Herb: Sugar Pine

Latin name: Pinus lambertiana

Family: Pinaceae (Pine Family)

Medicinal use of Sugar Pine:

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. The sap is carminative and laxative. The dried sap powder has been eaten in the treatment of stomach gas, constipation, ulcers etc. It has also been used to make eye drops to treat sore eyes.

Description of the plant:


75 m
(246 feet)

May to


Habitat of the herb:

Cool, usually fairly moist, mixed coniferous woods in mountainous areas, growing best on deep well-drained soils.

Edible parts of Sugar Pine:

Seed - raw or cooked. A good size, up to 15mm x 10mm. A pleasant sweet nutty flavour, with a hint of resin. The nut, together with the shell, can be pulverised into a nut butter. A sugar is obtained from boiling off the water in the sap. Some caution is advised since it is laxative if used in large quantities. A sweet sugar-like substance exudes from wounds made in the heartwood of the tree and also from the cones. It is sometimes used for sweetening foods, though in large quantities it is laxative. The pitch obtained from the trunk is allowed to harden and is then 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. Yields a pitch, though 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 resin is used as an adhesive. Wood - light, soft, straight but coarse grained. Used for lumber, interior finishes etc.

Propagation of Sugar 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:

Cool, usually fairly moist, mixed coniferous woods in mountainous areas, growing best on deep well-drained soils.

Known hazards of Pinus lambertiana:

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.