We’ve been mentioning the flu off and on, for good reason: ‘Tis the season! For extra Vitamin C, try pine needle tea. (Hey, that almost rhymes!)
In our area, Pinus strobus, otherwise known as (eastern or northern) white pine, soft pine or Weymouth pine (in Great Britain), is native, and its tea has more Vitamin C that citrus fruit, in fact, up to five times as much as a lemon. It also has a lot of Vitamin A.
People have made use of pine trees in many ways since antiquity, using its wood, tar, seeds and needles for various purposes. Among the medicinal uses, the bark of Pinus strobus was and is used in cough treatments, and pine oil can be added to hot water and inhaled when treating nasal catarrh. The easiest use, however, is probably pine needle tea.
Naturally, you can purchase dried pine needles for tea, imported from China, or dried Douglas fir tips from the Pacific Northwest, but you can also brew some from your own pine or fir needles. If you have a pine of fir in your yard (please read the warning at the end of the article), there is no need to harvest, dry and store the needles in larger quantities if you don’t want to make a business out of it: It is actually best to brew the tea from fresh needles. Choose needles that are young, that is, vibrant or darker green and more flexible than the grayish older needles. Wash them and put them in a mug as they are, no cutting needed, pour boiling water over them and let the tea steep for about 5 minutes. How many needles you use per cup depends primarily on your personal taste, so try it out and see what works best for you. Lift the needles out of the mug with a fork. Add a few drops of lemon or honey for additional flavor, if you wish. Enjoy!
Warning: Most pine trees are safe to make pine needle tea, but there are some varieties that are poisonous, like Yew (Taxus), Norfolk Island Pine (Araucana heterophylla) and Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa). It makes sense, therefore, to check the variety carefully before picking needles.
Also, while you can drink pine needle tea as often as every day, don’t overdo it. With vitamins as with most everything else, too much of a good thing can become a bad thing.