The pine tree is one of the most important (commercially) trees because of it use for lumber and wood pulp for paper. Pine trees have been used to make turpentine and has been used for medicine. Now the medicinal part is what we will be going over in this post. Pine needle tea was introduced to sailors when they reached the new world by native American Indians. This tea is actually very high in vitamin C. It has been used for hundreds of years to treat scurvy or vitamin C deficiency and it’s also very tasty. This tea has more vitamin C in it than an entire bag of oranges! Before we get into making the tea, lets quickly go over a few other things about the pine tree that are beneficial to the outdoors enthusiast:
Pine trees are evergreens, which means that they keep their green needles all year long. One of the most valuable aspects to the outdoorsman is when the pine tree dies, all the sap will run to the trunk area. This sap or “resin” is highly flammable and extremely valuable in starting fires. In South Mississippi this is called “lighter knot” but to the majority of the world it is called “Fat Wood”. You will know that you have found Fat Wood because it have a very distinct smell like “Turpentine”. When you find your Fat Wood you can cut it down to finger size sticks and smaller and save them for starting future fires. The dried dead pine needles are excellent for fire starting. Most of the time on dry days, you can start a fire with just pine needles and a ferro rod.
Pine sap can be used as an adhesive with a little rabbit dung mixed in with it. Also, pine sap can be used as an antiseptic for a cut. This sap is practically a natural antiseptic and will fight off infection. You can even eat the thin inner bark of the pine tree. in one of the survival books I have read, the author likes to fry it crispy like bacon. American Indians would actually process and store the inner bark as food. It was readily available and there was mass quantities of pine trees. The inner bark can be dried and pulverized and flour can be made from it as well.
Now on to the best part of the pine tree! lets make some pine needle tea. This can be followed even in your home on the stove and not just in the woods. (this way you don’t have to make a tripod)
When in the woods, I always start off by making a tripod to hang my pot over the fire. Usually, I will make this tea at camp and I will use the tripod for several days. To make the tripod: cut three similar diameter trees down and lash them together. You can get fancy with it and make a pot hanger or just hang some string or rope down from the top to hold you pot. Next, start your fire. Use some of that “Fat Wood” mentioned above to get this fire going. Now that your fire is going, its time to locate the pine tree… Disclaimer: there are two pine trees that you can not use for this tea! It is very important that you not use the Norfolk Island pine or the yew pine. These are very poisonous.
Once you find your pine tree, which in this case I am using Loblolly pine (the most common pine tree in Mississippi) which has a cluster of 3 needles. You want to gather a cluster of needles roughly an inch in diameter as pictured above. Next, you want to take your knife and cut the bundle of pine needles in half and set them aside. Fill your pot up with water, I generally use between 20 and 32 ounces of water for an hand full of needles. Hang your pot over the fire and bring it to a boil!
Once your water is boiling, take your pot off the fire and throw the pine needles in the water and just let them steep for about 15 or 20 minutes. If you boil the needles, you will still be able to drink the tea but it will have a very strong turpentine taste to it, that is why you remove the pot from the fire to let your needles steep. I usually put the lid on the pot and go on about gathering firewood or some other camp chore while I’m waiting. The tea will be ready once the needles have turned a yellowish green color and the water turns a little yellowish as well. After the allotted time, if your needles are discolored its time to find your good ole metal cup and a bandana. The bandana is placed over your cup so that when you pour the tea, no particles or needles will get in the cup. Basically its a filter.
Now that you have poured your tea up, drink away! you can drink this several times a day. Its weird to describe it this way but, pine needle tea tastes like how Christmas smells. Its refreshing and not bitter or overpowering. If you are able to add a little sugar, it makes it even better! I have personally been in the woods for over a week and started to feel a little sick. I made some pine needle tea and the next day I was back at 100% again. I kept drinking it several times a day and it naturally boosted my immune system. If you know that you are allergic to pine, DO NOT TRY THIS!
I have put together a video for my YouTube channel going over pine needle tea. You can watch that below
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