Herb: Rocky Mountain Pi?on

Latin name: Pinus edulis

Synonyms: Pinus cembroides edulis

Family: Pinaceae (Pine Family)

Medicinal use of Rocky Mountain Pi?on:

The turpentine obtained from the resin of all pine trees is antiseptic, diuretic, rubefacient and vermifuge. It is a valuable remedy in the treatment of kidney, bladder and rheumatic affections, and also in diseases of the mucous membranes and the treatment of respiratory complaints. Externally it is used in the form of liniment plasters and poultices on cuts, boils, burns and various skin problems. The heated pitch has been applied to the face to remove facial hair. The gum is used as a plaster on cuts and sores. An infusion of the leaves has been used as an emetic to cleanse the stomach. The leaves have been chewed in the treatment of venereal diseases. The leaves have been burnt and the smoke inhaled as a treatment for colds. The inner bark is expectorant.

Description of the plant:


15 m
(49 feet)

Habitat of the herb:

Eastern foothills of the outer reaches of the Rockies on arid mesas in pure stands or with junipers.

Edible parts of Rocky Mountain Pi?on:

Seed - raw or cooked. A slightly resinous flavour, but delicious raw or cooked. The seed can be ground into a meal and used in stews, making bread, cakes etc and in making nut butter. The seed is up to 25mm long. Rich in oil, protein and thiamine. The seed contains about 15% protein. An important item of food for the local Indians, it is also sold in local markets of Colorado and New Mexico. About 450,000 kilos of the seeds are sold in American markets each year. The leaves can be brewed into a tea. Immature female cones - roasted. The soft centre forms a sweet syrupy food. Inner bark - cooked. A sweet flavour, it is cut into strips and cooked like spaghetti. Inner bark can also be dried, ground into a powder and used as a thickening in soups or can be mixed with cereal flours when making bread etc. The pitch from the trunk can be hardened and used as a chewing gum. 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. This species yields a resin, but it is not commercially important. 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. The gum (this almost certainly means the resin) is used in waterproofing baskets, canoes etc, for repairing pottery vessels and in making turquoise mosaic. It has also been used as a red paint on jars and bowls. For waterproofing containers, the gum was melted and poured inside the container. The container was then turned round to ensure the gum came into contact with all parts of the inside. More gum would then be applied to the outside. The resin has been used as a glue for fixing turquoise in jewellery. The gum has been used, with sumac leaves (Rhus spp) and yellow ochre to make a black dye and ink. The sumac leaves are boiled until there is a strong mixture. Whilst the sumac was boiling, the ochre was powdered and roasted. The gum was then added to the ochre and the whole roasted again. As the roasting proceeded, the gum melted and finally the mixture was reduced to a black powder. This was then cooled and thrown into the sumac mixture, forming a rich blue-black fluid that was essentially an ink. Wood - light, soft, not strong, brittle. Used for fuel, fencing etc. A charcoal made from the wood is used in smelting. The wood makes a good fuel, burning with few sparks being thrown out.

Propagation of Rocky Mountain Pi?on:

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:

Eastern foothills of the outer reaches of the Rockies on arid mesas in pure stands or with junipers.

Known hazards of Pinus edulis:

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.