Pine Needle Tea: How To Make It & Benefits

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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The best benefits of pine needle tea 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, it is important that you 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.

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.

How To Make Pine Needle Tea?

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 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.

A cup of pine needle tea and pine needle on a table

Pine Needle Tea For Wellness

A vitamin C-packed tea with a fragrance that reminds you of the wilderness! 
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Course: Tea
Cuisine: French
Keyword: Pine Needle Tea
Appliance: Tea Strainer, Teapot
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Steeping Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 1 cup
Author: Raksha Hegde

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water filtered
  • 1 handful fresh pine needles

Instructions

  • 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!
    A cup of pine needle tea and pine needle on a table

Notes

Make sure the pine needles have a vibrant green color. Avoid yellow or brown ones. Fresh pine needles are more flexible than older ones and are preferable for tea. 

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 was indeed similar to that of vitamin C.

Vision health: Pine needle tea is also believed to contain vitamin A. Together with vitamin C, it can 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.

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 Weight Loss: Pine needle tea shows 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 reduced body weight gain and visceral fat mass.

Rich in Antioxidants: Pine needle tea could be a very rich source of antioxidants, 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. These characteristics are similar to cancer chemo-preventive agents

Heart health: Pine needle tea may be good for your heart. Research has shown that it protects against LDL oxidation, a condition that can threaten your cardiovascular health. It has strong anti-inflammatory properties which further help in minimizing any damage on your heart due to pollutants or other factors.

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 can help repair neural connections and improve memory.

Side Effects

There are a wide variety of pine trees. Some of these are potentially toxic or harmful when used for food. Hence, you must consider its side-effects before making a batch of its tea. 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
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea

For pregnant women: Pine needles have been known to cause miscarriage in cows. 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, can 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.

Given the toxicity of some species, you must ascertain the safety before making your tea. Since this tea is usually made by foraging for the leaves, talk to an expert about its safety

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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