The best benefits of pine needle tea may include maximizing the immune system, improving vision, preventing respiratory infections, stimulating circulation, avoiding chronic disease, increasing cognitive performance, strengthening heart health, and speeding healing. With more than a hundred varieties of pine trees in North America alone, you must use the correct pine needles, as some varieties may contain toxins or cause negative side effects.
What is Pine Needle Tea?
Pine needle tea has been considered an important medicinal tool for indigenous cultures for thousands of years. While formal research is somewhat limited on the subject, the anecdotal evidence of its benefits is undeniable. Pine trees are native to the Northern Hemisphere but are now found across the world, from cold to subtropical regions. Pine needle tea is consumed in the US and many Asian cultures.
How To Choose Pine Needles For Tea?
It is usually made with the fresh leaves of the pine tree. You can also buy pre-packed pine tree needles for a quick brew. The tea has a woodsy fragrance with a pleasant citrusy flavor.
Making pine needle tea is easy, and only requires fresh, young pine needles and hot water! However, as mentioned earlier, it is imperative to choose the right pine needles. There are about 20 known toxic varieties of pine trees, so do thorough research or acquire pine needles from a trained herbalist or natural medicine practitioner. Some of the most well known toxic varieties include the ponderosa pine, balsam fir, lodgepole, and Monterey pines. Avoid using these – and other varieties – when brewing your tea.
There are also quite a few trees that are commonly called “pine trees”, but are in fact toxic imitators, such as the English Yew, Norfolk island pine, and the Yew pine. These should never be used to brew pine needle tea. Experts recommend using eastern white pine and noble fir as safe to drink.
How To Make Pine Needle Tea?
Let us look at the step-by-step method to make pine needle tea.
Pine Needle Tea Recipe For Wellness
- 1 cup water filtered
- 1 handful fresh pine needles
- To begin with, collect or purchase fresh pine needles. A small handful should be sufficient for a strong cup of tea.
- Cut off any of the brown ends or sheaths of the needles - they can also just be pulled off. Chop the needles into 1/4 inch chunks
- Bring a pot of water to boil, and then add in the freshly cut pine needles.
- Cover the pot with a lid and allow the needles to steep for 3-4 minutes.
- Remove the pot from heat, but keep it covered and allow it to continue steeping.
- Once all the needles have sunk to the bottom and the tea has cooled, pour through a strainer into a cup and enjoy!
Health Benefits of Pine Needle Tea
There are very few long-term or clinical researches on the health benefits of pine needle tea. But there is a long tradition of its usage in Native American and Asian cultures. We can find its mention in memoirs, encyclopedias, and folklore. Here are some of its top health benefits:
May Be Rich in Vitamin C: Although there is no research to support it, pine needle tea is believed to contain 4-5 times more vitamin C than orange juice. It was the traditional remedy for scurvy, which is caused by vitamin C deficiency. The Encyclopedia of Folk Medicine describes how Native Americans used pine needle tea to treat scurvy among the colonists. A Korean study found that the antioxidant activity of pine needle tea may have been indeed similar to that of vitamin C.
May Augment Vision health: Pine needle tea is also believed to contain vitamin A. Together with vitamin C, it may help improve our vision. Vitamin C is good for aging eyes, giving it antioxidant protection against normal pollutants. Vitamin A is essential for our cornea and in improving vision.
May Help Cure/Manage Respiratory Conditions: Pine needle tea was often used by indigenous cultures for treating respiratory problems. The Encyclopedia of American Indian Contributions to the World records how the Native Americans used white pine for its expectorant and decongestant qualities.
May Aid In Weight Loss: Pine needle tea may demonstrate some of the same potentials as green and black tea. Research shows that it may help in weight loss. A Korean study on rats and overweight humans found that pine needle extract along with green and black tea slowed weight gain and reduced visceral fat mass.
May Be Rich in Antioxidants: Pine needle tea could be a very rich source of antioxidants which may be essential for fighting free radicals, chronic conditions, and preventing diseases. According to research published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, a water extract from pine needles showed a high level of antioxidants and DNA-protective properties.
May Improve Heart Health: Pine needle tea may be good for your heart. Research has shown that it may protect against LDL oxidation, a condition that can threaten your cardiovascular health. It might also have strong anti-inflammatory properties which further help in minimizing any damage on your heart due to pollutants or other factors.
May Help Improve Cognitive Function: Early studies on the effect of this potent tea on neurodegenerative diseases have shown promising results. An animal study showed that it can be very effective against memory impairment or amnesia. The antioxidants in this tea may help repair neural connections and improve memory.
There are a wide variety of pine trees. Some of these are potentially toxic or harmful when used for food. If you are foraging for pine needles, it is advisable to do so with an expert. According to the USDA Agricultural Research Service, the needles of ponderosa pine may cause abortion when grazed by cattle. With very little research available, most of the side effects of pine-needle tea are also anecdotal. Some of these are:
- Irritation in the throat and mouth
- Inflamed patches on the skin
For pregnant women: The USDA cautioned against the ingestion of ponderosa pine needles. Given the toxicity of some pine species, it is best to avoid drinking this tea if you are pregnant.
Allergy: You should also be aware of any potential allergies to pine trees. Pine oil that is released when brewing the tea, may have inflammatory effects on the skin and stomach, resulting in stomach upset in some people. Given these possible side-effects, it is recommended that you only try about half a cup in the beginning.