Herb: Mexican Pine Nut

Latin name: Pinus cembroides

Family: Pinaceae (Pine Family)

Medicinal use of Mexican Pine Nut:

The gum exuding from damaged areas of the tree is used to treat sore throats. The turpentine obtained from the resin of all pine trees is antiseptic, diuretic, rubefacient and vermifuge. It is a valuable remedy used internally in the treatment of kidney and bladder complaints and is used both internally and as a rub and steam bath in the treatment of rheumatic affections. It is also very beneficial to the respiratory system and so is useful in treating diseases of the mucous membranes and respiratory complaints such as coughs, colds, influenza and TB. Externally it is a very beneficial treatment for a variety of skin complaints, wounds, sores, burns, boils etc and is used in the form of liniment plasters, poultices, herbal steam baths and inhalers.

Description of the plant:


8 m
(26 feet)

May to

Habitat of the herb:

Hot arid mountain slopes above 2000 metres, with juniper and scrub oak. Usually in poor, shallow, rocky or gravelly soils.

Edible parts of Mexican Pine Nut:

Seed - the oily seed kernel is eaten raw, roasted, ground into a powder for making bread, cakes etc or made into a nut butter. An excellent flavour. A good size, the seeds are up to 15mm long. Said to be the highest in protein and lowest in starch of all the piäons. The seed contains about 14.6% protein, 62% fat. 17.3% carbohydrate. This species provides a major source of seeds for sale in Mexico. Inner bark - only used in times of dire need. There are no more details but inner bark is often dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickener in soups etc or added to cereals when making bread. A vanillin flavouring is obtained as a by-product of other resins that are released from the pulpwood.

Other uses of the herb:

A tan or green dye is obtained from the needles. The needles contain a substance called terpene, this is released when rain washes over the needles and it has a negative effect on the germination of some plants, including wheat. A gum pitch is used as a glue for waterproofing and repairing pottery. Oleo-resins are present in the tissues of all species of pines, but these are often not present in sufficient quantity to make their extraction economically worthwhile. The resins are obtained by tapping the trunk, or by destructive distillation of the wood. In general, trees from warmer areas of distribution give the higher yields. Turpentine consists of an average of 20% of the oleo-resin and is separated by distillation. Turpentine has a wide range of uses including as a solvent for waxes etc, for making varnish, medicinal etc. Rosin is the substance left after turpentine is removed. This is used by violinists on their bows and also in making sealing wax, varnish etc. Pitch can also be obtained from the resin and is used for waterproofing, as a wood preservative etc. Wood - soft, light, close-grained. Somewhat fragrant when burnt. Used for fuel and posts, but rarely for lumber.

Propagation of Mexican Pine Nut:

It is best to sow the seed in individual pots in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe if this is possible otherwise in late winter. A short stratification of 6 weeks at 4°C can improve the germination of stored seed. Plant seedlings out into their permanent positions as soon as possible and protect them for their first winter or two. Plants have a very sparse root system and the sooner they are planted into their permanent positions the better they will grow. Trees should be planted into their permanent positions when they are quite small, between 30 and 90cm. We actually plant them out when they are about 5 - 10cm tall. So long as they are given a very good weed-excluding mulch they establish very well. Larger trees will check badly and hardly put on any growth for several years. This also badly affects root development and wind resistance. Cuttings. This method only works when taken from very young trees less than 10 years old. Use single leaf fascicles with the base of the short shoot. Disbudding the shoots some weeks before taking the cuttings can help. Cuttings are normally slow to grow away.

Cultivation of the herb:

Hot arid mountain slopes above 2000 metres, with juniper and scrub oak. Usually in poor, shallow, rocky or gravelly soils.

Known hazards of Pinus cembroides:

The wood, sawdust and resins from various species of pine can cause dermatitis in sensitive people.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.