This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com I got the idea about pine needle tea from watching old episodes of Bear Grylls in Man vs. Wild. He picked out some pine needles, boiled them then drank the tea. He said pine needles are full of vitamin C. In a survival situation, if fruits and vegetables are scarce, you’ll need a good source of vitamin C. I also read it can be a good decongestant. Spotting a nice looking pine […]
How to Make Pine Needle Tea A cup of pine needle tea contains 5 times the Vitamin C of a cup of orange juice, and is also high in Vitamin A. Pine needle tea may help your body expel phlegm caused by the congestion of colds or coughs and even just inhaling the vapors from the …
by Todd Walker
Foraging wild food requires practice, knowledge, and experience on your landscape. Notice I used the word your land. What you’ve read in books and watched on YouTube may not apply to your locale. While survival principles may never change, self-reliance is local.
Many of us are self-taught in skills of wilderness living. However, one way to shorten your learning curve is to find an experienced skills practitioner in your area who is actually Doing the Stuff. After receiving instruction, you gain knowledge. Knowledge weighs nothing but is not enough. You make knowledge applicable through time and experience and context. There is no substitute for time in your woods.
I had the recent pleasure of attending my third class at Medicine Bow, A Primitive School of Earthlore in the North Georgia Mountains. If you look up Renaissance Man in the dictionary, Mark Warren’s bio should appear, but won’t. He’s not only a walking encyclopedia of woods-lore, he won the U.S.National Champion in Slalom/Downriver combined and the World Championship Longbow Tournament in 1999. On top of his wealth of outdoor knowledge, he is also a musical composer and published author.
Mark’s knowledge of the Cherokee uses of plants and trees is the foundation for anyone interested in wilderness living and self-reliance. I wrote him an email after the class asking assistance on a question for this article. I wanted to know the degree to which Cherokees depended on domesticated crops verses wild foods.
“Everyone knows about Cherokee farming and the 3 sisters (corn, squash, and beans), but the wild growth of forest and field was actually “farmed” too, by pruning or clearing for light. For example, swamp dogwoods were pruned to encourage survival shoots for basketry and arrow shafts. Large areas along flood plains were burned to help create a monopoly of river cane (for the same two crafts). A lot of those “brakes” can still be seen. The same is true of foods. I have a sense of why Amicalola was sacred to the Cherokee. I suspect it was for the prolific sochani that grows there. It’s also called green-headed coneflower. Cherokee women in NC still harvest it in spring and freeze for the year.”
Think about this astounding bit of research…
“The Cherokees of the 19th century are listed as having around 800 plants in their repertoire (Mooney, 1992). This from a pool of about 2,400 species of plants to work from or about a third!” ~ Source
Every year I add more plants and trees to my food-medicine-craft list. But 800! I’ve got a lot to learn and experience.
“In the school of the woods, there is no graduation day.”
~ Horace Kephart
Trees of Southern Appalachia
Wild plant foragers get excited this time of the year. Green shoots make their way through the soil for another growing season. Autumn turns to winter and the smorgasbord disappears. But trees, they stand ready to share their resources year-round.
Winter tree identification would not be challenging if trees would stop dropping their leaves. Mark taught winter botany lessons which I had never been exposed to. Sharing all I learned would take several articles. For our purposes today, we will explore 3 of my favorite trees in my woods and how the Cherokee and settlers used them for food, medicine, and craft resources.
Misnamed Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), it is not a poplar at all. I’ve always called my favorite tree by its misnomer until I met Mark. His adamant stance on using Tulip Tree’s correct name makes sense. The inner bark (cambium) of true poplar trees (i.e. ~ Eastern Cottonwood – Populus deltoides) is edible. One may assume that the word Poplar tacked on the end of Tulip makes the cambium edible. It is not.
Related Resource: Trees for Self-Reliance
The Tulip Tree, while not a nutritional powerhouse, is a favorite of mine mainly for craft and outdoor self-reliance. Tulip Tree blooms are a main source of nectar for honey bees which produces a dark, amber honey loaded with antioxidants.
- The only part of a Tulip Tree that I know is edible is the nectar in the flowering blooms.
Tulip Tree’s inner bark and leaves were used medicinally by the Cherokee and settlers in Appalachia for treating…
- Poultice from leaves for inflammation and sores.
- Inner bark tea for periodic fevers, diarrhea, pinworms, as a digestive aid and for rheumatic pain.
- Supposedly, inner bark was chewed as an aphrodisiac.
- The bark could also serve as a substitute for quinine in treating malaria.
- Tooth aches.
- Used as a tonic to induce perspiration to treat fevers.
- Root bark and seeds useful as a wormer for the body.
- Cough syrup from bark.
- Fire Craft ~ Wood for friction fire, inner bark for tinder, hot, quick burning firewood which does not produce long-lasting coals like other hardwoods.
- Cordage ~ Inner bark fibers can be processed into cordage and rope.
- Containers ~ Outer bark crafted into berry baskets, arrow quivers, and larger pack baskets.
- Carving ~ The soft hardwood lends itself to easy carving of spoons, bowls, pottery paddles, canoe paddles, and even the canoe itself. One common name of this tree is Canoe Wood.
- Insulation ~ Shredded inner bark can be stuffed between layers of clothing to create dead air space to retain body heat in a survival situation.
- Roofing/Siding ~ Outer bark slabs used for shingles and siding on shelters.
Hickories make excellent wildlife resource as squirrels and feral pigs love to eat their nut meat. Pignut (Carya glabra), Mockernut (Carya tomentosa), and Shagbark (Carya ovata) are the three hickories I’m most familiar with in Georgia, Mockernut being the most common.
- Sap ~ Sap water from hickories can be consumed without treatment.
- Nuts ~ Contains fats (18g/serving), protein (3.6g/serving), and carbohydrates (5 g/serving) – Serving size = 1 oz.
- Hickory syrup from crushed and processed nuts.
- Cooking oil from nuts.
- Kunuche (ku-nu-che) ~ A traditional Cherokee hickory nut soup.
- Nuts with exterior husks are useful as charcoal for cooking food.
- Hickory Milk ~ “They pound them to pieces, and then cast them into boiling water, which, after passing through fine strainers, preserves the most oily part of the liquid; this they call by a name which signifies hiccory milk; it is as sweet and rich as fresh cream, and is an ingredient in most of their cookery, especially homony and corn cakes.” – Source
- Infusion of boiled bark for arthritis pain.
- Inhaling fumes of young shoots on hot rocks as a treatment for convulsions.
- Cold remedy
- Liver aid
- Gynecological aid
- Dermatological issues
Hickory was used by the Cherokee’s for…
- Stickball sticks
- Crafting bows
- Handles – (Here’s my tutorial on carving an ax handle from hickory)
- Smoking meats
- Inner bark of Mockernut and Shellbark Hickory used to finish baskets
- Ashes from hickory were used by settlers to make quality lye for soap.
- Inner bark used for cordage. Mark described a method of slicing down a hickory limb to remove the bark and twisting it to make a strong rope. I’ll explore that method in a later post.
- Green nut husks used as dye – (My bed sheet tarp was dyed with hickory and black walnut dye)
- Nut oil mixed with bear fat as an insect repellent.
There are 36 pines in North America to choose from. These evergreens are easy to spot for anyone. To narrow down the species, count the needles. The Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus) is the only species with 5 needles in the fascicle sheath (the paper-like sheath surrounding the base of the needles).
Hemlock is a part of the pine family and grows in southern Appalachia. Like other pines in our region, the inner bark is edible.
- Pine nuts are edible and tasty.
- Inner bark was eaten when other foods were scarce. Should be boiled/cooked since it is high in turpenes. Can also be dried and ground into a flour.
- Pine pollen can be collected and is edible and used like flour.
- Long strips of inner bark can be boiled to make pine noodles.
- Pine needle tea has the following medicinal properties: antiseptic, astringent, inflammatory, antioxidant, expectorant, high in Vitamin C for colds – flu – coughs, congestion, and even scurvy.
- Shikimic acid, the main ingredient in Tamiflu, is harvested from pine needles in Asia.
- Pine resin applied to skin conditions.
- Arthur Haines describes on his YouTube channel how pine pollen provides multiple avenues of protection against radioactive cesium.
- Warm poultice of pine resin will draw splinters and foreign matter from skin.
- The inner bark can be fashioned as an antiseptic Band Aid for cuts and scraps
- Chew softer sap straight off the tree like a gum for sore throats and colds. You could pre-make “gum” with these ingredients: bees-wax, pine sap, and honey.
- Pine sap/resin ~ Click here for 16 uses of pine resin from an earlier post.
- Fire Craft ~ My favorite fire starter. Resin-rich fat lighter produces a chemical burn for fire lighting.
See more useful fire craft articles on our Bombproof Fire Craft page.
- Wood for shelters and bows for bedding.
- Rescue Signals ~ A pre-made signal fire built with green pine boughs on top will generate enough white smoke to be seen for miles.
- Pine needles were used to make baskets and resin was used as a sealer.
- Logs were used in home building.
- White pine and hemlock are both good wood for friction fire.
- Dried and ground hemlock inner bark used as flour.
- Dried pine “flour” is useful when rubbed on the body to cover human scent while hunting.
Mark says that Cherokees called trees “The Standing People.” Trees do not walk to new locations like animals in search of food. They are always in the same spot. Learning to identify trees and their resources will put you in a better position of appreciation and stewardship of your natural environment.
To mention all the trees used by the Cherokee would be better addressed in book form. In this article, we’ve highlighted three of my favorite trees in our woodlands. I’ll write future blogs covering more. Here’s a teaser on future posts… Dogwood, Sourwood, Basswood, Black Walnut, Persimmon, Beech, Black Cherry, and the list continues.
Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,
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Pine bark is a powerful antiseptic loaded with flavanoids and 50 time the amount of antioxidants of vitamin c and e. this natural solution is similar to the potency of grape seed mother powerhouse of a herb loaded with antioxidants and more. The opc’s found in the pine bark /needles are great for microcirulatory problems such as varicose veins and macular degeneration and to chronic venous insufficiency as well as diabetic retinopathy. opc’s ale help strengthen and maintain overall healthiness of the molecular structure of the venous’ .
Primarily it acts as a inhibitory to oxidation through the enzymes within but also being not limited and as oxidation diminishes its anti inflammatory properties go to work . The pine needle possess near 100 times more of the antiseptic properties than the bark.
Secondly, a cooled tea can be used as a powerful antiseptic wash for wound management and infection prevention as well as rashes and eczema
Secondly, it is good for the Circulatory system thus producing more healthier red blood cells and oxygenation all the main systems more effectively.
Pine Needles and bark also possess high levels of vitamin C to help aid the immune system and other main systems that require a healthy immune system for optimal performance such as the adrenal glands.
A few good uses of pine needles and bark are: (but not limited to)
- Sinus infection
- External wound infection
- Veracious veins
- Respiratory Issues
- Improves eye health
- Boosts imune system
- Gather about a handful of healthy pine needles
- Chop or break up into 4th’s
- Bring 10 ounces of water to a hard boil
- Add pine needles and low simmer for 5-10 minutes
- For a more stronger tea dimer for 15 minutes
Did you know that a pine tree’s needles contain more Vitamin C than fresh orange juice?
In fact, native North Americans drank tea made from pine needles for centuries to both prevent illness and to treat coughs and colds. The natives introduced European settlers to pine needle tea as a way to combat scurvy, a deadly disease caused by Vitamin C deficiency.
Historians also believe that Taoist priests have consumed pine needle tea for centuries for its healing properties and because they believed it slowed the aging process.
Vitamin C works as an antioxidant and an immune system booster. It improves the cardiovascular system as well as skin and eye health.
Pine needle tea also is rich in Vitamin A, an antioxidant beta-carotene which is important for vision (especially in low-light situations), hair and skin regeneration and the production of red blood cells. Pine needle tea has a pleasant smell and taste and is known to lessen fatigue and to improve mental clarity.
The tea is a mild diuretic, so it can have a beneficial effect on the kidneys. The tea has decongestive and disinfectant effects on the respiratory system, often reducing and soothing throat irritation and inflamed bronchi.
If you are looking for a healthy hot drink this winter, then look no further than the needles from your nearby pine tree. Many people prefer the taste of smaller needles, but the tea from larger needles works well in the tea.
How to Make the Tea
Your first step is to find and to identify a pine tree that has not been treated or sprayed with chemicals. Many tea drinkers prefer the taste of tea made from the needles of the white pine.
Keep in mind that not all conifers are pine trees. Additionally, some pine tree needles are not safe and may contain isocupressic acid or other toxic substances. All pregnant women should avoid pine needle tea because it can induce an abortion.
Avoid the needles of the following trees:
- Ponderosa pine (also known as blackjack, western yellow, yellow and bull pine)
- Lodge pole pine (also known as shore pine)
- Common juniper
- Monterey cypress (also known as macrocarpa)
- Common yew
- Norfolk pine (also known as Australian pine)
Next, gather a handful of young, green needles from the end of a branch. You may collect older needles if you need more needles.
Remove the brown, papery sheath from the needles by simply pulling it off. Then wash the needles thoroughly with water.
If desired, you may chop the needles into small pieces about one-quarter-inch to one-half-inch in length. The chopping speeds up the release of the pine needle oils.
Now, heat a cup of water per serving of water to just before the boiling point. Avoid boiling pine needle tea because you will lose valuable nutritional content. Vitamin C, for instance, is heat-sensitive.
Pour the hot water over a tablespoon of needles and then steep the tea for about 10 minutes. Cover the tea while steeping for best results. The needles will settle to the bottom of your cup, but if some of your needles are small, you may want to use a strainer before drinking.
Pine needle tea has a very pale color but a very strong aroma and flavor. Depending on the type of needles you use, your tea color will range from nearly clear, to a light golden brown shade, to a reddish brown.
Pine needle tea tastes great as-is, or you can add lemon, orange or spices as desired. It is a good idea to make only as much tea as you will drink at one sitting, however. Stored pine needle tea tends to lose much of its vitamin content.
While it tastes great hot this time of year, pine needle tea also may be enjoyed cold. Some people swear by the cold tea’s healing properties as a hand wash as well. When the tea is added to bathwater, it can be used to treat gout pain, nerve pain and arthritis, as well as muscle strains and sprains.
Here are a few words of caution about consuming pine needle tea. Again, doctors recommend that pregnant women avoid drinking pine needle tea. Also, be sure to collect needles from trees that are a good distance from a busy road, since the needles can retain chemicals from auto exhaust.
Have you ever make pine needle tea? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below: