Herb: White Pine

Latin name: Pinus strobus

Family: Pinaceae (Pine Family)

Medicinal use of White Pine:

White pine was employed medicinally by several native North American Indian tribes who valued it especially for its antiseptic and vulnerary qualities, using it extensively in the treatment of skin complaints, wounds, burns, boils etc. It is also very beneficial to the respiratory system and so was used in treating coughs, colds, influenza and so on. 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. A poultice of pitch has been used to draw out toxins from boils and reduce the pain. The dried inner bark is demulcent, diuretic and expectorant. An infusion was used as a treatment for colds and it is still used as an ingredient in commercial cough syrups, where it serves to promote the expulsion of phlegm. A poultice made from the pounded inner bark is used to treat cuts, sores and wounds. The wetted inner bark can be used as a poultice on the chest in treating strong colds. The dried inner bark contains 10% tannin, some mucilage, an oleoresin, a glycoside and a volatile oil. A tea made from the young needles is used to treat sore throats. It is a good source of vitamin C and so is effective against scurvy. An infusion of the young twigs has been used in the treatment of kidney disorders and pulmonary complaints. The powdered wood has been used as a dressing on babies chaffed skin, sores and improperly healed navels.

Description of the plant:


20 m
(66 feet)

Habitat of the herb:

Woods, especially on sandy drift soils or fertile well-drained soils, sometimes on river banks and rarely in swamps. Often forming dense forests.

Edible parts of White Pine:

Seed - raw or cooked. Rather small and fiddly, it is only about 6mm long. The seed is mainly used as a flavouring in cooking. The fresh needles are brewed into an aromatic tea that is rich in vitamins A and C. A refreshing drink is made from the leaves. An acceptable candy is made by boiling the tender new shoots in syrup. The sticky amber sap can be used for chewing. A vanillin flavouring is obtained as a by-product of other resins that are released from the pulpwood. The firm unexpanded male cones can be boiled and used as a flavouring. A pleasant sweet flavour. Inner bark - raw or cooked. A sweet flavour. 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.

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 canoes, containers etc, as a wood preservative etc. Wood - straight and close-grained, light, soft, not strong, works easily and takes an excellent natural or painted finish. It weighs 24lb per cubic foot. A very valuable timber, the wood is especially suited for making the masts of ships and is also used for lumber, cheap furniture, house interiors, construction etc.

Propagation of White 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:

Woods, especially on sandy drift soils or fertile well-drained soils, sometimes on river banks and rarely in swamps. Often forming dense forests.

Known hazards of Pinus strobus:

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.