The White Pine (Pinus strobus) is an evergreen tree beloved throughout the world. Its deep symbolism of strength, resilience and survival has resonated throughout history and many communities have held it in high regard. It grows in the most rugged terrain, stays green through the harshest of winters (even bearing fruit during this time), can supply materials for shelter and tool, medicine, and food to stave off starvation.
Fresh pine needles and bark are a great source of vitamins A and C, exceeding the amount of vitamin C contained in most citrus fruit (per 100g, needles contained 32 mg, bark contained 200 mg). In 1536, the North American Iroquois people supplied the naval crew of Jacques Cartier with a concoction of pine needles and bark, which cured the crew of scurvy, winning the pine the moniker ‘Tree of Life’.
Brewing the young pine needles as a traditional herbal remedy has a long history of use in Japan, Russia, Korea, Europe, and North America. It has been used for allergies, coughs, respiratory complaints, colds, joint inflammation, and urinary tract infections.
While important anecdotal evidence has accrued from traditional use throughout human history, there have been scant controlled studies. Furthermore, not all pine needles can be used and caution must be applied as there are many toxic varieties of ‘pine’ trees such as English Yew, Norfolk Island Pine, and Yew Pine. This is why it is best to source commercially available material, to ensure it is the correct variety and hence safe.
Only the Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus) should be used. If you are pregnant or breast feeding, do not use pine extracts, essential oils, or teas.
Several present-day products sold to treat dandruff still contain pine tar (from Pinus strobus) mixed with sulfur. What is more interesting, extracts of pine needle are high in a compound known as shikimic acid which has shown to help stop blood clots from forming, protected people from respiratory infections, and displayed anticancer, antiviral, and antibiotic properties.
According to a study at the University of Oregon, shikimic acid is on par with many antiviral and antimicrobial pharmaceuticals:
“Shikimic acid derivatives have also been shown to exhibit useful biological activity. Most notably, the well-known antiviral drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu), which acts as a viral neuraminidase inhibitor, is used to treat seasonal influenza and has been deployed during H1N1 influenza outbreaks. Furthermore, fluorinated shikimate analogues have been shown to inhibit P. falciparum and have been tested as antimalarial drugs. In addition, shikimic acid- derived (−)-zeylenone displays anticancer, antiviral and antibiotic behaviour, and triacetyl shikimic acid exhibits anticoagulant and antithrombotic activity.”
Overall, Pine Needle tea may be a quality herbal remedy that can be used appropriately in the home. Always check with your health practitioner and purchase Pine needles from a reputable herbal supplier.
Hopefully in the near future more clinical research will be applied to this remarkable remedy sourced from a remarkable tree.
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