Category: Medicines - plant based
Introduction and description
Pines are conifer trees in the genus Pinus in the family Pinaceae. They are the only genus in the subfamily Pinoideae.
Counting varieties and subspecies, the plant list of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Missouri Botanical Garden accepts 175 names of pines as current, together with some thirty or forty unresolved and many more synonyms or misapplied.
Although we have some entries for individual plants, there is also value in taking them as a group as they share many common attributes medically and chemically. The observations from Dr Duke's phytochemical database should help to show this similarity in both the chemicals they contain, where those chemicals are obtained from and also medically how they are used.
The modern English name pine derives from Latin pinus which some have traced to the Indo-European base *pīt- ‘resin’ (source of English pituitary). In the past (pre-19th century) they were often known as fir, from Old Norse fyrre, by way of Middle English firre. The Old Norse name is still used for pines in some modern north European languages, in Danish fyr, in Norwegian fura/fure/furu, Swedish fura/furu, Dutch vuren, and Föhre in German, but in modern English, fir is now restricted to fir (Abies) and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga).
So there you go.
Pines are very symbolic plants in all mystic systems. It is no accident that they were chosen as the tree of Christmas - in reality the season celebrating the winter solstice and the time of Yule. The tree with its decorations represent ascension of the Spiritual path - in effect it symbolically represents an ascent up the Levels and Layers of our 'soul cone'.
Any tinsel we choose to put on the tree or fairy lights are symbolic routes or paths up the tree with occasional spiritual flashes of understanding or ‘rewards’. And of course we also use Crystal balls. At the top we have the Star – the culmination of the journey. Perhaps there is an angel at the top or a fairy which is actually the same thing – our Higher spirit. See also Crystal in legend and folklore.
Pines are evergreen, coniferous resinous trees growing 3–80 m tall, with the majority of species reaching 15–45 m tall. The smallest are Siberian dwarf pine and Potosi pinyon, and the tallest can reach over nearly 300 feet. One example tree in the USA is a 268.35-feet (81.79-meter) tall ponderosa pine located in southern Oregon's Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.
The branches are produced in regular "pseudo whorls", actually a very tight spiral but appearing like a ring of branches arising from the same point. Many pines are uninodal, producing just one such whorl of branches each year, from buds at the tip of the year's new shoot, but others are multinodal, producing two or more whorls of branches per year. According to Wikipedia "The spiral growth of branches, needles, and cone scales are arranged in Fibonacci number ratios".
Pines are long-lived, typically reaching ages of 100–1,000 years, some even more. Again this long lived nature adds to their symbolic value, as sages who lived until they were very old and who remained wise were likened to old pine trees
The longest-lived is the Great Basin bristlecone pine, Pinus longaeva. One individual of this species, dubbed "Methuselah", is one of the world's oldest living organisms at around 4,600 years old. This tree can be found in the White Mountains of California. An older tree, now cut down, was dated at 4,900 years old. It was discovered in a grove beneath Wheeler Peak and it is now known as "Prometheus" after the Greek immortal.
One assumes the naming to be a form of American irony.
The bark of most pines is thick and scaly, but some species have thin, flaky bark. The bark is of great interest medicinally. The bark of most pines contain tannin which has both antiviral and antibacterial properties. Tannin is also a chelator, as such pine trees planted in polluted areas are quite likely to suck up the pollutants. Pines are actually not as robust as bracken and ferns in terms of their bioremedial abilities, but a combination of the two may be of great value.
The new spring shoots are sometimes called "candles"; they are covered in brown or whitish bud scales and point upward at first, then later turn green and spread outward. These "candles" offer foresters a means to evaluate fertility of the soil and vigour of the trees.
As a rather interesting aside, some of the pollen from these candles has been found to contain testosterone. The scots pine for example. The old Scottish and Norse peoples used to make a sort of beer from these candles which is perhaps why they got their reputation for ............ well .......... for all sorts of things to do with testosterone ................
Pines have four types of leaf:
- Seed leaves (cotyledons) on seedlings, born in a whorl of 4–24.
- Juvenile leaves, which follow immediately on seedlings and young plants, 2–6 cm long, single, green or often blue-green, and arranged spirally on the shoot. These are produced for six months to five years, rarely longer.
- Scale leaves, similar to bud scales, small, brown and non-photosynthetic, and arranged spirally like the juvenile leaves.
- Needles, the adult leaves, which are green (photosynthetic), bundled in clusters (fascicles) of 1–6, commonly 2–5, needles together, each fascicle produced from a small bud on a dwarf shoot in the axil of a scale leaf. These bud scales often remain on the fascicle as a basal sheath. The needles persist for 1.5–40 years, depending on species. If a shoot is damaged (e.g. eaten by an animal), the needle fascicles just below the damage will generate a bud which can then replace the lost leaves.
This distinction is important as the type of leaf occasionally determines their medicinal value. There is a type of medicinal tea one can make from pine leaves, which has quite strong antibacterial and antiviral qualities, but one would only want to make it from the correct leaf.
Pines are mostly monoecious, having the male and female cones on the same tree, though a few species are sub-dioecious with individuals predominantly, but not wholly, single-sex. The male cones are small, typically 1–5 cm long, and only present for a short period (usually in spring, though autumn in a few pines), falling as soon as they have shed their pollen. The female cones take 1.5–3 years (depending on species) to mature after pollination, with actual fertilization delayed one year. At maturity the female cones are 3–60 cm long. Each cone has numerous spirally arranged scales, with two seeds on each fertile scale; the scales at the base and tip of the cone are small and sterile, without seeds.
The seeds are mostly small and winged, and are anemophilous (wind-dispersed), but some are larger and have only a vestigial wing, and are bird-dispersed. At maturity, the cones usually open to release the seeds, but in some of the bird-dispersed species (e.g. whitebark pine), the seeds are only released by the bird breaking the cones open. In others, the seeds are stored in closed ("serotinous") cones for many years until an environmental cue triggers the cones to open, releasing the seeds.
The seeds are edible. They are nutritious and exceptionally tasty when toasted and sprinkled on salads. Lightly grilled liver, with raspberry vinegar, and toasted pine seeds is one of the great classical dishes.
We have a separate section for pine nuts in the food section which explores their food and nutritional value.
A tea made by steeping young, green pine needles in boiling water (known as "tallstrunt" in Sweden) is high in vitamins A and C and is also said to have antiviral and antibacterial properties. The analyses of each tree by Dr Duke should help to identify which trees provide these capabilities.
Pine has been listed as one of the 38 substances used to prepare Bach flower remedies.
Needless to say, according to Cancer Research UK, "there is no scientific evidence to prove that flower remedies can control, cure or prevent any type of disease, including cancer". But they would be right and they would be wrong. It is true that some science has turned its back on plants, decided to spurn Nature altogether and in a fit of egotistic pride has decided it is the new religion and it knows best - that only man made chemicals are worth investigating and the more 'novel' the better - science places great store on novelty, as if the body was an arcade game.
But, Cancer along with practically all other illnesses are caused by pathogens - toxins, viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi, heavy metals, and pharmaceuticals including vaccines. Illness can also be caused by hypoxia, radiation, nutritional deprivation and physical damage.
Psychological damage including stress can depress the immune system so that pathogens can get a hold, as such stress and worry are not a cause but a contributory factor in getting illness.
Pine trees are healing plants. Unlike the pharmaceuticals of today that address the symptoms of illness, pine trees have chemicals that address the cause. So they do have efficacy against cancer because they have antiviral activity. And they can also fight against tumours and cysts because they have antiparasitic activity.
Much of this activity against the causes of illness is actually found - not in the needles or the seeds or the candles, but the sap - the resin of the tree - and the bark. If we use one tree as an example [I have highlighted some interesting properties in red]:
Dr Duke’s analysis of the Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Pinus insularis ENDL. (Pinaceae) -- Khasi Pine
ABIETIC-ACID Resin, Exudate, Sap 740,000 ppm; Antifeedant; Protisticide; Schistosomicide
ALPHA-PINENE Resin, Exudate, Sap 270,000 - 941,000 ppm Allelochemic; Allergenic; Antiacne; Antibacterial; Antifeedant; Antiflu; Antiinflammatory 500 mg/kg; Antipneumonic; Antiseptic; Antispasmodic; Antistaphylococcic; Antiviral; Cancer-Preventive; Coleoptophile; Expectorant; FLavor FEMA 15-150; Herbicide IC50=30 uM; Insecticide 0.82 uM/fly; Insectifuge 50 ppm; Insectiphile; Irritant; P450-2B1-Inhibitor IC50=0.087 uM; Perfumery; Pesticide; Sedative; Spasmogenic; Tranquilizer; Transdermal
BETA-PINENE Resin, Exudate, Sap 26,000 - 650,000 ppm Allergenic; Antiinflammatory; Antiseptic; Antispasmodic; Candidicide; FLavor FEMA 15-600; Herbicide; Insectifuge; Irritant; Perfumery; Pesticide; Spasmogenic; Transdermal
CAMPHENE Resin, Exudate, Sap 10,000 - 20,000 ppm Allelopathic; Antilithic?; Antioxidant; Expectorant; FLavor FEMA 15-175; Hypocholesterolemic?; Insectifuge; Pesticide; Spasmogenic
TANNIN Bark 70,000 - 100,000 ppm Anthelmintic; Antibacterial; Anticancer; Anticariogenic; Antidiarrheic; Antidysenteric; Antihepatotoxic; AntiHIV; Antihypertensive; Antilipolytic; Antimutagenic; Antinephritic; Antiophidic; Antioxidant 1/3 quercetin IC50=1.44 ug/ml; Antiradicular 1/3 quercetin 500 mg/kg/day orl mus; Antirenitic; Antitumor; Antitumor-Promoter; Antiulcer; Antiviral; Cancer-Preventive; Carcinogenic; Chelator; Cyclooxygenase-Inhibitor; Glucosyl-Transferase-Inhibitor; Hepatoprotective; Immunosuppressant; Lipoxygenase-Inhibitor; MAO-Inhibitor; Ornithine-Decarboxylase-Inhibitor; Pesticide; Psychotropic; Xanthine-Oxidase-Inhibitor
As you can see one would have to be extremely careful how this 'medicine' was used. The negative properties appear at high doses - which is why Dr Edward Bach in his flower remedies and also the homeopathic cures based on pines, use tiny doses.
Many of the observations are from Dr Duke's phytochemical database. We have tackled his data by first providing his analysis of a tree [Part 1] and then we have added an analysis which converts the names he uses such as anthelmintic or antiacne to the names we have used on the site [Part 2].
- Antibacterial activity of resin rich plant extracts 012772
- Contact and fumigant toxicity of Pinus densiflora needle hydrodistillate constituents and related compounds and efficacy of spray formulations containing the oil to Dermatophagoides farinae 023843
- Dr Duke's list of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Pinus echinata MILLER (Pinaceae) -- Shortleaf Pine 019044
- Dr Duke's list of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Pinus edulis ENGELM (Pinaceae) -- Pinyon Pine 019042
- Dr Duke's list of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Pinus elliottii ENGELM. (Pinaceae) -- Slash Pine 019045
- Dr Duke's list of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Pinus gerardiana WALL. (Pinaceae) -- Chilgoza Pine 019035
- Dr Duke's list of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Pinus insularis ENDL. (Pinaceae) -- Khasi Pine 019040
- Dr Duke's list of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Pinus mugo TURRA (Pinaceae) -- Dwarf Pine, Swiss Mountain Pine 019037
- Dr Duke's list of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Pinus palustris MILLER (Pinaceae) -- Longleaf Pine 019041
- Dr Duke's list of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Pinus pinea L. (Pinaceae) -- Italian Stone Pine, Pignolia 019039
- Dr Duke's list of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Pinus roxburghii SARG. (Pinaceae) -- Chir Pine, Himalayan Longleaf 019036
- Dr Duke's list of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Pinus strobus L. (Pinaceae) -- Eastern White Pine, White Pine 019038
- Dr Duke's list of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Pinus sylvestris L. (Pinaceae) -- Scotch Pine 019043
- Dr Duke's list of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Pinus walliciana A.B. JACKSON (Pinaceae) -- Bhutan Pine 019034
- Dr Duke's list of Medicinal Plants with Tranquilizer activity of high potency 018140
- Dr Duke's list of Plants containing ARGININE 017958
- Dr Duke's list of Plants containing GLYCINE 017955
- Dr Duke's list of Plants containing HISTIDINE 019061
- Dr Duke's list of Plants containing NICKEL 021500
- Dr Duke's list of Plants containing PROLINE 017956
- Dr Duke's list of Plants Containing QUERCETIN 021446
- Dr Duke's list of Plants containing SELENIUM 020550
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antiacne Activity 018404
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antibacterial activity 018352
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Anticancer (gastric) activity 018459
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antieczemic activity 018421
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antiflu activity 019584
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antigranulocytopenic activity 018418
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with AntiMS activity 019578
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antistaphylococcic Activity of high potency 018275
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Candidicide Activity 021073
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Candidicide activity 018389
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Schistosomicide Activity 018279
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Schistosomicide Activity of high potency 018280
- Mesopotamia - Its technology and culture 03 Healing 022204
- Trypanocidal activity of oleoresin and terpenoids isolated from Pinus oocarpa 017483