When most people think of the Florida landscape, besides the beaches and oceans, they think of Palm trees and Palmettos. However, we here in Florida also have an abundance of Pine (Pinus spp.) which is very pervasive (seven native species and three other species that are planted commercially). Because of the fact that pine is so prolific it only makes sense that natives would have discovered practical applications for using the wood as well as medicinal applications to tend to their ill.
Most, if not all people are familiar with the wonderfully aromatic fragrance of pine. This distinct and aromatic fragrance which permeates the forest and enlivens the senses comes from Pines high content of volatile oils. Volatile oils are dispersive and stimulating, meaning they spread throughout the body and get things moving. Pine increases circulation and oxygenation and is well suited to lung conditions where there is stuck, gummy and non-productive phlegm.
Pine is also an antiseptic and contains high quantities of Vitamin C which makes it very beneficial at the onset of a cold or flu. An infusion of the needles works marvelously for opening up the chest and sinuses or may be used as a gargle for sore throats. A steam inhalation of pine is very effective for helping to relieve nasal congestion. Topical applications of infusions and the sap make a very effective antiseptic for all kinds of skin conditions including hard to heal wounds.
I recently made a fabulous syrup with pine needles and the bark from the small branches. Within hours the honey was infused with the wonderful aroma of pine. Because it smelled so yummy I tasted a wee bit…wow…very stimulating. Immediately I began coughing up phlegm which must have been left behind from a recent cold. I wouldn’t recommend pine for someone who already has an active and productive cough as it would tend to irritate and make the cough worse. In that case you might choose something like wild cherry which is cooling and would help to ease the irritation.
For those of you wanting to experiment with the wonders of pine try making yourself a small batch of pine syrup or a pine infused tea. By tasting pine you really start to understand its medicinal actions.
Gather a few small branches with needles and remove the needles from the branches. Chop up the needles and strip the bark from the small branches. Place the needles and bark in a small jar and completely cover with honey. Leave this infusion sitting for a least a week while it extracts. After a week or so place the jar in some warm water allowing the honey to thin out just a bit. Strain off the needles and branches and reserve the honey. Enjoy!!
Ó Natalie Vickery 2012