In addition to its prized uses as a building material, and its beauty in the landscape, Eastern White Pine (pinus strobus) is a valuable medicinal plant and even a source of food. This majestic tree has a long history of applications for all manner of physical ills, and modern herbalists still consider it to be an excellent remedy for coughs and colds. The inner bark, resin, needles and roots all have specific health purposes.
The Iroquois and Micmac tribes used it as a panacea, finding its inner bark and resins to be a healing wonder for coughs, bronchitis, laryngitis and chest congestion. When Europeans first arrived in America, they reportedly followed the wisdom of the natives and drank tea made with Eastern White Pine needles to ward off disease. The blue-green needles are extremely rich in vitamin C.
The soft inner bark of Eastern White Pine, which is said to have a taste that is both bitter and sweet, was separated from the outer bark and hung in strips to dry. In times of great hunger, this bark was pounded into a flour that is still considered to be an excellent survival food to this day. In an article on the Rural Vermont website, writer Euell Gibbons details his own efforts to replicate this ‘famine bread,’ reporting that while it’s edible and nutritious, its flavor might be an acquired taste.
New shoots of white pine can be peeled and candied, boiling them until tender in plain water, and then boiling again for twenty minutes in a syrup made of half sugar, half water. The candied shoots are then rolled in granulated sugar.
Eastern White Pine produces a sap that is naturally antibacterial, hence its historic use as a wound treatment. Learn how to make pine pitch salve at Bear Medicine Herbals.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons