I refer to pine trees as “feel-good trees” because they offer so many benefits. Many of the more than 100 species of pines have been used medicinally throughout the world by cultures ranging from the Greeks, Egyptians, and Arabians to the Native Americans, and Scandinavians. The needles have been burned to clear away respiratory infections and insects and stuffed into mattresses to repel lice and fleas and fend off rheumatism. The twigs were mixed with cedar and juniper for use as a purification incense.
The sticky pitch or resin that often exudes from injuries to the tree’s trunk and larger limbs contains a concentration of the essential oil (as does the sap from the fir tree) and has been utilized to heal cracked skin, eczema, psoriasis, and infected wounds, and to bind cuts. Infused into a base oil and massaged into the skin, it relieves joint pain, gout, sore or stiff muscles, sciatica, poor circulation of the arms and legs, chest complaints, symptoms of colds and flu, exhaustion, and adrenal fatigue. I employ the refreshing, comforting, Scotch Pine (Pinus sylvestris) essential oil to treat many of these conditions using it both topically and via inhalation. Other species that I occasionally use, but which can be limited in availability, include the eastern white pine (P. strobus), sea pine (P. pinaster), and the pinyon pine (P. edulis).
Photo by Arbor Day Foundation
From Herb To Oil
Indigenous to northern Europe and Asia and introduced to North America by European settlers, this tall conifer has deeply fissured, papery, reddish-brown bark, 2-inch to 4-inch long, stiff needles that grow in pairs, and small-to-medium brown cones. It has long been cultivated in the eastern United States and Canada, mostly for Christmas tree production and as a landscape planting. The essential oil is produced primarily in the United States, Bosnia, France, Hungary, Scotland, Russia, and Austria and is one of the most commercially-produced oils – being in demand for products ranging from household disinfectants, detergents, insecticides, and fragrances. A pale yellow or colorless liquid with a potent, fresh, clean turpentine-like aroma, the essential oil is steam-distilled from the fresh twigs and needles. An inferior essential oil is produced by dry distillation from the chipped wood and stump grindings.
Psychological Benefits: Naturally uplifting and refreshing, strengthening, empowering, and grounding, Scotch pine helps you feel open and aware. It brings strength and comfort when you are feeling weak, unworthy, unsure, or sad; dispels negative emotions. When you are experiencing nervous exhaustion and extreme fatigue as a result of stress, it is an excellent choice.
Essential Properties In A Nutshell: Scotch pine essential oil has an affinity for the respiratory tract, being a strong pulmonary antiseptic, decongestant, and expectorant; purifying and cleansing; warming circulatory stimulant that is good for pain relief; promotes healing of wounds and dry, cracked skin; deodorant; effective parasiticide against scabies and lice; strengthening, fortifying, and energizing, emotionally and physically.
Safety Data & Usage Information: Generally nontoxic and non-irritating (except in concentration), with possible dermal sensitization to those with highly sensitive skin. Scotch pine essential oil has a rather short shelf life because it oxidizes quickly, so use it within 1 year or keep it refrigerated and use within 2 years.
Always dilute essential oils properly – according to age, health, medication intake, and skin condition – prior to application. My book, Stephanie Tourles’s Essential Oils: A Beginner’s Guide (Storey Publishing, c2018), is a good reference, complete with safety guidelines and dilution charts.
The following recipe highlights the therapeutic nature of Scotch pine essential oil with regard to its decongestant properties. Works like a charm!
Photo by Mars Vilaubi
"Breathe Free” Herbal Steam Recipe
This steaming vapors blend contains strong respiratory antiseptics to help fight infection and mucolytics to aid in loosening and draining mucous congestion – providing blessed relief to your stuffiness. I swear by this steam when I have a bad head cold or sinus headache, or when my lungs feel heavy and congested. It really helps drain away the misery and seems to open up everything! A bonus: the stimulating aroma leaves your house smelling ultra-fresh and clean. Note: This recipe is safe for folks 12 years of age and older.
Caution: DO NOT use if you suffer from bronchial asthma, if you have sensitive skin, or if you are experiencing any type of skin irritation on face, scalp, neck, or chest.
- 2 drops Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris) essential oil
- 1 drop eucalyptus (species globulus or radiata) essential oil
- 1 drop balsam fir (Abies balsamea) or Scotch pine essential oil
- 3 cups purified water
To Make And Use The Steam:
Bring water to just shy of a boil and pour into a medium-to-large heat-proof bowl. Place the bowl on a stable surface, in a location where you can either stand or sit comfortably for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the essential oils and swish the water to disperse them a bit
Immediately drape a large bath towel over your head, neck, shoulders, and the steaming bowl to create a vapor tent. With your eyes closed and your face 8 to 12 inches from the surface of the water, breathe deeply and relax. If your nose is clogged, inhale through your mouth. You should begin to sweat and your nose should run – that’s a good thing. Your circulation is moving. If you begin to feel uncomfortable, pop your head out of the tent for a few moments of fresh air, then go right back in. Keep your eyes closed during the entire steam.
When you’re finished, splash your face and neck with tepid water, followed by a few splashes of cool water. Pat your skin almost dry and follow with an application of light moisturizer, if desired. You may partake of this treatment once or twice per day until you are feeling better.
Yield: Makes enough for 1 treatment
Recipe excerpted from Stephanie Tourles’s Essential Oils: A Beginner’s Guide (c2018 by Stephanie Tourles). Used with permission from Storey Publishing.