Pinus spp.

Pinus spp. (Pines)



Pinaceae (Pine Family)


The Pine family originated about 100 million years ago.


Pine family genera differentials, from Elpel and Moore:

- Pines (Pinus spp.) have 1 to 8 needles in bundles of two or more, wrapped together at the base by a little papery sheath. P. monophylla is the only pine that doesn’t have this characteristic. Pine cones are woody and stiff, instead of the papery scaled and flexible spruce cones.

- Larches (Larix spp.) have deciduous neeles arranged in a spiral at the branch buds.

- Spruces (Picea spp.) have sharp, pointy needles that roll between the fingers. The cones hang down.

- Firs (Abies spp.) have soft, “furry” needles that are flat, and don’t roll between the fingers. The cones point up.

- Hemlocks (Tsuga spp.) have short, flat, blunt needles attached by a small stem.



Michael Moore includes for medicinal usage: P. aristata, P. arizonica, P. attenuata, P. balfouriana, P. contorta, P. discolor, P. edulis, P. engelmannii, P. flexilis, P. jeffreyi, P. lembertiana, P. leiophylla, P. longaeva, P. monophylla, P. moticola, P. ponderosa, and P. strobiformis. There are 100 Pinus spp. plants in the world, and 50 species in the USA. (Elpel)


Pines will grow from timberline up to 5000 feet in elevation. The pinon pines grow at the lowest elevation, followed by the yellow pine and ponderosas.


Male strobili (reproductive parts) are smaller than female strobili. They usually reside in the lower parts of trees, and die soon after releasing their pollen to the wind. Female strobili are larger and usually located higher in the trees. The female cones are aerodynamically shaped to create swirling wind currents to catch the pollen. The pollen and cones are aerodynamically matched to each other, so that each species catches its own pollen. (Elpel)


Pine differentials:

- Red pines usually have needle bundles of 2.

- Yellow pines usually have needle bundles of 3.

- White pines usually have needle bundles of 5.


Vitalist Actions and Energetics

Bitter, warm. Affects liver and kidney (Tierra).


Clinical Actions

Analgesic, anti-spasmodic, stimulant.

Pine needle essential oil: rubefacient, antimicrobial, expectorant. (Skenderi)

Buds: (dried, of P. sylvestris) mild expectorant, antiseptic, circulatory stimulant (Skenderi)

Resin: chew and swallow and currant-sized piece, as an expectorant that generally softens bronchial mucus (Moore). helpful also as a lower urinary tract disinfectant, but not when kidney inflammation is present.



From Michael Moore:

Plant: 3-beta-methoxy-14-serraten-21-on, cis-abienol, leucocyanidin, neoabietinic acid, strobic acid, pinosylvin-monomethylester

Resin, exudate, sap: dehydroabietic acid, elliotic acid, abietic acid, isopimaric acid, laevopimaric acid, palustric acid, pimaric acid, sandaracopimaric acid, strobinic acid

Leaf: anticopalic acid


From Tierra:

Lignin, a-pinene, camphene. Oil of P. Sylvestris contains terebenthine. The young resinous branches contain oils with esters, phellandrene, and pinene. It also produces glycosides (pinicrine, piceine, and coniferoside)


From Skenderi:

Pine needle essential oil: (from P. mugo) alpha and beta phellandrene, bornyl acetate, alpha and beta pinene, etc.

(From P. sylvestris) alpha pinene, beta phellandrene, 3-carene, etc.


Buds: (dried, of P. sylvestris) volatile oils (bornyl acetate, alpha and beta piene), bitter principles (pinipicrin), organic acids (quinic acid), flavanoids, acetophenone (piecein), sugars, etc.




Fresh resin

The fresh sticky pine resin is useful for acute care of cuts. It literally sticks together the cut, while keeping it clean via its antiseptic properties. Stuff may stick to the resin though, so consider sticking a cloth or bandage on top, to keep it clean.



You can directly crumble the dried resin onto charcoal, or onto a metal or earthen plate on a wood stove. Use a small amount, as the resins are quite smoky and aromatic, and the scent can easily become overwhelming. Besides enjoying the scent, I feel like the smoke is physically and energetically cleansing and energizing.



You can make a more complex incense with Kiva Rose’s kyphi recipe (listed in parts, below):

Resin 1

Berries 1

Besswax 1/2

Root/ bark 1/2

Flowers and leaves 3


Basically, you just dry, powderize, and mix all of your ingredients. Then, you add enough warmed mead/ honey/ wine until it’s all sticky (but not wet). Smear a half inch coat over wax paper, then warm on low heat, until the resins melt and the entire mixture coagulates into a whole (also known as a nice gooey delicious-smelling mess). Press flat against tray once more, then place in warm dry place to dry/ cure for 5-7 days. Once it’s mostly dry, break it into smaller pieces, store away, and burn as you please! These make lovely gifts, and I like to use them in ceremonies. You can mix and match your plant medicines and scents, like you would any other formula, but with attention to medicinal and energetic properties, plant stories and personal relationships, and scents. I like the idea of making kyphi with solstice and equinox, as a way to mark the seasons by engaging the gifts of the natural world into a cohesive aromatic memory-trigger and sensory stimulant.


Pine Resin Oil

It’s warming, stimulating, aromatic, and anti-microbial. A strong pine-infused oil or salve works as a counter-irritant, drawing out foreign material (such as splinters) within 48 hours of topical application. 7song also uses it for this purpose, though he cautions not to use it on wounds that are too deep or potentially infected, as the pine pitch salve may seal up the wound, and seal in the infection, if it’s there. For smaller cuts though, it creates a nice “natural bandage” over the area which is antiseptic, and keeps the wound sealed up. Just make sure that you have something to cover the pitch on your wound, such as a leaf, cloth, or bandage, otherwise you will stick to everything. Moore notes that “the abietic resins stimulate topial circulation, increase inflammation, and noticeably speed up the foreign body response; pus and fluids build up much more quickly than if unattended, and the splinter will usually pop out the next day.” He warns about a small healing crisis, a possible 20 hour period of greater inflammation and discomfort, before the foreign particle is counter-irritated out of the body.


A more diluted pine oil, added into a salve, creme, or oil blend, is a warming circulatory stimulant that may be helpful for sore muscles and joints, and with old injuries.


Summer is the best time to harvest pine resin. Make sure that you leave enough with the tree, as it may need it to repair its own wounds. After collecting half a jar of resin, separate the gooey and semi-solid resin from the hard resin. Break up the hard pieces. You can wrap it in cloth, and hammer it. Do not put it into a blender, or even mortar and pestle, as your equipment will then be forever sticky and resinous. (You can use rubbing alcohol to clean up afterwards, but get mixed results). Add the fresher, stickier resins into your jar first, then add your broken up harder pieces. Fill your jar up with your oil of choice, such as extra virgin organic olive oil. Take note that whatever jar you choose to do this in, will always be a resin jar. Heat is needed to dissolve the resin into the oil. Kiva likes to place the entire jar in her wood stove warmer for a few weeks. I don’t know how she does it, so that the glass jar doesn’t burn or explode (having had negative experiences trying this). I could imagine doing this by placing the jar close to, or right above (but not touching) a wood stove, for extended heat. After the resins are mostly dissolved, strain your oil... then it’s ready to use!


Kiva Rose reminds us that, “When harvesting, it’s important to realize that resin circulates through the body of conifers, and helps to seal off any injury to the tree from insect infestation or microbial invasion. Thus, in order to avoid further harm to a tree, we need to be careful to harvest resin where it has dripped down the body of the tree or fallen on the ground, rather than harvesting directly from the wound.”



1:5 95% resin tincture (Kiva Rose)

Add small amounts to food, such as shortbread, to add flavor. A powerful expectorant, use in small quantities in formulas, similar to how you’d use Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha). Kiva will sometimes add it to her cough formulae.


Note that the resin is not water soluble, and will likely come out of solution if added to formulas with greater water content. Anti-microbial, useful in mouth washes. Because of the resinous nature of the medicine, I would refrain from using internally, unless absolutely necessary.


Perfume base

Infuse the resin into a high quality oil, such as jojoba. Or, use a tincture as a base. It helps to preserve the perfume, while adding its own woodsy grounding aromatics.



All pine nuts are edible, but many are difficult to harvest. Pinus edulis and P. monophylla are harvested and eaten for their pinon nuts, rich in polyunsaturated oils, protein, potassium, magnesium, vitamin E, and carotenes. They are considered warm and sweet, tonifying yin, and boosting the circulation, in Chinese medicine. Brill says, “Store the cones in a dry places, so they release their seeds. Roasting the dry cones facilitates seed removal. Shell the nuts and use them raw or roasted... the high oil content makes shelled pine quite perishable, so refrigerate or freeze them, or use them soon.” Wind, a man I met living mostly primitively in the desert southwest, enjoys pine nuts as one of his primary food sources. He harvests a bunch, and lightly roasts them, then lets them dry in the sun for a day. He then stores them in earthen containers that keep them cool and dry. They last over the winter. He will sometimes grind them into flour, or just eat them directly. They are absolutely delicious.


Spring is the best time to harvest fresh leaf buds for food, but needles can be used in food and beverages all through the year, as a flavoring agent. (Rose)


Brill doesn’t like the taste of pine inner bark, pollen cones, or fresh shoots, though they are all “edible.” Pine inner bark is full of starches, sugars, vitamins and minerals. Brill suggests eating it only as a survival food, only if absolutely necessary. He recommends boiling it in multiple changes of water to make it more digestible, and to reduce the piney taste.


Brill highly recommends collecting and eating the pollen from the male strobiles. To collect them, just grab a handful of needle bundles with male strobiles, stick them into a paper bag, close the mouth of the bag by tightening your hand over that part, then shake! Collecting enough pollen to eat is quite time-consuming, but the pollen is plentiful when it’s the season, it tastes good and is highly nutritious, and you can combine the pollen with other foods to help bulk it up. I use it as a seasoning, instead of a primary food source.



Pine needles make a tea that’s high in vitamin C and antioxidants. The tea is also mildly diuretic and expectorant.


A decoction of the inner bark mixed with honey is a stronger expectorant, useful after the feverish stage of a chest cold has passed. (Moore)


Livestock were reportedly poisoned by eating ponderosa pine (P. ponderosa) and loblolly pine (P. taeda) needles. Those are both western species of pines. Brill suggests only using eastern pines for tea. But, I disagree. I think that dosage is the difference between poison and medicine, and even food and medicine. But, use your own judgment, and follow your taste buds and literal gut feelings. Pine needle tea saved the lives of scurvy-ridden European explorers, through their high vitamin C content. I like to drink it in the winter, especially infused over a woodstove, as the aromatic smells waft through my home, warming and nourishing my being on all levels.


I especially enjoy making pine needle sun tea with my kid students, as pines are readily available in most places, and sun tea is gorgeous and delicious. If it’s a cloudy day, then pine needle tea made over the fire is also a favorite.


Flower essence

The Bach flower essence of Scots pine (P. sylvestris) enhances self acceptance through self forgiveness. It helps one move forward, despite past mistakes. It’s indicated for melancholic obsession with past events, overly blaming or guilting oneself, and paralysis due to excessive self criticism.


Pine bark syrup

Brill suggests making and using a cough syrup of the pine bark. (See Moore’s directives above, in regards to this). Fill a jar with pine bark and hot water. Let steep for a few hours (I would prefer to use a decoction). Add 3/4 C alcohol per 1 C water (decoction or infusion). Let sit for a day, then strain out the bark. Add 1/2-1 C honey. You can also add cherry bark, sassafras roots, etc.



The pine resin makes a marvelous glue. At a wilderness camp I worked at in Utah, we called it “poo glue.” We’d mix together equal parts pine resin, dried cow dung, and charcoal. First, you melt down the pine resin over a small warm fire in a tin can. Then, you mix in the powderized cow dung and charcoal. Finally, you immediately apply your poo glue to whatever it is that you want to glue together. It dries quickly, and is very strong. We used the poo glue to glue sharpened stones onto sticks, which we used instead of knives (yes, sexy cave woman and man style). The poo glue is strong enough to keep the stones on the sticks, even as we used them for knives, hammers, etc. I said “equal parts” of the resin, dung, and charcoal... but really, you’ll have to experiment with proportions. If it’s too much resin, then the glue will be too brittle. If it’s too much dung or charcoal, then it won’t stick together.


General uses, listed by author



He mostly uses Pinus tabulaeformis and P. Sylvetris. Oil of pine used as an external treatment for local relief of rheumatism, sciatica, chronic bronchitis, cough, pneumonia, and nephritis.



Pine needle essential oil: external use (liniment, creme, salve) for upper respiratory inflammation. Internally used via steam inhalation for the same.


Buds: (dried, of P. sylvestris) internal use as a tea for upper respiratory inflammations, such as the smoon cold, or as a diaphoretic hot tea. Externally used as a liniment or salve for minor neuralgic pains.



Internal use of leaves are mildly antiseptic, and may be used for arthritic and rheumatic problems. Essential oils of P. sylvestris leaves may be taken for asthma, respiratory infections, and as a carminative. Essential oil of the seeds have diuretic and respiratory-stimulant properites. Seeds used for bronchitis, tuberculosis, and bladder infections. Decoction of seeds may be applied to suppress excessive vaginal discharge.


Historical Usage

Pines were important timber trees. The Greeks most preferentially used mountain pines, such as the Austrian Pine (P. nigra), for boat and house building. The lodgepole pine (P. contorta) was thus named, for the Blackfoot, Dakota, Montana, Paiute, Cheyenne, and Thompson tribes made their tipi frames from its wood.


The Blackfoot make “story sticks” from the lodgepole pine wood, which elders give to their children as rewards for doing small errands or chores. The sticks are notched with the “stories” of these deeds. The more notches, the better!


The Hopi apply pinyon pine resin to their forehead as protection from sorcery. The Navajo used pinyon needles as a ceremonial medicine for their War Dances, and the resin as body paint.


The Kawaiisu hang a baby boy’s outgrown cradle in a Ponderosa pine, so that he will grow strong, like the tree.


Taoist hermits and monks living in the high deep mountains of China are purported to eat very little, but their diet includes pine nuts. These nuts are said to bestow eternal life. Pine nuts have been found buried in Egyptian coffins.


It’s a tree often used in burials. Viking chiefs were buried in their dragon ships made of pine. Scottish clan chiefs and warriors liked to be buried under pines. Most of the wall-panels of the royal burial chamber of the “Midas Mound” complex at Phrygia (from 8th century BCE) were made of pine.


When the Romans occupied Israel, they liked to use the Jerusalem pine (P. halapensis) for many things, including for crucifixions. It’s said that Jesus Christ was crucified on this Pine.


Mythology and Magic

The Greeks associate Pine with the god, Pan. Pines are associated with life force, vitality, death, and resurrection. Many old pine trees in Greece are dedicated to Pan, with a small shrine or altar next to it, sometimes with a small sacred fire.


In Phrygian myth, Attis, the god of vegetation, dies in self-sacrifice. His goddess mother, Cybele, transforms him into a pine tree at his death. The yearly Festival of Attis takes place at the Spring Equinox, when a decorated pine is festively carried into the village, and ancient fertility cult celebrations ensue.


In Greek and Roman legend, Dionysus gave Icarus information regarding how to make wine. Icarus was murdered, and buried under a pine tree. Afterwards, pines were associated with Dionysus and Bacchus, the god of wine.


In Breton legend, Merlin climbed the Pine of Barenton (“sacred grove of Bel”), where he received a profound revelation, and never returned to the mortal world.


Pairs and Triplets

- Pinus (1 oz), Capsicum (1 dram), Myrica (4 oz), Zingiber (4 oz), Zanthoxylum (1 dram): composition powder (Cook)

- Pinus (2 oz), Lobelia 1, Nepeta 2, Zingiber (4 drams powder to 3 pints water): enema for hypertension, intestinal obstruction, neurasthenia (Priest)

- Pinus, Prunus, Sassafras, Aralia racemosa: drying expectorant (Clymer)

- The inner bark is decocted with dong quai (Angelica sinensis) and angelica for rheumatoid arthritis. Also used with clematis, acanthopanax, quince, and mulberry branches. (Tierra)


Cautions and Contraindications

Frequent use of the bark or needle tea may irritate the kidneys. (Moore)


Personal Experience



I took a bath last night in a day-long infusion and decoction of P. ponderosa branches, needles, and male strobiles. I always feel relaxed and happy when taking a bath, so am unsure about the effects of the bath itself. The pine scent was so deliciously strong, that I felt as if I had just climbed a pine tree, and had resin all over my body. After emerging from the bath, I noted a slightly resinous feeling to my body. The strong decoction and infusion had resins and oils in a thin layer on the surface of the potion. I think that it coated my body. It felt protective, yet also mildly sticky. It is a similar feeling to wearing a “chaparral oil jacket.” In the morning, I feel decadent, with a slight smell of Pine still on my skin and in my hair, which complements my natural eau de femme.



Two friends gave me two different salves that contain pine resin in it. One is strongly resinous. It is sticky and uncomfortable. I would only use it if I absolutely needed to. The content of resin is very high in that salve, in proportion to oil and beeswax. I applied it to a splinter, that was deep in the palm of my hand. The next day, the splinter still sat in my palm, but the swelling had decreased. The resinous salve seemed to have sealed the splinter into my hand smoothly and painlessly. This is contrary to what 7song and Kiva Rose say, in regards to using pine resin as a drawing agent. Perhaps I didn’t put on enough of it?


The second salve is less resinous and sticky, but still strongly pine scented. I like to use this one for bug bites, as it helps to reduce swelling and itching, creating a lightly protective layer over my bites, and making them less temptingly scratchable. It feels warming, a counter-irritant circulatory stimulant. When I apply it to my wrist that experiences chronic dull achey pain, I feel a nice penetrating yet soothing heat that is maintained for half the day, and helps to reduce the cold, damp, pain that I experience there.



I infused pine needles, along with other wild herbs, into my kombucha’s second batch of brewing. As soon as I put in the pine needles, the kombucha bubbled and fizzed, as if it were literally jumping for joy. After a few days, I sampled the infusion. The taste of the pine is delicious (I just put in a few needles). I could feel my digestive enzymes churning with more ecstatic aliveness, after drinking it. Slight pulse increase, increase of core heat emanating out to extremities. Astringes mucous membranes slightly (more with a stronger infusion). An initial heady feeling, then gradually sinking, and eventually deeply grounding.


Overall Experience

I associate Pines with mountains. Growing up, I relished when we went hiking. The higher we went, the more Pines there seemed to be. I love the rough texture of their bark, the silence in their forests, with the soft piney carpet underfoot. I love the scent of their needles, and playing with their cones. We’d collect pine cones, and line them up in order from tallest to smallest, and create family stories. We’d stockpile cones, and chuck them at each other. We’d peel apart the cones one scale at a time, “He loves me, he loves me not... he loves me!” The scales would then turn into little mandalas, or little creatures that had names, or little fairy glens that we created with love, on the mysterious universe of the forest floor.


Pines are so easy to climb, if they haven’t grown too tall. Their branches spread widely and plentifully, and are easy to climb up into, and go high above the Earth. It’s important to stick close to the tree trunk, as the fresh branches tend to break easily. I love sitting up in a Pine and observing the surrounding landscape and skyscape. I feel the bending of the tree with the wind, and can imagine the xylem and phloem, carrying nutrients up and down through the tree.


I don’t use Pines much for chronic conditions. They are more useful as an acute medicine, an easily available resource, if you happen to be where they live. I like to carry around a ball of pine resin with me for the reasons listed above (under “Uses”), and for chewing gum, sticking glue, and aromatic comfort. I love Pine as pleasure medicine, through their aromatic resins, in my perfumes and incenses. I feel like a forest queen, whenever I anoint myself with Pine-infused perfumes. The incense brings me back into the forest with all its mysteries, wherever I am in the world.




Forest Chai

(Proportions listed in parts. Adjust, as delighteth thee)


First, decoct for 10 minutes:

- Reishi or Chaga (2)

- Ginger (fresh, 0.5)

- Cardamon (a few pods)

- Cinnamon (a few sticks)


Then, add the below ingredients. Turn off heat, and let sit, covered, for 10 more minutes:

- Pine needles (2)

- Rose hips (0.5)

- Nettles (0.5)

- Orange peel (small handful)

- Nutmeg (a pinch or two of powder)

- Cacao (1 tsp powder, per cup of chai)

- Cayenne (a pinch or two)


Strain out the herbal material (save it! You can make more dilute batches, later). Then, add:

- Vanilla (1 tsp extract)

- Heated coconut milk (or other fatty milky yumminess, to taste)

- Rose honey (or other herbally-infused heart-delighting sweetness, to taste)


Enjoy with a candle (or bonfire), a friend (or group), and some chocolate (or likewise decadence).



Let’s indulge. Drink as you wish. Especially if it’s the cold winter, and your heart is dark and sunken. Don’t drink it everyday. It might be too drying, and over-consumption of pine needles might damage your kidneys. I’d drink this once a week tops. Or, you can modulate the recipe, adjusting it to suit your personal needs and constitution. Take it like a ceremony. Set your space, invite the right people, and enjoy it slowly. Inhale the scents of the forest chai, allowing your eyes to gently close, imagining all the plants that went into your brew, and where they came from. As you enjoy the first sip, hold that taste in your mouth, savoring the initial sensorial awakenings, noticing your body’s responses. Then, swallow. Imagine all the forest entering your body, permeating your being, enveloping your senses. Enjoy.



First Aid Forest Salve

- Chaparral infused-oil (Larrea tridentata) (1)

- Poplar bud infused-oil (Populus spp.) (1)

- Pine resin infused-oil (Pinus spp.) (1)

- Black birch infused-oil (Betula lenta) or Willow infused-oil (Salix spp.) (0.5)



Use this anti-inflammatory antiseptic salve as needed for acute cuts, scrapes, bug bites, bruises, etc. See action formula below, for more on why. Not for deep cuts. Clean a deeper cut well, before application, as this salve may seal the wound quickly. You can add some wintergreen essential oil, if you wish to modulate the heating nature of the Salve.



Sacred Earth Oil

- Pine resin infused-oil

- Myrrh EO

- Frankincense EO

- Sandalwood EO

- Osha EO

- Palo santo EO

- Sagebrush EO

- Ylang ylang EO

(In a Jojoba or Almond oil base, with some vitamin E to help preservation)


Play around with proportions, as desired. A little goes a long way. Put only a few drops of essential oil (EO) into your mix, at a time. Go slow. Mix well. Let sit overnight. Smell. You can always add, you can never subtract. Go slow. Anoint yourself. Smell yourself. See how your body aroma interacts with the oil’s scent. Enjoy the play, until you feel finished, until it smells just right. Then, enjoy your personalized Sacred Earth Oil blend.



Anoint yourself with this oil during ceremonies, or whenever you desire to reconnect with the energies of sacred Earthy medicines.


Witchilly yours,



Resources Cited

Herbal Vade Mecum, Skenderi (pg. 296-298)

Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, Chevallier (pg. 248-249)

Planetary Herbology, Tierra (pg. 236-237, 279, 414)

Herbal Formulation in the Physiomedicalist Tradition, Paul Bergner

Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West, Michael Moore (pg. 195-197)

Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants, “Wildman” Steve Brill (pg. 217-219)

Botany in a Day, Tom Elpel (pg. 46-47)

Pine Pitch Salve, Kiva Rose (http://bearmedicineherbals.com/pine-pitch-salve.html)

Winter Conifer Resins, Kiva Rose (http://mountainroseblog.com/forest-winter-conifer-resins-healing-pleasure/)

Incense, Kiva Rose (http://bearmedicineherbals.com/incense.html)

The Meaning of Trees, Fred Hageneder (pg. 146-149)