Antioxidant-packed (as well as a joy for the senses), a steaming cup of pine needle tea is a beautiful way to harmonize your body with the seasons.
Imagine a meditative walk through a pine grove: fresh, green aroma drifting around your body, and crackling, spongy needles springing back under your feet. No matter how far you may be from a park or conservation area, it’s possible to bring this calming and regenerative forest experience into your home all year round.
Bursting with healing properties, pine needles are available for harvesting all winter long, and are a beautiful and abundant gift from nature when many other sources of wellness are asleep for the season.
Here at Iremia Skincare, we love finding new ways to promote tranquility and health in our daily routines — because taking care of our minds and bodies is taking care of our skin, too.
What is pine needle tea, and what are its health benefits? Put the water on to boil and pull out your favourite cozy socks, pine needle tea may just be the missing piece of your winter wellness routine.
What is pine needle tea?
Pine needle tea (also known simply as pine tea) is a bright and refreshing brewed tea made from fresh pine needles and filled with health-supporting properties such as vitamin C and antioxidants. With a mild citrus flavour and soothing aroma, pine needle tea is an amazing way to elevate your mood during dreary winter days, not to mention it’s free to any intrepid forager willing to devote a bit of energy toward tracking down and identifying healthy pine trees (don’t worry, you can also purchase pine tea if foraging is not your thing).
Pine needle tea has a long history of usage among various Indigenous peoples in North America, where it was consumed not only for its pleasant taste but for its ability to prevent serious vitamin C deficiency in the cold winter months. An early account of pine tea dates back to 1536 where explorer Jacques Cartier recounted how his entire crew was saved by the generosity of the Iroquois, who provided them with a tea made of pine needles and bark that cured their scurvy. They referred to the tree as the "tree of life" because of its amazing healing powers.
How to identify and harvest pine
Pine trees (Pinaceae family) are not only edible but quite easy to find. The best identifying characteristic is that thebunches of needles that grow together on pine are in groups of two to five, and the needles are not flat (they can be rolled between your fingers). An online guide or a local expert can assist in easily identifying pine. Foraging 101:always be 100% confident of any wild plant before consuming it.
There are several species of pine that make great tea, but Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) is beloved for pine needle tea due to its flavour. Native to North America, white pine is the only pine tree where the needles grow in a group of five. Note: talk to your doctor before consuming pine needle tea (whether foraged or packaged) if you are pregnant.
Once you have located a healthy tree (be aware of areas that may use pesticides or other contaminants), mindfully remove the needles from the branches. As always, only take as much as you need for yourself, and take needles sparingly from a few trees, rather than all from one tree.
What are the benefits of pine needle tea?
Loaded with vitamin C & A
As we learned from the sailors who were saved by the “tree of life,” pine needles are renowned for their high concentrations of vitamin C. While the amount of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) varies significantly depending on the species and age of the specific pine tree, the concentration of vitamin C is the highest in the wintertime. So while it may not be time to give up on your summer citrus fruits, pine needles are a phenomenal choice in the winter when other vitamin C sources are in short supply (as always, remember to choose your vitamin sources seasonally).
We know the importance of vitamin C for your skin: vitamin C participates in the synthesis of collagen fibres, removes free radicals and strengthens immunity.
Besides vitamin C, pine needles are also rich in vitamin A: great for eyesight, bone health, as well as recommended for acne-prone skin. A reminder that vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin: feel free to add a splash of cream or a buttered scone alongside your tea for maximum absorption.
Alongside vitamins C & A, pine needle tea contains antioxidants. Antioxidants help our bodies deal with oxidative stress and neutralize damaging free radicals.
Pine needles are a great source of flavonoids, plant compounds that strengthen your immune system by increasing resistance to illnesses. Research has shown that the flavonoids in pine needles can help protect the cardiovascular system and assist with antioxidative activities, as well as boost the immune system.
Further, there is promising research for pine needles and cancer prevention: one study found that pine needles “exhibit strong antioxidant, antimutagenic, and antiproliferative effects on cancer cells and also antitumor effects in vivo and point to their potential usefulness in cancer prevention."
Increases joy and wellbeing
Not only does pine needle tea offer benefits for the body, but it may positively impact our sense of joy and wellbeing, too. Recent studies have suggested that pine needle tea may have the ability to improve mood as well as have an anti-depressant effect, while other studies have shown that the a-pinene in pine needles may improve memory and assist with anxiety.
Beyond the effects of drinking pine needles,aromatherapy can also have a powerful impact on our state of wellness. One study demonstrated that forest environments may help with acute emotions, especially those experiencing chronic stress, and may help to decrease the risk of stress-related diseases. While we may not always have easy access to a pine forest, the woodsy aroma from pine needle tea may be the next best thing to help soothe our senses and bring some relaxation to our day.
How to brew pine needle tea
This simple foraged tea is a nourishing way to enjoy the relaxing wellness benefits of pine.
- 2 tablespoons fresh pine needles
- 1 cup boiled filtered water
- Optional: honey or another sweetener to taste
- Optional: lemon or milk
- Once you find pine trees near you, select needles that are young and tasty.
- Remove needle clusters from the branch and rinse in lukewarm water.
- Chop or snip pine needles into small 2-3 cm (1 inch) pieces, discarding the brown part holding the needle cluster together.
- Place chopped needles in a teapot or cup and cover with freshly boiled water.
- Allow to steep covered for 10 minutes, strain and enjoy.
Different pine needles will have different flavours and intensities. Add more needles for a stronger flavour, and less if you find the flavour too strong.
Make sure not to boil the pine needles in order to preserve the vitamin C (and prevent the release of bitter terpenes). Vitamin C doesn't last long in hot water, so drink this tea as soon as possible.