themselves. They survived millions of yrs of evolution fighting mold. It's longer than any silly FDA-mandated clinical trial.
BTW, there is no word in your post on your relationship with the maker of Tamiflu. I'm curious. Because one thing is clear, pine trees are not patentable so no one company controls them.
Lama on October 07, 2011:
if the effective medicine you are talking about can`t and fail to cure diseases like endometriosis ,...what you want us to do suffer in silence or try to help ourselves somehow.herbs are much better and effective and safe than the garbage we buy from pharmacy.
Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on July 30, 2011:
Dear Steve: Thank you for you long winded nonsensical comment. If you read the entire article, you would see that I did to research beyond muscle testing.
I would never write an article based solely on my muscle testing. I also only use real ingredients, either bought from reliable sources or things I collect -- my yard produces quite a variety of herbs.
As to medicine: Have you ever considered what you would do if medicine were not available? What if you lived in a country that did not have it? I began learning natural medicine, from whole ingredients when I was considering moving to a third world country.
Also, what would you do if "medicine" failed you?
If it had been left what you call proven medicine, my husband would still be walking with a cane and working a desk job, instead of owning an electrical company. His entire career is based on things the doctors told him he would NEVER be able to do, after being injured.
Steve on July 29, 2011:
I can't even believe how ridiculous this article is. For example... Antiviral because it contains a precursor to Tamiflu? That is true... but it is only used to make Tamiflu synthetically - and it is a very different compound compared with Tamiflu. It has little or no antiviral properties before it is made into Tamiflu, so you shouldn't draw the conclusion that it is antiviral itself. Stop spreading misinformation around the internet if you don't know what you're talking about.
Also, the reason pine needles may be harmful during pregnancy is because many pine trees contain isocupressic acid. It is known for causing livestock to have miscarriages when they eat the needles - that is probably where that warning comes from. Do some actual research besides whatever you think 'muscle testing' is.
If you want to get all your vitamins - take a multivitamin. At least you'll know all the compounds that are in it because they're on the label, and you can research them in reputable journals if you want. With natural remedies, you may not know and if you have a reaction with a natural remedy you won't know the exact cause. Natural remedies are, after all, just a mixture of many thousands of biological compounds (and they're not all good for you just because they're biological if that's what you're thinking... snake venom is biological, as an extreme example).
Also, stay away from products marketed at natural supplements - there is no regulation on them and companies producing them can put whatever they want in the bottle, at whatever concentration. They are mostly scams, and are ineffective besides a placebo effect. If a compound is effective at treating something, it should be isolated in a lab, tested in clinical trials and introduced to the human body at a concentration which is effective, yet still safe.
Do you know what they call natural medicine that has been proven to be effective? MEDICINE!
Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on July 24, 2011:
I'm glad to help shroom.
For lung issues, also check out this article: https://hubpages.com/health/Breathe-Easy-with-Flax...
shroom on July 24, 2011:
this is just the info i was looking for ..
friend of mine has lung problems
and this gave me a lot of answers
Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on May 14, 2011:
Tom, I had never heard of such before! How does that work? Do you have any links to sites demonstrating how?
Tom on May 11, 2011:
I use pine pitch of any pine for soldering as a flux. I do my stained glass windows like this. Another use!!
Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on January 18, 2011:
Aprice, thank you so much for your comment! I really do enjoy the taste of pine tea too, and I bet that lemon would make it really enjoyable. I'll have to try it this morning.
aprice on January 17, 2011:
I would like to share a few commments on the pine tea.
When we were children we use to drink pine tea, loved it. My parents wouldn't let us drink coffee, but pine neddle tea was ok. We called it pine top tea. It is really great if you add lemon peeling or lemon juice to it. We never thought if it as a type of herb for aliments.
Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on December 13, 2010:
Thank you Katrina!
katrinasui on December 12, 2010:
Great hub! Thanks for all the information.
Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on November 04, 2010:
H. Little, I really don't know the reason, and my muscle testing did not show that pine tea would be harmful to a pregnancy, at least not in the amounts I have taken. However, considering they cause the body to detox, I would be very careful with them during pregnancy, as anything your body wants to get rid of goes through the baby. I know I don't want to be sending illness throughout my unborn child's body.
As to birth control, again, my muscle testing is saying 'no' -- at least it would not keep me from getting pregnant or holding a pregnancy, no matter how much I took. I am unable test the effects on the child.
H. Little on November 03, 2010:
So why does pine tea supposedly cause miscarriages? On most websites that talk about pine tea, there is a warning stating that pregnant women shouldn't drink the tea... but why? How exactly does that work? If its true, wouldt that make pine tea natural birth control lol?
Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on September 09, 2010:
I find it exciting when I discover that something as common as pine needles are healthy. Just this morning I decided I would try them for my allergies. I am sick of taking medicine and having headaches, so I am hoping they run all the toxins out.
E.Welch on September 09, 2010:
Great hub, I have tons of pine tree's it's good to learn how usefull they can be.
Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on May 21, 2010:
So, did it make a noticeable difference for you? I know that it chases away flu and cold symptoms.
Margarida Borges from Lyon, France on May 21, 2010:
I took a lot of pine needle tea when I was a child. I was asthmatic and someone told my parents that it was good for it.
Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on April 13, 2010:
David, thank you for the warning concerning pregnancy. I had not seen that information in any of my books (and I double checked), but did find the same warning several times online.
I am going to add the warning into the article content.
David on April 04, 2010:
DO NOT DRINK PINE NEEDLE TEA IF YOU ARE PREGNANT! It will induce abortion so consult your doctor. I'm a male so no worries here about that. I have been drinking white pine needle tea for a couple of weeks now. Ewell Gibbons tried to tell us the greatness of this tea but he was laughed at. He didn't die of malnutrition either. It was from a heart defect. Don't let other people ruin your healthy lifestyle with ridicule. You will be happier and more ailment free with less diseases like cancer and diabetes. Pura Vida!
Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on March 01, 2010:
Webpeika, Good luck with that library project!
webpeika on February 28, 2010:
cool stuff, ihad no idea the stuff in my back yard could make tea. hey, you gave me a idea for my library project :D
Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on February 26, 2010:
Dolores, I hope you enjoyed it!
Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on February 24, 2010:
Oh boy, Ivorwen, I love tea and I love pine trees. What a perfect match. I can't wait to try some pine tea one evening. I guess white pine works. I have a jack pine in the yard too. And with the cost of herbal tea, how cool to make your own for free!
Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on February 17, 2010:
Thank you WealthMadeHealthy. I would love to know what you think of it.
Wealthmadehealthy from Somewhere in the Lone Star State on February 16, 2010:
This was an excellent read. I knew of pine needle tea from my studies, but have never drunk any even tho my home is surrounded by pines...
Think I will go foraging through the trees today and drink some tonight....very good hub!!
Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on January 27, 2010:
It is pretty amazing stuff, isn't it! Thanks for dropping by Habee.
Holle Abee from Georgia on January 26, 2010:
Wow! I had no idea that pine straw could do all that!
Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on January 01, 2010:
And a Happy New Year to you Ralwus!
ralwus on January 01, 2010:
Happy Hogmanay Ivorwen!
Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on January 01, 2010:
Thank you, hypnodude!
Andrew from Italy on January 01, 2010:
This hub is great! I've heard the stories on pine needles but never knew anything more, up to now. Wonderful. Bookmarked.
Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on December 28, 2009:
That is information that I didn't come across in my studies. I'll have to read up on it. Thank you for letting me know.
Bradley Chapple on December 28, 2009:
Edgar Casey said that a mixture of pine needle oil (mixed with some other things) massaged into the skin, especially along the spine, was an effective treatment for Parkinson's Disease.
He didn't mention anything about drinking the stuff, though.
Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on December 27, 2009:
Thank you all for your comments! I really appreciate your input.
Vampgyrl and ButterflyWings, thank you for adding your experience.
Ralwus and Rebecka, I find it interesting that your dogs enjoy the water so much. I think I'll try adding a bit of tea to my dogs' water.
Alekhouse, thanks for stopping by.
BkCreative, I was unaware that the entire tree was used in TCM. Thank you for your compliment.
Dink96, this is a great time of year to collect needles, as Christmas trees are coming down. Even if you don't have a real one, I bet you know someone who does. I am going to strip about a gallon's worth of needles and all the bark I can get, just so I am not damaging the tree in my yard.
Dink96 from Phoenix, AZ on December 27, 2009:
So much great info here. However, being in the desert, pine needles aren't exactly easy to come by. I want to save this for future reference though. You clearly put a lot of work into this. Much appreciated.
BkCreative from Brooklyn, New York City on December 27, 2009:
Wonderful hub - you've covered it all! I was just doing research and found pine needles, the whole tree in fact, to be part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Thanks for putting this together so well - I can bookmark it and share it with friends!
Nancy Hinchliff from Essex Junction, Vermont on December 27, 2009:
Great hub. Thanks for asll the information.
rebekahELLE from Tampa Bay on December 27, 2009:
very interesting and informative. I'm a huge nature person and often look at plants or whatever is around and ponder its true purpose. Every day when I take my dog for a walk, we walk over pine needles. I remember while working with the preschoolers, some of us would find a patch of them and start braiding the needles until they broke. My dog also used to drink the water when we used real christmas trees. thanks for sharing, love to learn here. :]
ralwus on December 27, 2009:
I don't think you are old enough to remember Ewell Gibbons, but he ate them. LOL Died younger than expected and it shocked everyone as he was a health nut. LOL My dogs drink it out of the Christmas Tree stand. Hehe Can't get enough of it. I don't think I shall be trying it tho', but thanks for an interesting read.
Joilene Rasmussen from Ovid on December 27, 2009:
Ivorwen, I learned a bunch today. Thank you for this compilation. I use pine needle tea on a regular basis, but have never done much research on it. I just know it makes me feel better.
Windy Grace Mason from Poplar Cove, Virginia, USA on December 27, 2009:
I use pine needles and orange peelings for a tea that I make for stomach ailments. It works wonders. Wonderful hub, Ivorwen!!! Pine needle tea does more good things than I ever knew. Thank you for this :)