Herb Profile: Pine

 Scot’s Pine

Botanical Name: Pinus sylvestris, P.rubra

Common Names: Scot’s Pine, Scot’s Fir, giubhas (Scot’s Gallic: juicy tree), King of the Forest

Family: Pinaceae

Parts Used: Buds, Needles, Resin, Pollen, Kernels

Botany & Identification: The genus Pinus contains between 90 and 120 species (varying between taxonomic approaches).The ancestors of today’s pines colonised the earth during the Jurassic Age, 300 million years ago. The contrast of soft grey foliage and orange-pink bark makes Scot’s pine one of the prettiest pine trees. Native to Scotland and a wide range from Spain to the Caucasus, scattered natural forests remain in the Scottish Highlands. These patches are now known as the ancient Caledonian pine forests which once used to cover Scotland before the Highland clearances & mass deforestation. The bark initially grows red-grey scales, and then papery orange-pink bark intensifies with age in the top half of the tree. The leaves are split into bundles of needles, and emerge in twos from each bud in this particular species. Usually they are without lower branches. The cones are slim, 5-8cm long. They exude a pungent, sticky resin from the bark, especially where it has been injured.

Ecology: Pines are suited to growing in harsh environments and are abundant throughout the Northern Hemisphere. They often act as a pioneer species, the first to colonise a new area and then create a suitable ground for other more ecologically specific species to grow. In their natural habitat they rarely crowd each other, leaving plenty of gaps for sunlight to penetrate the canopy.

Growing & Harvesting: the leaves and young shoots should be harvested in the spring and dried for later use. They can be kept for up to a year in a sealed container. Only use dried needles while they still have their scent. When harvesting, be sure to gather the shoots from the sides of the tree; if you harvest at the very top of the tree its growth will be stunted. Harvest pollen in the early spring, when the male catkins are fully packed.

Edibility & Nutrition: The buds & needles of the pine are edible, and are high in vitamin C & aromatic compounds making them a good flavouring for drinks. The pollen is exceptionally nutritious – a complete protein & packed full of minerals & vitamins. The kernels are delicious and contain essential fatty oils. The inner bark can be eaten, but was only gathered and used in making bread during times of famine.

Constituents:

Buds: volatile oils (pineol), resin, vitamin C

Needles: vitamin C

Resin: turpentine, volatile oils (limonene)

Pollen: all 8 essential amino acids, phyto-sterols including testosterone, DHEA & androsterone, folic acid, B vitamins, polysaccharides, iron, magnesium, selenium, calcium

Kernels: fatty oils

Qualities:  Invigorating & Relaxing, Drying & Warming

Tastes: Needles -Aromatic, Astringent, Sour

Medicinal Actions:

Buds: Disinfectant, Antiscorbutic, Expectorant

Needles: Anti-septic, Diuretic, Expectorant, Anti-Inflammatory, Immune-Stimulant, Circulatory, Anti-Viral

Resin: Anti-rheumatic, Anti-septic, Balsamic, Expectorant, Astringent, Anti-bacterial, Anti-inflammatory

Pollen: Nutritive, Adaptogen, Androgenic, Hormone-Regulator, Anti-Inflammatory, Anti-Tumor

Uses:

  • Pine needles were a traditional remedy for upper respiratory disorders. As a warming & drying stimulating expectorant, they are good for wet or mucous producing coughs, but less so for dry irritating coughs. They are indicated in catarrh, sinusitis, bronchitis, rhinitis, laryngeal infections, asthma, tuberculosis.
  • Steam inhalations of the needles or essential oil can be used to decongest & disinfect the upper respiratory passages.
  • A strong pine needle decoction is both invigorating and relaxing to the central nervous system. It can be added to baths for fatigue, nervous exhaustion, stress & general debility or burn out.
  • Externally the buds & needles are anti-microbial, warming & anti-inflammatory. They can be used in ointments or oils for aching muscles, rheumatism, and neuralgia. They were traditionally also used to treat skin conditions & hair loss.
  • Pine Pollen is a nutritive adaptogenic tonic. A potent source of phyto-androgens, it raises testosterone levels and can be used to balance androgen/oestrogen ratios in the body. Useful for boosting endocrine & immune function.
  • Pine as a Bach Flower Remedy has the key notes of: “Self Reproach”,”Guilt Feelings” & “Despondency”  
  • Pine resin, harvested fresh from the tree, has many uses in wilderness first aid & bushcraft. After washing fresh wounds, the resin can be applied to cuts where it acts as a protective glue, stopping bleeding and preventing infection. It can also be chewed for sore throats & colds, and even made into chewing ‘gum’ with beeswax & honey.

 

History & Folklore:

  • In Scotland the pine (and all evergreens) were revered as symbols of life & immortality. This tree was “king of the forest, wildman of the woods, tree of heroes, chieftains and warriors: the spirit of the ancient Caledonian pinewood” and was planted on warrior’s graves. (Tess Darwin)
  • Pine cones were once a masculine fertility symbol, representing male genitals in legends and art.  The tree also symbolises humbleness, good fortune and prosperity, fertility and protection.
  • Healing ointments for boils and sores were traditionally made in Scotland out of beeswax, pig fat and pine resin; the bark was used for fever and the buds for scurvy.
  • A tan or green dye can be obtained from the needles, and orange from the cones
  • Crude resin from pine trees is still used to distill Turpentine, and then Rosin which is the residue left once the Turpentine is completely distilled off. Turpentine is used in making varnish & oil paintings, and Rosin is used by violinists for rubbing their bows.
  • The pineal gland, responsible for regulating the circadian rhythmns of the body, is named after the pine nut
  • Pine resin is highly flammable. It can be used to start fires in bushcraft situations, and is especially useful in wet conditions. A stick covered at one end in pine resin makes a primitive candle or torch.

Preparations:

Essential oil: inhalant, bath. Needles & young shoots: infusion, decoction, vinegar, pine honey, infused oil, ointment, steam inhalation, bath  Buds:  vinegar, eaten raw, infusion, decoction.  Resin: pine pitch, wound dressing, chewing gum, primitive ‘glue’ Pollen: powder, tincture

Cautions & Contraindications:

Pine is generally safe & well tolerated. In individuals with allergic tendencies, test a small amount first. Never use essential oils undiluted on the skin, or internally. The pollen is contraindicated for children & adolescent males.

 

References:

And Here We Are Blog (2014) http://andhereweare.net/2014/05/harvesting-pine-pollen.html/

Barker, Julian (2001) The Medicinal Flora of Britain and North West Europe,  Winter Press, Kent

Bartram, T (1998) Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, London: Constable and Robinson

Buhner, Stephen Harrod (2011) Pine Pollen: Ancient Medicine for A New Millennium, Kindle Edition

Darwin, Tess (1996) The Scot’s Herbal: The Plant Lore of Scotland, Birlinn Ltd, Edinburgh

Grieve, Maude  http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/p/pine–34.html

Johnson, Owen & More, David (2006) Collins Tree Guide, Harper Collins Publishing, London

Morgenstern, Kat (2004) http://www.sacredearth.com/ethnobotany/plantprofiles/pine.php

Natural Medicinal Herbs  http://www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/p/pinus-sylvestris=scot’s-pine.php

Super Foods for Super Health http://www.superfoods-for-superhealth.com/pine-pollen-benefits.html

Surthrival http://www.surthrival.com/news/pine-pollen-benefits/

Survival Sherpa (2015) https://survivalsherpa.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/16-uses-of-sticky-pine-sap-for-wilderness-survival-and-self-reliance/

Wellbeing Herbs http://www.wellbeingherbs.com/blogs/herbalpedia/scots-pine-pinus-sylvestris benefits-and-remedies/

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