relied on the pine tree for its medicine, ceremony, and sustenance – and many
tribes still depend on it today. The remarkable healing properties of these
resilient trees make them a staple to indigenous cultures from the Siberian
steppes to the forests of North America and beyond.
conifers hold much spiritual significance as well and can symbolize many things
including longevity, peace, wisdom, and harmony with nature. The Iroquois
burned pine to dispel nightmares and placate spirits. Other tribes burn the
wood of pine as incense, while still others use pine gum for protection against
How you can
use pine medicine:
There are approximately 115 different species of pine
worldwide—36 of which grow in North America. These evergreen and resinous
coniferous trees (in the family Pinus, and the genus Pinaceae)
are native to most of the Northern Hemisphere. But some pine species have
flourished in the Southern Hemisphere too – take the cypress or kauri pines in
Australia, for example. Find out which types of pine grow near you, and
make sure they’re true pines. Provided that you’re not allergic, consider
connecting with its healing properties. We’ve listed a few suggestions below.
1. Use the pitch. The sticky delicious-smelling
sap has powerful antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. My O’odham friend
Dennis often uses this as quick wilderness first aid for cuts, slivers, and
burns. Try your hand at making your own healing salve below:
Pine Resin Healing Salve
- ¼ cup pine resin
- ½ cup almond or olive oil
- 1 oz. grated beeswax
- Heat oil in a double-boiler. As oil begins to simmer,
add pine resin, and continue heating until the resin melts. Stir
- Option: Strain mixture through a cheesecloth.
- Return mixture to double-boiler over low heat, and slowly
stir in beeswax until melted. Pour mixture into jars or tins, and store in
You can use this salve on aching joints and sore muscles,
shallow scrapes, and wounds, or on the chest for an aromatherapeutic agent.
2. Use the bark. In a survival situation, you
can actually eat the bark of a pine tree. But the easiest way to reap its
benefits is using pine bark extract, packed with powerful antioxidants,
including vitamin C. The extract has been shown to lower glucose levels,
improve diabetic symptoms, prevent hearing loss, restore balance, stave off
infections, protect the skin from harmful UV rays, restore circulation, improve
erectile dysfunction, reduce inflammation, even increase athletic
performance—and the list goes on.
3. Use the needles. Also loaded with vitamin
C—more than five times that of an orange—along with vitamins A, E, and a host
of B vitamins, the needles are a cherished part of the pine. Pine needles have
strong antimutagenic, antioxidant, and antiproliferative properties, which help
in preventing the growth of cancer cells. Try making your own tea with the
Sacred Pine Needle Tea
- ½ c. young pine needles (a small handful
- 3 c. spring water
- 1 slice of lemon (optional)
- Bring water just to a boil.
- Destem and remove the brown papery sheaths at the
base of the needles.
- Chop needles into ½-inch pieces, to help release
- Place 1 Tbsp. of chopped needles into a mug, and pour
boiling water over needles, and allow to steep for 5-10 minutes.
- Squeeze lemon into tea for flavor, or use as garnish.
4. Use the nuts. The “fruit” of these sacred
trees can be found in the scales or spines of the pinecone, and is known for
its own set of health benefits, including: appetite suppression, boosting
energy, reducing risk of heart disease, anti-aging, and improving vision. Use
in salads and other recipes, or simply enjoy as a snack.
5. Use the oil. Invigorating and cleansing, pine
essential oil can alleviate headaches, relieve pain, boost energy and mood,
treat acne and other skin conditions, act as a decongestant, and freshen a
room. Consider diffusing the oil in a room, or adding a few drops to a bath for
a rejuvenating and restorative experience.
The Christmas tree is a prime example of a wild medicine
that is hidden in plain sight. Revered by those who came before us, this noble
plant is a shining reminder that the forest holds many healing secrets that are
waiting to be told to those of us who are open to hearing them.