Picking Pine Needles

Pine Needle Tea

(As featured in the September 2008 issue of Practically Seeking)

We had such a good time at the Medicinal Plants workshop that I decided for this month's skill I would introduce you to a simple tea that is delicious, healthy and a great immune booster.

For those of you who are new to the world of plants, a safe and simple tea can be made from the common Pine trees that surround us.

Pine Needle Tea has long been a favorite of traditional and indigenous peoples, both for it's refreshment and for it's medicinal values.

You may not realize that Pine Needle Tea contains 4-5 times the Vitamin C of fresh-squeezed orange juice, and is high in Vitamin A. It is also an expectorant (thins mucus secretions), decongestant, and can be used as an antiseptic wash when cooled. So not only does it taste good, but it's good for you!
Each varietal of pine has it's own flavor to impart, so experiment and see which needles you like best. And feel free to mix and match! My personal favorite is a combination of 1 part white pine with 2 parts pitch, where Julie prefers straight balsam.

Just remember that while all Pines are evergreens, not all evergreens are Pines! So head out to the back yard or park, positively identify your pine trees, bring back some needles and give this one a try!

Step-by-step Instructions for Making Pine Needle Tea:

  1. Collect a small bundle of green needles, the younger the better. (A small handful will be plenty.)
  2. Gathering Pitch Pine Needles Gather a small handful

  3. Remove any of the brown, papery sheaths that may remain at the base of the needles. (They just pull right off.)
  4. Remove the papery sheath

  5. Chop the needles into small bits, about ¼ to ½ inch long.
  6. Different types of Pine needles Chopping up the needles Chop needles into small pieces

    For a Refreshing Tea:

  7. Heat about a cup of water to just before boiling.
  8. Bring water almost to a boil

  9. Pour the hot water over about a tablespoon of the chopped needles.
  10. Tablespoon of chopped needles Pour hot water over needles

  11. Allow to steep (preferably covered) for 5-10 minutes, until the majority of needles have settled to the bottom of the cup. Enjoy your delicious tea!
  12. Steeping Tea Allow needles to settle Enjoy your refreshing tea!

    For a Medicinal Tea:

    (This process releases more of the oils & resins that contain the medicinal compounds, and tastes a little like turpentine.)

  13. Bring about a cup of water to a full boil. Add approximately one tablespoon of chopped needles to the boiling water and cover. Allow the needles to boil in the water for 2-3 minutes.
  14. Add needles to boiling water Cover and boil 2-3 minutes

  15. Remove from heat and allow the tea to continue to steep, covered, until it is cool enough to drink. (Most of the needles should sink to the bottom.) Pour the tea into a mug, leaving the needles behind, and enjoy!
  16. Once tea has cooled, pour Leave needles behind

  17. Drink this tea several times a day for maximum medicinal effect. (Make it fresh each time.)
  18. Enjoy your tea!

With cold & flu season approaching Pine Needle Tea is a gift of health as well as an enjoyable experience.
And since Pine is best used fresh, it's a perfect excuse to get out & enjoy the change of seasons!