Pine tree medicine for the pineal gland, lungs and more
Although it's a tree, pinus sylvestris is also a herb. Pine needles can be made into teas and tinctures, and pine sap or resin can be used in poultices. Pine essential oil has powerful healing properties, especially for the nervous system and skin.
History and symbolism
The common name of “Scots pine” indicates its traditional habitat in Scotland, where it was a keystone species of the forest. Unfortunately most of that forest cover in Scotland (as well as Ireland and England) no longer exists, though pines continue to be used as marker trees in a variety of ways.
The pine cone gave its name to the pineal gland and many see a deeper affinity here, especially with regard to the pineal gland’s position as the “biological third eye”.
The pine cone has been used as a sacred symbol in a number of ancient cultures, from Egypt to Greece and Rome, from where it carried on into our own Judeo-Christian belief system. The most intriguing reference I found to this was:
One theory proposes that the Pinecone was actually the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, purported in Genesis to have been eaten by Eve at the urgings of a serpent, and leading to the eviction of mankind from the Garden of Eden. This concept proves particularly provocative given the consistent reappearance of pinecone images with serpents and snake references across cultures.
Traditional and current uses
Good for the pineal gland and energetic alignment of the nervous system, including the adrenals (especially through the essential oil)
Moves old or blocked energies
Good for memory
Respiratory support – expectorant, decongestant; has drying and warming action as infusion
Kidney and bladder – mild diuretic, antiseptic
Astringent action on the mucous membranes
Spring shoots high in vitamin C, boosts immune system
Counters side effects of vaccinations
Infusions or tea of needles
Tincture of needles and new shoots
Plasters or poultices with resin
Steam inhalation – needles, resin, essential oil
Resin can be used as incense or smudge
Pine nuts are eaten in many cultures and are a key ingredient in pesto
My own experiences with pine
My earliest association with pine is rosin: my mother is a violinist and for a time I took violin lessons myself. Stroking the rosin cake over the hairs of the bow and smelling the pine scent rise was my favourite part of the lesson!
And I had always liked pine trees anyway, the dry fresh smell of their needles on the ground. didn’t really connect with them at the heart level until I lived in India. I was working at an international school in the Himalayas whose symbol is an old pine tree called the ‘lyre tree’ for the way its crown is shaped. Both that particular tree as well as the other pines in the area sang so beautifully and hauntingly when stirred by the wind. That sound was an integral part of my experience there— and even made it somewhat difficult to leave.
During the part of the pandemic I spent in Prague, I reconnected with pines through their kind and friendly company. I visited one grove of pines in a park almost every day for a while.
Finally it’s worth noting that, as gymnosperms ("naked seeds", ie non-flowering plants), pines are among the most ancient trees still with us, and as evergreens they also have much to share about persistence and renewal. Medicine for our times indeed