The Surprising Health Benefits of Pine Needle Tea
~ September 2013 No.251 ~
It’s probably a safe bet to assume that pine needles aren’t the first thing people think of when the urge to brew a cup of tea arises... but a healthy, tasty beverage may be as close as your own back yard
Boasting four to five times the amount of Vitamin C found in a lemon, pine needle tea has been a medicinal favorite of indigenous peoples for centuries and is said to have helped scurvy-afflicted European settlers survive their first winter in the New World. Also high in fat-soluble Vitamin A - an antioxidant essential for healthy vision, skin and hair regeneration and red blood cell production, it is frequently prescribed by herbalist healers as an expectorant to thin mucus secretions; furthermore, it can be used as an antiseptic wash when cooled. Different varieties of pine have their own flavor, so some drinkers mix and match to find the taste they like best.
To brew, simply collect a handful of young green needles. Remove the brown sheaths at the base, wash the needles thoroughly, and chop them into small pieces of about a quarter- to half-inch long. Heat a cup of water to near boiling, pour it over a tablespoon of the needles, and allow it to steep, covered, for five to ten minutes, until most of the needles have settled to the bottom of the cup.
For a more medicinal tea, bring a cup of water to a full boil, add a tablespoon of chopped needles, then cover and allow the needles to boil for an additional two to three minutes. Remove the water from the heat and allow the tea to continue steeping, still covered, until it’s cool enough to drink. Again, most of the needles should have sunk to the bottom. Although this process causes the brew to taste a bit more like turpentine, it also releases more of the therapeutic compounds found in the needles’ oils and resins. For maximum effect, the recommendation is to drink several cups a day, making it fresh each time.
A few words of caution: while there are over 100 different varieties of pine, the Ponderosa, Norfolk Island and Yew needles should be avoided, as brewing can prove toxic. You’ll want to collect your needles from trees at a distance from the roadside to be sure they haven’t been exposed to exhaust or chemicals, and far away from dump sites. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should avoid pine needle tea as it has been linked by some sources to miscarriage.
And if there’s a shortage of pine trees in your area, you can always purchase the tea in bagged powdered form at health food stores or online. Enjoy!
Arginine, scurvy and Cartier’ tree of life
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed 2009,5:5