Pine needle tea known for its high content of vitamin C and antioxidants can elevate your mood and contribute to winter wellbeing. Made of fresh pine needles, pine tea has a pleasant citrusy flavor and warms the soul during long and cold winter.
Pine needle tea recipe has a long history of uses that dates back to the 16 century when an illness known as scurvy was a common illness among sailors. They spent a long period of time on ships without proper food and vitamin C. I found a couple of historical resources that talk about using pine needle tea and bark to treat scurvy. The earliest one is from 1536 which was written by Jacques Cartier whose crew suffered from a disease called “scorbu” (scurvy). Back that time they obtained a decoction from the Iroquois made of needles and bark from evergreen conifer later identified as "Annedda". This tree became known as the "tree of life" or "arbre de vie" because of its remarkable curative effects.
pine needle tea vitamin C
Pine needles are known for their high content of Vitamin C.
The content of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) varies significantly depending on the species and age of the needles.
While the young needles contain at least vitamin C, the two years old pine needles have almost twice as much (3.5 times more than orange) (1)
Older needles on the other hand are stronger and bitter when made into tea so if you prefer mild and delicate tea go for young brighter pine needles.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble and temperature-sensitive vitamin, so is easily degraded during cooking, especially long cooking times. (2) With boiling pine needles also release more terpenes that makes more pine smell like tea.
Another thing that is good to know is that concentration of vitamin C is the highest in the winter, peaking in February (3)
White pine tea (which pine needles are edible)
Pine trees from the Pinaceae family are edible and easy to find all year long. The best way to identify pine trees is to look at their needles. Their needles are not flat, you can roll them between your fingers. They also occur in clusters of 2- 5 that are called fascicles and are known for their strong aroma.
When you go foraging for pine needles search for a local species and research them to avoid harvesting any toxic yew. That has flat needles with a white color on the underside. If you’re not sure, this guide to identifying pine and other conifers should help you out.
Also there has been some studies claiming potential dangers of Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) as well as Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta). These might possibly cause abortion when eaten by pregnant cattle but it’s unclear wheather it has any effect on humans. Better to avoid it if you are pregnant.
White pine tree
There are several species of pine that make a tasty tea but the most famous is Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) that makes the best flavor of pine tea.
Native to North America white pine tree is the only pine tree that bears five needles to a bundle, whereas yellow pine needle bundles only have two or three needles.
This fast-growing evergreen has long blue-green needles rather than purer green of some other pines
Their needles have a raw of stomata that appears as a thin line on the underside of the needle.
pine needle tea benefits
Its high content of vitamin C is important in building your immune system.
This study confirms high content of antioxidants that may inhibit leukemia cell growth.
Indigenous people used pine needle tea as an expectorant to ease cough and relieve congested chest.
Beside high content of vitamin C, pine needles are also rich in vitamin A that is great for eyesight and important for bone health. Is is also beneficial for healthy skin and hair. Vitamin A is fat soluble vitamin so it requires a little fat to access it. I spoon of whole milk or cream should works.
Pine needle tea contains antioxidants that help to limit oxidative stress caused by exercise. It is therefore recommended to sip pine tea after workout.
This study suggest that drinking pine tea elevate mood and result in antidepressant effect
According to Health smell of evergreen trees have positive effect on the human body and contributes to joy and wellbeing.
how to make pine needle tea
Once you find pine needles in your neighbourhood, select needles that are young and tasty. Depending on how strong the tea you like, I use ½ cup of fresh needles for 700 ml (23 oz) of tea.
You can leave them whole or chop them into 2-3 cm (1 inch) to increase their surface and help to extract more flavors
Place the pine needles in a tea strainer and place it in a mug.
Pour boiled water into the mug, over the pine needles.
Keep the mug covered allowing it to steep
After 5-10 minutes remove the strainer from the mug.
Add honey or other sweeteners to taste
Cold maceration method
Remember vitamin C is heat sensitive so we don't want to expose it to heat
This cold maceration allows you to keep all Vitamin C.
- Fill the jar with cut needles half full
- Pour pre boiled water that is already cooled to the room temperature
- Squeze half of the lemon into the jar
- Let it macerate for 30 minutes then strain.
- Serve it 3 times a day as ice -tea and store it in the refrigerator. This drink strengthens your immune system and helps to ease the cough.
Pine needle tea as a bath
Pine needle bath helps your feet to relax after long stressful day. Moreover, pine possesses antimicrobial properties that help to kill any germs. Just simply fill a bucket with warm pine tea and let your feet relax. This effective feet spa can be accelerated by a teaspoon of vinegar.
Learn other ways and tips how to eat pine trees
The taste very much differs. It depends on the type of pine tree, age of needles, its quantity, and also the time how long you simmer the tea. You can adjust its taste, but for me, it has a piney citrusy taste, it is not bitter or very strong, I would call it mild in taste and color.
Some people like to add honey, lemon, or milk to taste. You can also adjust its taste with spices such as cinnamon, cardamon, anise or ginger.
I prefer pine needle tea made of fresh pine needles however if you have no access to the fresh you can always buy dried pine needles to make this powerful drink