The first cold snap brings brilliant fall colors to the Appalachian Mountains; it also brings fragrant scents of pine and oh, how I long for that each year!
You know, that strong pine smell that permeates the air and reminds us of the upcoming holiday season. The weather warms, and the scent fades, but every time it gets cold, it comes back even stronger. But with the cold and the pine comes the season of the sniffles and other cold weather ailments. What ties these two things together? Pine has long been used as a decongestant and as a remedy for other common cold symptoms. Let’s take a look at some of the great ways to use pine.
Benefits of Pine
Pine has been used as a decongestant and an expectorant. It loosens phlegm in the lungs and allows it to be eliminated. The body can fight infection and heal faster at this point. (Read more about pine essential oil here.)
Remember Pine Sol? It was one of the fist disinfectants on the market. Add a few drops of pine essential oil to your mop water, your toilet bowl or your dish water to disinfect your cleaning. (Read more about the disinfecting properties of pine here.)
3. Muscle Rub/Arthritis
Pine essential oil has been used as a muscle rub and for easing the pain and stiffness of arthritis. It has a mild analgesic property that gets deep into the muscle. (Read more about muscular benefits here.)
4. Vitamin C
Pine needles have a very high amount of Vitamin C, among other nutrients. Make a cup of pine needle tea to help with colds and flu. Steep a handful of pine needles in hot water. Wash them well first, as they may have bugs, dust or other things on them. You can break them up a bit to get more of the compounds out of them. Steep until the tea takes on a greenish color. What kind of pine? It really doesn’t matter, as all pines and firs have some benefits. In my area (Western North Carolina) we have a lot of white pine. The flavor of the tea from this is quite good and less bitter than some. We also have Frasier fir and black spruce in this area that yield tasty teas. Try one, and if you’re not happy with it, switch to another. Just don’t try to add pine essential oil to your tea, as these oils are very strong and should not be used internally.
5. Stress Relief
For some, just a walk in the woods is enough to bring down stress levels. Pine oil has been studied in Japan as an agent to help calm people. It’s a practice known as shinrin-yoku, or, taking a therapeutic walk in the woods.
6. Weed Suppression
On some weeds, there is a waxy coating to the leaves and stems, such as holly. This waxy coating must be dissolved before herbicides can take effect and successfully kill unwanted plants. Pine oil will dissolve this waxy coating.
7. Flea Killer
Pine oil works in much the same way as above on fleas, ticks and other pests. It dissolves the waxy coating that many invertebrates have that protects them from the elements. Drop a few drops of pine essential oil in a spray bottle of water. Add a teaspoon or so of alcohol to help break up the oil. Shake a few times and spray on your carpet, dog beds or anywhere else that may have pesky critters. And fleas tend to hate the smell of pine. While the essential oil can be bad for pets, if you use a few drops in their shampoo, it will help to dispatch fleas and still be safe.
8. Bath Crystals
My favorite use for pine is in bath crystals. I use both the essential oil and pine needles for a lasting effect. Package in a pretty jar with a ribbon for a great gift for the holidays.
Pine Bath Crystals
- 1½ cups sea salt (find it here)
- ½ cup Epsom salt (find it here)
- 15 drops pine essential oil (find it here)
- about ½ cup pine needles, chopped
- glass pint jar (like this)
In a glass bowl, mix your salts together. Add the pine oil, 5 drops at a time, mixing well after each addition. Place about ½ cup of the scented salt mixture in the bottom of the jar. Add enough needles to cover the salts. Add another ½ cup of salt and so on, layering as you go. Screw the top on tightly and add a pretty ribbon. Add a card with instructions to use one handful of the crystals for a warm tub of water. You may even want to include a muslin bag for using the bath salts, so needles don’t end up floating in the bath water or clogging drains.
photo credit to Richard Freeman