Herb: Beach Pine

Latin name: Pinus contorta

Family: Pinaceae (Pine Family)

Medicinal use of Beach Pine:

Beach pine was widely employed medicinally by several native North American Indian tribes who used it especially for its antiseptic and healing properties on wounds, infections etc, and also for its beneficial effects upon the chest and lungs. It is little, if at all, used in modern herbalism. The turpentine obtained from the resin of all pine trees is antiseptic, diuretic, rubefacient, vermifuge and vulnerary. It is a valuable remedy when taken internally in the treatment of kidney and bladder complaints and can be used both internally and externally in the treatment of rheumatic affections. It is also used in treating diseases of the mucous membranes and respiratory complaints. Externally it is used in the form of liniment plasters and poultices in treating a range of skin complaints, wounds, boils etc. A decoction of the young shoots has been used in the treatment of stomach pains. The young buds have been chewed in the treatment of a sore throat. The inner bark has been eaten as a blood purifier, diuretic and cathartic. A decoction has been used as a tonic and in the treatment of coughs, colds, consumption and gonorrhoea.

Description of the plant:


15 m
(49 feet)


Habitat of the herb:

Coastal dunes and sphagnum covered bogs to montane dry or moist areas. Trees growing inland are much larger than those growing near the coast.

Edible parts of Beach Pine:

Inner bark - raw or cooked. It can be used fresh or dried. It is mashed into a pulp and made into cakes then baked. Harvested in early spring, the taste is not unpleasant, but it develops a strong taste of turpentine as the season advances. The inner bark is ready to harvest when the male cones are producing pollen. A famine food, it is only used when all else fails. Sap - collected in spring and used as a drink. Seed - raw or cooked. A gum is made from the pitch obtained from the trunk. It is allowed to harden and used for chewing. 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 roots have been braided by the N. American Indians to make a rope. 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 pitch obtained from this tree is used for waterproofing canoes, baskets, shoes etc and as a glue. It has also been used to preserve wood, baskets etc. The pitch is not a commercially important crop. 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 - straight but coarse-grained, light, hard, strong, brittle. It varies from light and soft to hard and heavy. Easily worked, it is used for general construction, posts, poles, pulp etc. It makes a good fuel, burning well even when green because it is rich in pitch.

Propagation of Beach Pine:

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 4C 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:

Coastal dunes and sphagnum covered bogs to montane dry or moist areas. Trees growing inland are much larger than those growing near the coast.

Known hazards of Pinus contorta:

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.