Pine Keeps You Fine
c. Susun Weed
If you live in any of the temperate regions of the world, whether at sea level or high in the mountains, some pine trees are likely to be growing very near you.
If you live in the desert, you may have to get to the mountains before you find a pine. But wherever you live, north or south, east or west, so long as it isn't the tropics, you will find pine trees. And since they are evergreen, you can find them easily right now, in the deep of winter, when deciduous trees are bare of leaves. So the next time you take a walk or go for a drive, be on the lookout for pines.
Why? Because pines are useful -- for things as diverse as medicine, food, caulking boat seams, winter decorations, and pine-needle basketry -- and because pines have many stories to tell. The people of the Great Peaceful Nations (Iroquois Confederacy) still honor the "Great Pine of Peace," where they buried their weapons. I sometimes refer to the "Pine of the Great Mistake," for there might not be white people living in North America except for the gift of the Native Peoples, who told the Europeans they needed to eat pine needles during the winter to ward off disease.
That's because pine needles are rich in vitamin C. Hundreds of years ago many people died of lack of vitamin C, not directly, but indirectly, from opportune infections that thrived because their immune system lacked critical vitamins. Pine needles still provide vitamin C to help us stay healthy in the cold season. They can be chewed, brewed into a tea, or, my favorite, prepared as a vinegar.
I preserve all the vitamins found in fresh pine needles by soaking them in apple cider vinegar for six weeks. I fill a wide-mouthed jar with pine needles and pour room-temperature, pasteurized apple cider vinegar over them until they are completely covered. A plastic (or non-metal) lid and a label with the name of the plant and the date completes the preparation. I call this tasty vinegar "home-made balsamic vinegar" and you will be surprised at how much it tastes like the store bought stuff -- "Only better," say many, with a smile.
Soft pines, like my favorite medicinal pine, Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) have less harsh "pitch" than hard pines such as Monterey (P. radiata) or Ponderosa pine (P. ponderosa). They make internal medicines that are mild-tasting yet fast-acting. When I visit out west, I use another soft pine -- pinon pine (Pinus edulis) -- to make a tasty, health-promoting pine needle vinegar.
Don't worry if you don't know a soft pine from a hard pine, or even what kind of pines grow around you. Pines are safe to experiment with. If you choose a pine with too much pitch, your preparations will taste like turpentine or a strong cleaning product! It will be obvious to you not to use it; or to use it in tiny doses.
Did you ever see "Pine Brother's" cough drops? They're still sold, although they no longer contain the pine that gives them their name. Pine sap, like many resins, is strongly antibacterial. Pine sap medicines slightly irritate the lungs, increase the effectiveness of coughs, kill bacterial infections, halt coughing, and improve breathing..
You may have said nasty things about pine sap if you ever got it on your clothes, for it leaves a hard-to-remove black stain. But tinctures, honeys, and salves of pine sap/pitch are uniquely effective medicines.
Pine resin is a component of propolis, a mixture of tree saps collected by bees. Tincture of pine sap (or propolis) is easy to make and a useful ally to have on hand to counter winter miseries such as colds, coughs, and bronchitis. For this remedy you will need 198 proof alcohol, sometimes called grain alcohol, or Everclear. This high proof alcohol contains no water, and pine sap "fears" water. ("Hydrophobic" is the technical term.) Vodka, the alcohol I prefer to use to make tinctures, contains quite a bit of water -- eighty proof vodka is sixty percent water; one hundred proof vodka is fifty percent water -- so the pine sap will not dissolve in it.
Collect pine sap from wounds in the trees, or scrape it off pine cones. Barely cover the sap with 198 proof alcohol in a tightly-lidded jar. Label with the name and date. Your remedy will be ready to use -- in 5-10 drops doses -- in six to eight weeks.
Pine sap honey is made by cooking the two ingredients together until they merge, then cooling the goo in individual globs on waxed paper.
Direct applications of pine sap or liberal use of a pine sap salve is a renowned healer of all sorts of wounds. The bark from pine saplings can be used in place of a cast to stabilize broken bones, and as a binding in place of stitches to help grave wounds mend.
Even the pollen of pines is medicinal. Stephen Buhner, herbalist and speaker for the earth, reports that pine pollen is exceedingly high in testosterone. Ingestion of the pollen itself, or the tincture of the pollen in dropperful doses, seems to gradually increase libido in those susceptible to its action.
Find a pine nearby. Inhale that special pine scent. Let you heart and spirit be invigorated and uplifted with the gifts of the pine. Let the green blessings of the Earth nourish you deeply.