Herb: Single Leaf Pi?on

Latin name: Pinus monophylla

Synonyms: Pinus cembroides monophylla

Family: Pinaceae (Pine Family)

Medicinal use of Single Leaf Pi?on:

Single leaf piäon was employed medicinally by several native North American Indian tribes who valued it especially for its antiseptic and vulnerary properties and also for its beneficial effect on the respiratory system. It is little, if at all, used in modern herbalism. 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 and bladder complaints, and is used both internally and externally to treat rheumatic affections. It is also used in treating diseases of the mucous membranes, respiratory complaints, VD, TB, coughs, colds and influenza. A decoction is used to rid the body of tapeworms and other internal parasites. Externally it is used in the form of liniment plasters and inhalers. A poultice of the melted gum has been applied to cuts and sores. The heated pitch has been applied to the face as a depilatory. The pitch has also been used as a face cream to prevent sunburn. The heated pitch has been used as a poultice to treat sciatic pains and muscular soreness. The cooked pitch has been used by women to stop menstruation and thereby become infertile. It has also been given to adolescent girls to help them keep youthful and live a long life. The gum is used as a plaster on sores and cuts.

Description of the plant:


10 m
(33 feet)

Habitat of the herb:

Arid slopes at low elevations, growing in pinyon-juniper woodlands. Often forms extensive open forests at elevations of 1500 - 2100 metres.

Edible parts of Single Leaf Pi?on:

Seed - raw or cooked. Oily, with an agreeable almond-like flavour, they are often used in sweetmeats, pastries, etc. They are the lowest in protein and fats and the highest in starch of the piäons. The seeds are an important food source for the local Indians of Nevada and California. A good size, the seed is up to 20mm long and has a thin shell. 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. 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 canoes, baskets, water containers etc, for repairing pottery vessels and in making turquoise mosaic. It is also used as an adhesive for mending pottery. The bark has been used as a roofing material in houses. Wood - light, soft, weak and brittle. Used primarily for fuel and fence posts. It is also made into charcoal and used for smelting. The wood has a high combustibility and burns well. It gives off a pleasant aroma as it burns.

Propagation of Single Leaf 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 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:

Arid slopes at low elevations, growing in pinyon-juniper woodlands. Often forms extensive open forests at elevations of 1500 - 2100 metres.

Known hazards of Pinus monophylla:

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.