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Edible & Medicinal Benefits of Pines

Updated: Nov 11, 2023



"The waving of a pine tree on the top of a mountain, a magic wand in Nature's hand, every devout mountaineer knows its power; but the marvelous beauty value of what the Scotch call a breckan in a still dell, what poet has sung this? It would seem impossible that anyone, however incrusted with care, could escape the Godful influence of these sacred fern forests. Yet this very day I saw a shepherd pass through one of the finest of them without betraying more feeling than his sheep." -John Muir

Species Found in California


California is home to over 28 species of pine, most of which are found at higher elevations and along the northern coast. The most common species we find are Pinyon pine (Pinus monophylla), White Bark pine (Pinus albicaulis), Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), Jeffrey pine (Pinus jeffreyi), Sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana), Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), and Gray pine (Pinus sabiniana).



Edible and Medicinal Uses



Pines have several edible and medicinal benefits and have been used by the Chumash for tools and building materials. Several parts of pine trees are used for edible and medicinal benefits including; needles, resin, nuts, and inner bark (cambium).


The needles of pines (high in vitamin C) contain a compound called alpha- or beta-pinene, which is a natural decongestant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antimicrobial, and anxiolytic. They help to treat respiratory conditions, sore throats, rheumatism, and sore muscles. Needles can be used in making a salt soak, using Epsom salt and crushed fresh needles.


During the winter months, a warm and delicious tea can be made using the needles of pines.

Below is a great morning tea for those crisp mornings and pairs well with a good book and warm throw blanket.

Mandarin & Single-leaf Pinyon Pine

Citrus Pinyon Tea (Pinus monophylla)

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tsp Fresh Pine Needles from the Pinyon Pine

  • 1 Cup of Water

  • 1.5 Tsp of Sweetener (Honey/ Maple Syrup)

  • Citrus (Lemon, Tangerine, or Mandarin)

Directions:

  1. Boil water

  2. Add in needles and allow to steep for 10-15 minutes with a covered lid or plate

  3. Add in the juice of half a citrus (tangerine and mandarin for sweeter notes and lemon for a fresh note)

  4. (Optional) Add in a sweetener (honey or maple syrup)

This tea can also be flavored with cardamom and cinnamon, peppermint and catnip, or with California everlasting flowers.


The cambium of pine trees is called the inner bark (sap layer or cambial zone), it is recognizable by the soft whitish part of the bark. The inner bark can be used as an astringent to wash wounds or as a poultice. Cambium can also be cooked for survival food or can be made into a sweet snack. Below is a delicious Cambium and honey snack that even kids can enjoy on the trail.




Pinyon Cambium Honey Treats

Single-leaf Pinyon Pine Cambium in Raw Honey

Ingredients:

  • Pinyon Pine Cambium Slices from a freshly fallen tree

  • Raw, Organic, Local Honey (Enough to fit into a mason jar)

  • Spices (optional): Cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.

Directions:

  1. Remove the outer bark of the freshly fallen tree

  2. Carefully using a curved draw shave knife and in thin layers remove the cambium. The cambium will be the inner soft whitish bark.

  3. Place the shaved pieces of cambium in a clean mason jar, add any spices that you like, and then pour the raw honey over the cambium and spices.

  4. Place the lid on the mason jar and set it in a cool spot on the counter.

  5. Allow the jar to sit on the counter for a couple of weeks so that it absorbs the flavor of the cambium and the spices.

  6. After a couple of weeks, you can eat the cambium or use it in your favorite breakfast dish.

Pine resin can be used for several uses; soaps, balms, body butter, salves, adhesives for making ink, temporary bandages, pitch glue, and fire starters. The best time of the year to collect pine resin is during the winter. The resin is hard and less sticky during the cooler temperatures allowing it to be easily collected in a mason jar for later use. Pine resin can also be frozen and then crushed down into a powder for use. Below is a simple recipe for making your own Pinyon pine salve along with a few variations for decongestant balm and sore muscle balm.


Pinyon Pine Salve

Single-leaf pinyon pine resin

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 ounces of pinyon pine resin

  • 8 fluid ounces of jojoba oil or apricot kernel oil

  • 1-1.5 ounces of beeswax granules

  • 1 ounce of shea butter

Directions:

  1. Combine the pinyon pine resin with the oil in a heat-proof glass bowl (dedicated to pine resin use) using the double boiler method.

  2. Heat water to a low simmer making sure it does not boil. This process can be time-consuming as the resin will dissolve and combine with the oil (jojoba/apricot kernel)

  3. Remove any pine needles, bark, and dirt. (Harvesting clean pine resin can help save time).

  4. While warm, add the beeswax and shea butter, and stir until melted.

  5. Test the consistency of the salve by removing a small amount with a spoon and placing it in the freezer. If the mixture is too hard, add more oil, if it is too runny add more beeswax.

  6. Pour salve into desired containers and allow to cool.

**Variations of Salves**

When making these variations add the essential oils to the mix before adding beeswax and shea butter, while it's still warm.


  • Decongestant Balm:

    • Add 16 drops of Eucalyptus Essential Oil, 5 drops of Peppermint Essential Oil, and 2 drops of Camphor Essential Oil


  • Sore Muscle Balm:

    • Add 24 drops of Cypress (can substitute with Juniper or Himalayan Cedarwood) Essential Oil, and 1 drop of Clover Oil


Enjoy the video below of my pinyon pine resin harvesting. If you have any questions on how to harvest or to make any of the recipes above please feel free to contact me.





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