Did you know that a pine tree’s needles contain more Vitamin C than fresh orange juice?
In fact, native North Americans drank tea made from pine needles for centuries to both prevent illness and to treat coughs and colds. The natives introduced European settlers to pine needle tea as a way to combat scurvy, a deadly disease caused by Vitamin C deficiency.
Historians also believe that Taoist priests have consumed pine needle tea for centuries for its healing properties and because they believed it slowed the aging process.
Vitamin C works as an antioxidant and an immune system booster. It improves the cardiovascular system as well as skin and eye health.
Pine needle tea also is rich in Vitamin A, an antioxidant beta-carotene which is important for vision (especially in low-light situations), hair and skin regeneration and the production of red blood cells. Pine needle tea has a pleasant smell and taste and is known to lessen fatigue and to improve mental clarity.
The tea is a mild diuretic, so it can have a beneficial effect on the kidneys. The tea has decongestive and disinfectant effects on the respiratory system, often reducing and soothing throat irritation and inflamed bronchi.
If you are looking for a healthy hot drink this winter, then look no further than the needles from your nearby pine tree. Many people prefer the taste of smaller needles, but the tea from larger needles works well in the tea.
How to Make the Tea
Your first step is to find and to identify a pine tree that has not been treated or sprayed with chemicals. Many tea drinkers prefer the taste of tea made from the needles of the white pine.
Keep in mind that not all conifers are pine trees. Additionally, some pine tree needles are not safe and may contain isocupressic acid or other toxic substances. All pregnant women should avoid pine needle tea because it can induce an abortion.
Avoid the needles of the following trees:
- Ponderosa pine (also known as blackjack, western yellow, yellow and bull pine)
- Lodge pole pine (also known as shore pine)
- Common juniper
- Monterey cypress (also known as macrocarpa)
- Common yew
- Norfolk pine (also known as Australian pine)
Next, gather a handful of young, green needles from the end of a branch. You may collect older needles if you need more needles.
Remove the brown, papery sheath from the needles by simply pulling it off. Then wash the needles thoroughly with water.
If desired, you may chop the needles into small pieces about one-quarter-inch to one-half-inch in length. The chopping speeds up the release of the pine needle oils.
Now, heat a cup of water per serving of water to just before the boiling point. Avoid boiling pine needle tea because you will lose valuable nutritional content. Vitamin C, for instance, is heat-sensitive.
Pour the hot water over a tablespoon of needles and then steep the tea for about 10 minutes. Cover the tea while steeping for best results. The needles will settle to the bottom of your cup, but if some of your needles are small, you may want to use a strainer before drinking.
Pine needle tea has a very pale color but a very strong aroma and flavor. Depending on the type of needles you use, your tea color will range from nearly clear, to a light golden brown shade, to a reddish brown.
Pine needle tea tastes great as-is, or you can add lemon, orange or spices as desired. It is a good idea to make only as much tea as you will drink at one sitting, however. Stored pine needle tea tends to lose much of its vitamin content.
While it tastes great hot this time of year, pine needle tea also may be enjoyed cold. Some people swear by the cold tea’s healing properties as a hand wash as well. When the tea is added to bathwater, it can be used to treat gout pain, nerve pain and arthritis, as well as muscle strains and sprains.
Here are a few words of caution about consuming pine needle tea. Again, doctors recommend that pregnant women avoid drinking pine needle tea. Also, be sure to collect needles from trees that are a good distance from a busy road, since the needles can retain chemicals from auto exhaust.
Have you ever make pine needle tea? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below: