One of the newest old fads, pine needle tea, is delicious and healthy. Filled with vitamin C, this tea has a citrusy and slightly resinous quality that many people enjoy.
It’s A Great Food Tea!
Pine trees are everywhere, and pine needles were a staple of Native American diets during the wintertime. Because they’re packed with vitamin C and many other healthy nutrients, they helped to supplement their diet and provided a warm and delicious drink. Some of the nutrients in pine needle tea are :
- Alpha-Pinene (potent antioxidant)
- D-Limonene (citrus smell)
- Germacrene D
- Vitamin A
Many of these are known to help boost immunity. Combined with vitamin C, it can help ward off wintertime colds. It’s also good to help relieve wintertime depression .
But It Can Be Dangerous and Horrible for the Environment!
As great as pine needle tea is, only the needles of the white 5-needle pine are suitable for making tea. Other species do not provide the health benefits or can be toxic:
- Ponderosa Pine (also known as Blackjack, Western Yellow, Yellow, and Bull Pine)
- Spruce species (Christmas Trees)
- Lodgepole or Shore Pine
- Common Juniper
- Monterey Cypress
- Common Yew
- Norfolk Island Pine
- Australian Pine
Pine needle tea is also an abortifacient, inducing abortions in pregnant women. It can also cause injury to children and overstimulate their immune systems.
Additionally, pine trees are apically dominant, meaning they only grow from the tips of their branches. That is where you need to harvest the needles, so you’re stopping the tree from growing. And since it takes 10 to 15 years for a pine tree to grow in height suitable for harvesting, it can be quite damaging.
The only time suitable for harvesting pine needles from the 5-needle white pine is after the first flush of growth in the springtime. If gathering less than 10% of the needles, the tree can regrow those needles through the summer. But that can only be done once every four years; otherwise, it will kill the tree within three years.
Some companies claim to wildcraft their pine needles. However, you need to be very careful of this claim, as harvesting pine trees on federal or state lands is illegal, and harvesting from within towns and cities can add a high load of toxins. Pine trees are natural filters, sequestering lead, arsenic, and other toxins within their needles.
What’s even worse as many pine needle teas come from Christmas tree farms, taking leftover needles from trimming. That type of tree does not provide many health benefits, and you don’t know if they sprayed pesticides on those trees (most do spray heavily).
Should You Drink Fine Needle Tea?
In today’s day and age, there are so many better options to obtain the nutrients you can get from pine needle tea. Parsley has as much vitamin C, and sweet potatoes provide the same amount of vitamin A. If you’re looking to be healthy and environmentally conscious, there are better options than pine needles. But, if you get a chance to try it, it can be a fun experience.
1: Koutsaviti A, Toutoungy S, Saliba R, Loupassaki S, Tzakou O, Roussis V, Ioannou E. Antioxidant Potential of Pine Needles: A Systematic Study on the Essential Oils and Extracts of 46 Species of the Genus Pinus. Foods. 2021 Jan 12;10(1):142. doi: 10.3390/foods10010142. PMID: 33445574; PMCID: PMC7827367.
2: Bolandghamat S, Moghimi A, Iranshahi M. Effects of ethanolic extract of pine needles (Pinus eldarica Medw.) on reserpine-induced depression-like behavior in male Wistar rats. Pharmacogn Mag. 2011 Jul;7(27):248-53. doi: 10.4103/0973-1296.84240. PMID: 21969797; PMCID: PMC3173901.