It’s no secret—I’m so in love with this tree. My relationship with White Pines started when I was very little and here I am, so many years later, still hiding and climbing its branches. Still running and seeking solace at their base, still burying my face into their bark and needles. This tree has brought me strength and peace throughout my entire life. The White Pines of Maine called me home when I was living across the country, to the point that I had to head home just to disappear into a pine forest and smell the ground. It’s truly amazing the connections we have with the plants and animals.
Herb: White Pine, Pinus Strobus
Parts Used: Needles, inner bark, thin branches, sap, and pitch
Western Classification: Antibacterial, Anti-fungal, Anti-inflammatory, Astringent, Antioxidant, Demulcent, and Expectorant
Energetics: Cool, Moist, and Dry
Taste: Bitter, Pungent, and Sweet
Indications: Expectorant, clears damp heat in the lungs or damp cold
Safety: There are no known contradictions
Pine can be harvested any time of year but there are a few “prime harvesting” times. In the spring, similarly to that of maple syrup, when the sap begins to flow upward filled with new life and energy, or in the fall, as the tree enters into a slowing pace to match the coming season. But, perhaps my favorite time to “harvest” pine is following a good storm. When nature has selected which branches should be harvested and graciously placed them where they can be easily attained. From here, armed with pruning shears, I snip the smaller branches and twigs along with the needles. The needles and smaller twigs can be cut as they are, and the bark scrapped from the larger branches revealing the creamy white inner layer or the branch.
Traditional Uses & Folklore
The inner white part of the branches and the needles are loaded with Vitamin C and were traditionally used to help sailors combat scurvy. Pine can be especially comforting throughout the cold of winter and early spring, especially with the erratic warming and cooling periods within these seasons. With it’s amazing aroma, pine is wonderful to add to herbal tea blends, make into syrups, shrubs, or used as a steam. The incredible aromatic properties of pine, similar to mints, help to open up the lungs, creating a "breath of fresh air." Hanging a stray bough, or creating a bath bundle using pine can create a refreshing and healing daily ritual.
One of our favorite winter steams, especially surrounding the winds- a nod to our own lungs; breathing in and exhaling deeply, is with white pine and Usnea. Pine, with its heavenly fragrance and natural antiseptic qualities, helps maintain healthy respiratory and immune function. It can also be made into a Vitamin C rich tea. Usnea, having been used by Chinese and Greek healers since 1600, has cooling, drying, and antibiotic properties. One can find this mystical lichen dancing among the northern branches of their host tree. Usnea is a slow-growing lichen and for that reason, we do not like to harvest directly from the tree, instead waiting for the winter winds to guide us. Pine has natural antimicrobial qualities and helps keep our respiratory system in check and can help support a healthy immune system.
Energetically, White Pine can perhaps be best called upon when one feels there is turmoil within oneself or others. Pine allows for healing of past experiences and opens the gates to allow us to come to a place of acceptance and clarity. Pine allows us to "let it go" and move on; finding a clear path forward.
Evergreens often symbolize immortality and eternal life because they retain their needles throughout the winter. For the Iroquois, white pine is a symbol of the Great Peace, and is often referred to as "The Peace Tree." One that united their separate nations into an enduring League.
Perhaps one of the most delicious, modern ways to enjoy White Pine, is by drinking it in teas, mixing it in cocktails, making an elixir, or shrub. The taste of pine varies from tree to tree and ranges from a slightly bitter grapefruit to a delightfully bright lemon or tangerine. Each tree imparts a different flavor and is fun to explore while harvesting.
Our White Pine Shrub is made from the needles of beautiful Maine white pine trees, this drinking vinegar will invoke your inner wildness. The refreshing taste of the white pine will usher you into the wilderness of a Maine forest as you sip it straight, dilute it in still or sparkling water, or use it to create your own cocktail.
White Pine Elixir is made with Rosemary, Lemon Verbena and White Pine Needles all grown on our certified organic farm. We steep them in spirits and organic honey to create a delicious experience. This elixir is wonderful on its own or add it to sparking water or use in a cocktail.
Ashwagandha, native to India, grows on our farm in Maine as an annual. I harvest the roots every fall to make into tinctures and dry for teas, soup stocks and powder. Ashwagandha is a wonderful adaptogen that can be used as a daily tonic. It is part of the nightshade family, so if you have allergies you may want to avoid this herb. Otherwise, it’s a wonderfully rejuvenating and nourishing herb that I like to use as a brain tonic and to clear up brain fog and poor memory. It helps induce sleep, relieves anxiety and stress and is great for supporting the reproductive system. Ashwagandha is a great herb for rebuilding vitality and overall strength in the body.
Astragalus, part of the pea family, is a perennial that we grow here on the farm. We harvest the roots in its third year to make into tincture or dry for teas, soup stocks, syrups and elixirs. Astragalus is a great herb to use when building back strength and vitality. I like to use it as immune support to help prevent colds and flu and help with allergies. Astragalus is a rejuvenative herb for when you are depleted and weak, helping restore vitality and energy. Helps improve digestion, nutrient absorption and cardiovascular function. This is a great front-line herb for immune support and preventive care.
Blue vervain is a great herb to add to any garden. When we moved to the farm, I found a couple of plants growing wild along the stream. I loved that so much. I like to use blue vervain for nervous system issues such as anxiety, especially associated with PMS and menopause and it can also be used for spasms and tics. As a diaphoretic, it’s been used for relieving fevers and other flu symptoms, such as aching muscles.