Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus) of the family Pinaceae is ideal for winter healing, predominately, because it can be gathered anytime of the year. Often branches of white pine are felled during winter storms, and as long as the needles are still green, it’s good to use. Plus, their medicinal and spiritual uses in boosting immunity and battling congestion and coughs while supporting the lungs comes in handy during the holiday and cold/flu season. So does its spiritual abilities to help the body move through grief, sadness and situations that require a peacemaker.
Identifying the winter healer
Identifying white pine starts with recognizing the long bluish-green needles. Look closer, the needles are long and “flowy.” At an even closer look, you should notice that they are clustered in groups of five bundles connected to one point on the branch. White pine is also very resinous, and white globs of resin can be found along tree trunks looking quite a bit like bird poop! Eastern white pine can grow up to 180 feet, and their cones can get to as long as seven inches, and are often covered in resin. Its bark is light brown and in older trees will be heavily grooved, but in younger trees can be smooth and brownish-gray.
White pine are one of the first trees to grow in deforested areas, particularly those that were used as pasture. They will often grow together in stands around the same age. They are tolerant of almost all soil types, from wet and boggy to dry and sandy.
And it tastes as you might expect: like a pine tree! The flavor is not unpleasant, and will be slightly sweet and slightly bitter/sour. They contain quite a bit of Vitamin C… even more than oranges if you measure by weight. But more than just Vitamin C, white pine is full of many different kinds of oils, resins and starches (ie: carbohydrates). They are a powerhouse of nutrition that can be used in survival situations. Use dried resinous branches to start a fire to boil water for white pine tea.
Winter healing: Immunity, coughs & congestion
As a medicinal, white pine is predominately used to support the lungs. Use both needles and twigs to create a tea or decoction/syrup helpful for removing mucus from the lungs. In her article, White Pine Medicine, herbalist Jade Alicandro Mace, who started in botany and began formally studying herbs in 2005 writes that it is beneficial for both dry and moist coughs. This combined with its high levels of Vitamin C and other minerals, as well as its ability to move lymph, helps it manage colds. It has a drawing action, which is useful for infections and mucus that just seems “stuck.” It is warming and stimulates blood and lymph circulation.
When used topically, or in a bath, it will also ease aches and pains, as well as providing all of the benefits listed above (including lymph movement, which is important for immunity and moving a cold through the system). It is also drawing, and its resin, which is also medicinal when used topically, can reduce swelling while at the same time drawing out infection or splinters according to herbalist Katja Swift of Commonwealth Herbs.
White pine for soothing grief
Spiritually, white pine mimics its medicinal uses in the psyche. It is beneficial in moments of sadness and grief, when (like a “stuck” cold), you just feel stuck. Its drawing action works on the emotions, drawing them out so that they can be grieved and healed. The lungs have long been associated with grief, and so white pine works both physically and spiritually to heal us in this way.
To benefit from this tree’s spiritual wisdom, sit underneath a white pine tree quietly and breathe in deeply. Or, sit at home (or even better, under a white pine tree!) with a cup of hot pine tea with the intention of spiritual healing. Be prepared to cry, and if you do, know that it was what you needed to heal from your grief.
In Iroquois legend, courtesy of the First People of America and Canada website, white pine was known as the “tree of peace,” bringing five warring nations together in peace. As a peacemaker, it too, can bring us peace with our own sadness, grief and anger if we allow. It can also help us make peace with the land in our effort to be better stewards of nature, as is seen in how it reclaims clear cut land. It also creates a beautifully scented orange-brown mulch that eliminates the need to purchase unsustainable versions that have been chemically dyed, bagged and transported.
Karen Talbot has shared a white pine syrup in this month’s Holiday Thrival Guide. Click HERE to see the recipe
Or try Artemis Body & Soul’s “Bottle of Chill“, a blend of gentle herbs, including white pine, to help bring peace and calm this holiday, and all year round. Plus get an extra 25% off your Bottle of Chill using coupon code CHILLOUT, while supplies last!
Artemis Body & Soul is an herbalist, wildcrafter and educator. The information within this article is a blend of her own proprietary knowledge, in combination with the research provided by the herbalists and resources linked to within the article.
The information in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact your health practitioner to discuss your own health needs.