The Powerful Properties of Pine Trees (and other Extraordinary Evergreens)
– by Heather Gardener
If you go down to the woods today you’re in for a big surprise; for every where a pine tree’s there, a needle nibbler gathers her fare…feasting and foraging in the forest!
A revolution is taking place in response to our ever burgening economic crisis. This revolution will not be televised, sanitised or franchised… its a downsized Wild Revolution!
People are swooping the supermarkets for the forest, and realising that the contents of their teapot or blender need not come from a plastic package of dubious origin and unknown length of storage, but from nature’s cornucopia. Most of us are by now familiar with the possibility, if not the practice, of picking greens from our backyard or park to add to our diet.
Did you realise that trees also come bearing gifts of nutritious bounty? Most trees have edible parts such as leaves, bark, blossom and fruit; but even in the depths of winter, it is still possible to gather nutritious nibbles in the forest from the Evergreen family.
Most Evergreen trees are edible, but for safety and simplicity, stick to the Pine, Fir and Spruce family.
It was discovered back in the days of scurvy that these trees are extremely high in Vitamin C, as well as vitamin A, quercetin, flavonoids, anthocyanins and volatile oils that are beneficial for respiratory conditions, coughs, colds and flu as well as being anti-inflammatory.
The pine has been revered and used all over the world. It was used as a traditional remedy by the Native American Indians, and there is a Taoist practice of surviving only on pine needles to gain supernatural powers that has its roots in the pine tree’s symbolism of integrity and honour. The Scandinavians used pine branches in saunas, and many cultures stuffed mattresses with pine needles to repel lice, fleas, and other insects. In fact, pine-needle mattresses are still used today in the Swiss Alps, as a remedy for rheumatism.
According to Ben Charles Harris’s book ‘Eat the Weeds’, a cup of pine needle tea may supply five times as much vitamin C as in a lemon.
Studies in both China and Russia have also found it to be Anti-Fungal, Anti-Bacterial & Anti-Viral, AntiOxidant & Anti-Aging, Helpful for Weight, Cholesterol & High blood pressure, Relieves Sore, Aching Muscles, Stimulating to the Liver, Astringent for the Bladder, Relaxing to the Mind and Stress Relieving, AND Helpful in Restoring Overall Balance to The Body! (Wow! Now wasn’t that a mouthful!)
Pine trees usually have quite long needles, sometimes up to 8 inches.
Spruce and fir have much shorter needles, with the fir being more sparse.
A tree identification book and some rambles in your area will reveal what varieties you have for your tasty Pine Potion adventures.
Start out slowly to avoid any ill effects. These trees contain concentrated chemical compounds!
Do NOT consume evergreen tree parts if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Pine Needle Tea
- ½ cup of pine needles
(or other needles from fir or spruce trees)
Crush the needles slightly & add to a pot of boiling water (3-4 cups). Simmer for 15-20 mins, or simply steep the needles in not yet boiling water.
You can add a spoon of honey or other liquid sweetener (maple syrup, agave, etc), as well as herbs such as rosemary or green tea, to this wonderfully aromatic brew.
Leftover tea can be added to a bath, poured over the stones in a sauna, or used as a rinse for the hair to combat dandruff!
According to Wikipedia, Vitamin C may not be destroyed by high temperatures but will instead leach into the water; if this is the case, we will not be losing the Vitamin C by drinking this infusion.
Sergei Boutenko’s Douglas Fir Green Smoothie Recipe
- 10 Tips of Douglas Fir
(gather the fresh young tips in spring)
- 2 cups of spinach or your favourite green
- 2 bananas
- 2 cups of water
Simply blend and Enjoy!
Swap recipes around with different young green tips of either Spruce or Pine. Use some foraged Wild Edibles instead of Spinach, and add in some berries to boost the Vitamin C content for Winter Wellness. For example, add in freshly foraged rosehips!
The fresh green spring tips are also great to add to salads. You can also run a few needles through your juicer to add extra oomph to your juices.
Alternatively, take 10-15 fresh pine needles and chew them thoroughly. Swallow the juice, but spit what is left of the needles!
Pine Needle Vinegar or Oil
- 500ml Glass Jar
- 500ml of either Cyder Vinegar or Organic Cold Pressed Oil
- Several handfuls of Pine Needles
Make sure the jar is very clean and dry. Slightly crush the pine needles with a rolling pin and pack them into the jar. Pour on as much vinegar or oil to fill and cover the jar. Allow to infuse for up to 6 weeks. Strain and use or if you wanted a stronger infusion, or pack in more fresh crushed needles. For a more balsamic tasting vinegar, add a tablespoon of coconut sugar.
Both are wonderful additions to salad dressings. The vinegar is also great to take in a cup of warm lemon and honey to ward of colds and flu, while the oil is great to massage tired aching limbs.
Pine is also reputed to relieve skin conditions, such as psoriasis. You can use the oil or make an ointment to rub on irritated skin or fungal infections.
Melt a pound of coconut oil gently over a bain marie, then add ¼ cup of young fresh spruce tips.
Allow to infuse for a couple of hours or overnight. Melt the oil again and strain out the needles.
Use as a flavoursome butter or to add an interesting twist to your recipes. Good as a tonic for the hair and skin as well!
Pine Needle Sugar or Honey
Place crushed pine needles into a jar of honey or coconut sugar and leave for several weeks or months.
Use in teas, desserts or other creative concoctions. For variety, add pieces of lemon or orange peel to flavour.
Sergei’s Pine Needle Toothbrush
Pine resin is great for removing sugars from the teeth.
Simply chew up some pine needles until it makes a ball and scrub your teeth with it!
Pine Bouquet Garnish
Make a little bunch out of sprigs of pine, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves and tie together with a little hemp or organic cotton string.
Drop it into the pot if you’re making a stew, soup or grain based cooked dish and allow the flavours to permeate the dish before removing.
Pine Cones & Needles Potpourri
Bring the outdoors in with the refreshing fragrance of pine.
- 6 cups dried pine needles (not brown)
- 2 cups small pine cones
- 2 cup dried orange peel
- 1 cup dried rosehips
- 1 cup dried rose & marigold petals
- 1 cup broken cinnamon sticks
- 4 tablespoons of orris root (optional)
- 15 to 20 drops of oil of pine (more or less as desired)
In a bowl, place the oil on the orris root if using. Orris root is traditionally used to fix scent. Otherwise, sprinkle the oil on the pine cones, and gently mix all the ingredients together.
To use, place into open containers throughout the house. Add more essential oil as needed.
Keep out of reach from children and animals.
Preserving your Needles
To freeze, just snip the needles into smaller pieces and place in a Zip-lock bag in the freezer until ready to use.
You can also dehydrate them, or dry out over a stove or in an airing cupboard.
When dry, you can store in a jar, or more interestingly you can process them to a powder in your blender and use to add an aromatic flavour to various recipes.
Wild Pine Pollen
Wild pine pollen is reputed to be very high in natural testosterone. It can be gathered in the spring when the buds are blooming!
Cover the tip of a branch with a plastic bag and shake the branch vigorously to collect the pollen in the bag.
Meet Heather Gardner
Heather is a lifelong 3rd generation vegetarian, Raw Food and Kundalini Yoga Teacher. She began learning about herbs and wild foods at a young age from her herbalist mother while growing up on a remote mountainside in Ireland and delving into the world of foraging, potion making, nutrition, and raw & living foods as a teenager searching for answers to numerous health challenges.
At 20 she began learning and experimenting with the Raw Lifestyle and in 2005 she began to move onto a raw diet and has transitioned to a balanced high raw diet over time. She has studied Natural Nutrition and many other healing modalities and has over 10 years experience as a Natural Remedies, Health & Beauty manager and Brand manager within the UK Natural Products industry, and helping people to achieve better health naturally. Now she lives in the west of Ireland, teaching and running her business as well as running after her feisty little toddler! You can find her here.