Edited and personal anecdotes added by KJ Landis
No matter what philosophy or religion one follows, we humans have turned to nature, for food, and for medicine. In the ancient days, in the winter time when fruits and vegetables may have been scarce, we relied on leaves, nuts, roots, fermented and pickled foods, etc., to fuel us, to heal us, and to create rituals and rich traditions. Just in time to get into the holiday spirit, some of us haul a bushy evergreen tree into the living room, stand it up in a prominent location, and decorate it with lights, miniature figurines, and spiritual symbols.
Today we will learn that pine, spruce and fir trees are powerful native medicines that hold many gifts for our mind, body, and spirit.
Our ancestors relied on the pine tree for its medicine 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. These conifers hold much spiritual significance as well, and can symbolize many things including longevity, peace, wisdom, and harmony with nature. The Iroquois burned pine needles to dispel nightmares and placate spirits. Other tribes burn the wood of pine as incense, while still others use pine gum for protection against negative energies.
There are approximately 115 different species of pine worldwide—36 of which grow in North America. These evergreen and resinous (sticky, sappy) 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 – like 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.
Here are a few suggestions and some great recipes below:
1. Use the pitch. The sticky, delicious-smelling sap has powerful antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. We can use it as a 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 occasionally.
- 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 cool place.
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, which is packed with powerful antioxidants, including vitamin C. The extract has been shown to lower glucose levels, improve diabetes 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 following recipe:
Sacred Pine Needle Tea
- ½ cup young pine needles (a small handful)
- 3 cup spring water
- 1 slice of lemon (optional)
- Bring water to a boil.
- De-stem and remove the brown papery sheaths at the base of the needles.
- Chop needles into ½-inch pieces, to help release essence.
- Place 1 tbsp. of chopped needles into a mug and pour boiling water over top, allowing 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. These include: appetite suppression, boosting energy, reducing risk of heart disease, anti-aging, and improving vision. Use the nuts in salads and other recipes, or simply enjoy them 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 at home, or adding a few drops to a bath for a rejuvenating and restorative experience.
The pine 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.
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