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Last Updated on February 16, 2024 by Kiersten James

Learn about the medicinal uses of pine and how to make a soothing pine tea to ease congestion during cold and flu season.

With cold and flu season in full force (not to mention the popular virus), I’m sharing some of my tried and true natural respiratory remedies. 

A superstar among those is pine

Here in the Northeast, pine trees are native and abundant. Even though they’re easy to find, many people still plant them in yards for their evergreen qualities and nostalgic winter elegance.

On our own property, we are lucky to have many white pine trees that I use for a variety of purposes, depending on the season.

Healing Properties of Pine

Pine is a well known traditional remedy for respiratory, urinary, skin, and inflammatory conditions. 

There are 100+ species of pine across the globe with around 25 that are frequently used for medicine. 

Pine is a stimulant and acts as an expectorant, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and antimicrobial agent.

The most common application in our house is for respiratory viruses.

All parts of the tree can be used – pine needles, inner bark, and sap- depending on the health problem or injury. If you hear the terms “resin” or “pitch”, those are just different names for sap.

Pine tops are the new growth needles and buds that appear in May and June. They are much lighter in color and contain great doses of vitamin C. 

How to Harvest Fresh Pine

If you have a species of pine readily available to you, simply slide a handful of needles off of the bark. To stay within ethical harvesting lines, try to find a freshly fallen branch.

During the spring, you can use garden clippers to trim the newly grown pine tops off of the ends of the branch.

Drying Fresh Pine Tops and Needles

Store fresh pine needles in an air-tight container in the refrigerator or dry them in a woven basket for long term storage in the pantry.

Pine Tea is Not For Use During Pregnancy

Due to the potency of pine tea, it is not recommended for use in pregnancy and mothers who are breastfeeding.

There was a study done from 1996 about cattle who had freely eaten large amounts of pine and later experienced loss of pregnancy.

Unfortunately, herbs and natural remedies are highly under studied. While there is no data to support that it is harmful in humans, there also isn’t anything to support that it’s totally safe either.

I don’t expect anyone to go out and eat 10lb barrels worth of pine needles like cattle do but in this case, because we don’t have an answer either way, it’s better to just err on the side of caution.

How to Make Pine Tea to Alleviate Cold Symptoms (Safe for Children)

Pine tea is one of those winter warming drinks that are a basic remedy during illness. When anyone comes down sick in our house, you can bet your bucks there’s a pot of soup and another infusing herbs on the stove.

Drinking pine tea throughout the day during a cold, fever, or flu helps break up the congestion, reduce symptom severity, and improve overall well-being.

Unlike pharmaceuticals, herbal remedies must be consumed often and throughout the day in order to produce the desired effect.

Herbs can be just as effective when used correctly. They take longer to work but are arguably more beneficial since they encourage the body’s natural defense systems to kick into high gear.

This pine tea is safe for children who weigh at least 30 pounds.

What You’ll Need

  • 4 cups of filtered water
  • Fresh or dried pine needle tops (7 or 8 new growth ends)
  • 2 tablespoons dried peppermint
  • 1 tablespoon dried catnip
  • Honey, to sweeten

Pine Tea Instructions

  1. Bring water to a boil in a small pot.
  2. Add pine needle tops and boil for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove the pot from the heat.
  4. Add peppermint and catnip. 
  5. Cover the pot and let the herbs steep for 30 minutes more. 
  6. Strain with fine mesh, cheesecloth, paper towel into a storage container.

How Much Pine Tea Should You Drink?

For fever, coughs, and sinus congestion:

Adults and children 80lbs+: 8oz three times daily. 

Children 30lbs+: 4oz 3 times a day, 5 hours apart.

Add honey to sweeten or soothe a sore throat. Reheat pine tea, as needed. 

How long does pine tea keep?

Store tea in an air tight container in the refrigerator up to 24 hours. It’s best to make a fresh batch of pine tea daily. 

4 More Ways to Use Pine Needles for Natural Relief

  1. Drink pine needle tea in the spring and fall to prevent respiratory illness.
  2. Boil pine needles and inhale the steam to break up thick mucus. 
  3. Make a true therapeutic pine infused oil using a slow cooker.
  4. Add beeswax and essential oils to the infused oil for a respiratory salve or potent muscle rub.

Pine Tea Variations and Blends

Fresh thyme + fresh pine needles: excellent for breaking up deep, thick mucus trapped in the lungs.

Pine needles (fresh or dried) + cinnamon bark + cardamom: eases sinus congestion, cold symptoms, and feelings of being unwell.

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This information is intended for educational purposes only. The content created for has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Consult your healthcare provider for personal healthcare decision making guidance.

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  1. This is great! My little kids and I all have colds right now….I am pregnant so there is little that I can take to alleviate symptoms. We’ll have to try this!

    1. I just added a disclaimer that those who are pregnant or nursing should avoid pine. While there is literally no evidence to support that it’s harmful, there is one study from 1996 in cattle that demonstrated abortifacient properties. Mind you, cattle eat 55 pounds of dry matter every day. Their exposure was much more intense than a pine top in some water lol but better to err on the side of caution. Elderberry, echinacea, and raw honey are great alternatives.

    1. I first learned of it in one of my herbal medicine textbooks. Where we live, we have so many pine trees that we’re actually trying to get rid of a few. It’s very soothing to breathe in the steam over a pot also if you have clogged sinuses.

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