Drinking herbal teas like "Pine Needle Tea" for medicinal purposes is an ancient custom in many parts of the world. It is fair to say that tea drinking is “steeped” in culture, excuse the pun!
Tea , as a herbal remedy, is an effective way to take in the essential oils and phenolic compounds, released by the adding of hot water to dried or fresh leaves.
Did you know pine needle tea is a powerhouse of phenolic compounds and plant sterols?
Once you infuse these needle-like “leaves” you will release the magical aroma within and reap the full benefits of what pine needle tea has to offer.
The Mighty Pine - Which Pine needles are edible?
If you think you can just go out and gather your own pine needles and whip up a steaming cup of health, you are right! You can, but just be warned..... There are many species of “pine” to pick from.
What makes drinking the tea so special for me is the massive amount of history and folklore attached to pine trees. Not only in the States but worldwide, you will find amazing stories of the magical and beneficial uses of the mighty pine.
When I drink teas from plants with amazing back stories I can’t help but feel I am getting even more out of the tea than just health benefits.
Pine trees are conifers. True pine trees are from the genus Pinus. But many conifers are used medicinally and are also referred to as pine trees. Firs, spruces and cedars are all conifers whose leaves can be used as tea.
Some pine needle teas are labeled as Piñon tea. Piñon is just another name for some species of pine that are smaller or of a dwarf variety.
What Are the Benefits of Drinking Pine Needle Tea?
From boosting your immune system, improving circulation, fighting respiratory infections and acting as an antiseptic, internally and externally, this tea has a long list of beneficial qualities.
Safe to drink, unless you are pregnant or breastfeeding, pine needle tea can also improve general skin, hair and nail health as well as improve vision.
You must be curious as to what exactly it is in pine needles that give it, its healing properties. Properties in pine needles include:
Antioxidants – found in the high levels of vitamin C and A and presenting as flavonoids, and their glycosides. High in proanthocyanidins.
Antiseptic qualities, notably present and detected by the scent it exudes.
Terpenes, found in high concentrations in pine resin but also present in needles in the form of pinene, myrcene, cadinenes and thujenes.
Notable levels of calcium, iron, potassium and phosphorous.
Boosting the immune system has multiple benefits
High levels of vitamin C are present in pine needle tea. It has almost 25% more than that of citrus fruit! The bioflavonoids in pine needles are high in antioxidants, thanks to the vitamin C levels. This means free radicals are neutralized, reversing the effects of oxidative stress at cellular level.
The leaves of Pinus densiflora yield almost the same amount of proanthocyanidins as grapes. This is a phenomenal discovery as we already know the anti-inflammatory benefits of grape seed extract.
Anti-inflammatory compounds are essential in the antioxidant activity needed to neutralize free radicals and prevent serious illnesses that develop from inflammatory conditions.
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Antioxidants can prevent cancer
Pine needle tea is high in antioxidants in the form of carotenoids and plant sterols. It also has potassium, iron calcium and phosphorous. Antioxidants reverse oxidative stress which can lead to cancers.
Cedrus deodara contain flavonoids, that once extracted and purified have been shown to inhibit the growth of tumor cells! (source)
Phenolic Compounds Fight Respiratory Conditions
With decongestant properties, pine needle tea can ease symptoms of a chest infection by breaking down stubborn mucus and easing harsh coughs. This works especially well when a tea is taken with added raw, organic honey.
High Vitamin A Levels Improve Eye Health
High levels of vitamin A contain flavonoids with antioxidant properties that can actually increase through the application of heat, so a tea can provide healing benefits in this way.
People who get enough vitamin C, A and E are less likely to develop cataracts and macular degeneration.
Some forms of night blindness may also improve by increasing vitamin A intake, provided you don’t suffer from liver disease, malabsorption or alcoholism. If the vitamin is not getting metabolized properly, it is of no use.
Carotenoids Regenerate Skin, Hair and Nails
Vitamin A and its compounds like carotenoids, flavanols and other bioactive chemicals are amazing healers of skin.
Studies have shown that vitamin A can heal the skin (source)damage caused by steroidal drugs, immune suppression, diabetes or radiation. It has the added benefit of preventing infection while stimulating new skin growth.
Hair growth and nail strength will improve too when regular doses of vitamin A and C are maintained.
Vitamin C Elevates Mental Health
In the olden days sailors contracted scurvy from lack of vitamin C, but a precursor to this ancient malady is actually depression.
Today depression has become a common disease of modern society. By upping your levels of certain vitamins and minerals, like the ones found in pine needle tea, you may experience a slight elevation in mood and general well being (source).
Our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health is interconnected and an easy way to top up our nutritional levels is to add a few cups of herbal tea to our regular regime.
Choices for Pine Needle Tea- Which pine trees are edible?
Pinus strobus – The White Pine is a tree with much folklore attached to it. Used by Native Americans for centuries as a staple in a shaman’s “first aid kit”, mythical stories and folk remedies abound about this lovely needle tea, with vast restorative properties.
Pinus massoniana – Please check your pine needle tea bags before purchasing. Although this species is common and widespread in China it has a close relative that is on the threatened species red list.
Always choose sustainably harvested over wild harvested. If you are purchasing a commercially labeled product and it is wild harvested, warning bells should go off. Do your research, be an informed consumer.
Cedrus deodara – High in essential oils with healing properties, both antimicrobial and antioxidant (source).
Thuja occidentalis – Also known as Eastern white cedar.
Pseudotsuga menziesnii - Douglas Fir – popular choice for homegrown US spruce tip tea. Not a true pine.
A Word of Caution: There are many species of pine trees and many trees that pass for pine but aren’t. Some of these trees are toxic and some people even have allergic reactions to pine so bear that in mind when foraging for pine needles! There are some good books on foraging on Amazon.
Besides White Pine, other good pines and cypresses to use for tea include Blue Spruce and Coastal Redwood. The Ponderosa pine is also quite fine to use in tea. The myth that it is an abortifacient is unproven.
How To Make Pine Needle Tea - Recipes
Masala Pine Needle Tea sugarfree
Prep time: Less than 5 minutes (excluding gathering time if using fresh leaves)
Total time: Less than 10 minutes for an instant cup. Longer if making an overnight infusion.
Yield: 1 – 4 cups
- 1 – 4 tbs of chopped, fresh pine needles (alternatively, use dried leaves or pre packed tea bags 1 bag per person or 1 heaped tsp of dried leaves per person)
- 1 – 4 cups of boiled water (1 cup per person)
- 1 – 4 tsps raw, organic honey – optional but advised! ( or sweetener of your choice)
- slices of lemon – optional
- ½ tsp of tea masala – optional (see below for easy to make tea masala)
- Chop the needles with knife or cut up with kitchen scissors.
- Add 1 heaped tbs of needles to one cup per person.
- Once water is off the boil, pour over the needles, into each cup..
- Alternatively, you can fill a teapot with the desired quantity of needles and add the hot water to pot. Cover and allow to steep for 3 -5 minutes.
- Add tea masala, ¼ tsp per person (optional).
- Cover the cups with a saucer and leave to steep for 5 minutes.
- Stir once to release flavors and compounds. If you prefer, now would be the right time to strain tea, before adding honey.
- Add honey and stir till dissolved (optional)
- Garnish with slice of lemon or a squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
- Drink with delight!
Note: For overnight infusions place needles in a pot, add 1 cup water for every 1 tbs of needles. Bring water almost to the boil, then remove from heat and let it stand overnight. In morning, reheat, strain and drink.
Tea masala Powder recipe
Prep time: Less than 5 minutes | Total time: Less than 5 minutes
Yield: Roughly 45ml or 16 servings. | Serving size: ¼ or ½ tsp
Ingredients: All in powder form
- 4 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp cloves
- 1 tsp elachi (cardamom)
- ½ tsp cayenne peppermint
- ½ tsp black pepper
- Add all the ingredients to a small glass jar.
- Screw lid on and shake.
- Use between ¼ -1/2 tsp per serving.
- Add to coffees, teas, chai, smoothies and even lattes.
POSSIBLE DANGERS & side effects of Pine Needle Tea
Do not take this or any other herbal tea if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Many pine trees and other conifers may have toxicity levels that could cause reactions like skin rashes, dizziness, gastrointestinal complications and headaches.
Before foraging for pine needles or any wild berry or fruit, always make sure you identify the plants you are picking before you use them.
Vitamin C is water soluble which means it is not stored in the body, therefore you can’t take in too much of this vitamin.
Vitamin A, on the other hand is fat soluble, which means it can be stored in your body and taking too much vitamin A can produce some nasty side effects. However it is not humanly possible to ingest too much vitamin A from pine needle tea!
If you have allergies to pine trees or similar plants, do not try drinking the tea, or picking the needles.
What to consider before buying your pine needle tea
If you are living far away from pine forests or don’t enjoy the thought of foraging for your tea, there are some great quality, pine needle teas available online at Amazon.
Try and find out where the pine needles were harvested as pine needles are good indicators of air pollution and actually can carry pollutants in their needles.
Also make sure you are using a sustainable source from a species that is not threatened.