Last Updated on February 22, 2023
Bright and refreshing pine needle tea not only tastes delicious, it’s also rich in compounds linked to better health. Here’s what to know about how to make pine needle tea, plus safe foraging and the science behind pine needle tea benefits.
Best of all, you can forage a nutritious cup of pine tea for free all year round!
- Benefits of pine needle tea
- Correctly identifying pines safe for making pine needle tea
- Foraging tips
- Pine needle tea recipe
WHY LEARN HOW TO MAKE PINE NEEDLE TEA?
OK, I know a cup of pine needles might sound odd to some, but pine needle tea is really worth giving a chance. Here’s why.
First of all, pine needle tea (also called just pine tea or sometimes white pine tea) is delicious, like drinking a little bit of the scent of a pine forest or fresh Christmas tree.
Second, pine needles have useful medicinal properties that make them helpful for supporting health and alleviating cold symptoms. (More details on the health benefits of pine needles below.)
Last, this delicious and healthy tea is free to any forager with access to a pine tree. Most people don’t realize the trees around us offer ample foraging opportunities. In the case of evergreens, like pine and spruce, the fact they can be foraged all year long, when nothing else is growing, makes them all the more valuable. Here are more than 25 medicinal trees to explore if you’re curious.
I happen to have a spruce tree growing in my yard, so spruce tea is something I make often in the colder months, when all my home-grown herbs have long since died.
I love that spruce and pine offer opportunities for fresh herbal tea any time of year. In summer, I use lemon balm, mints, and other perennial herbs in sun tea and this easy mint water recipe. I also harvest some of the new spruce tips in late spring.
Making the most of these easily-foraged ingredients can help you eat seasonally all year round. And since pine is always in season, pine tea lets you enjoy seasonal eating at any time of year.
PINE NEEDLE TEA BENEFITS
Like elderberries and other long-standing plant medicines, the active compounds in pine needles have undergone some intriguing research. I’ll bet you never realized the power your pine trees might have to benefit your health.
Pine needles have been used by herbalists and native peoples for centuries. Some of pine needles’ medicinal properties include:
- pain reliever
Other parts of the pine are also edible and medicinal, but that’s the subject of another post. Check out this one exploring the question, ‘Can You Eat Pine Cones?‘ if you’re curious to know more.
Below are some of the benefits scientists have studied to date about the benefits of pine needles.
1. PINE NEEDLES ARE RICH IN POLYPHENOLS
Like so many other potent medicinal plants, pine needles contain compounds called flavonoids, which are known to benefit health.
Studies suggest that pine needles contain a-pinene, which may aid memory, alleviate anxiety, and help with depression, though these animal studies cannot directly demonstrate these pine needle benefits for humans.
2. PINE NEEDLE TEA CONTAINS ANTIOXIDANTS
Antioxidants help our bodies deal with something called oxidative stress, which can affect proteins and DNA in ways that may contribute to chronic disease, like cancer and inflammatory conditions like arthritis.
Pine needles, like many other foods rich in antioxidants, contain compounds that may help reduce oxidative stress, which can lower our risk of many chronic diseases. (Additional studies here, here, and here.)
One study looking at the potential benefits of pine needles found that “pine needles exhibit strong antioxidant, antimutagenic, and antiproliferative effects on cancer cells and also antitumor effects in vivo and point to their potential usefulness in cancer prevention.”
If you’re looking for more ways to work antioxidants into your diet, be sure to check out these top superfoods.
3. PINE NEEDLES ARE A SOURCE OF VITAMIN C
Like spruce, pine needles contain vitamin C, which is why it’s long been used as an effective remedy for scurvy. (You may find mention of Jacques Cartier’s crew using pine to treat scurvy, but that appears to have been arborvitae, which is a different genus of conifer.)
I’ve seen numerous claims that the vitamin C in pine needles exceeds that in lemons and oranges, but not one of them cites their sources. One study cited in this article found differing amounts of vitamin C in different types of pine, and while some are quite high, it’s worth remembering that you’re not likely to eat 100 grams of pine needles the way you would 100 grams of orange.
Another source found that the vitamin C levels in the pine needles analyzed wasn’t very high, but consumed in pine tea they seem to have enough to help with scurvy.
However much vitamin C it contains, pine needle tea isn’t just useful for scurvy. You probably know that vitamin C plays an important role in immune system function, so it’s useful for fighting colds. Here’s a complete list of immune-boosting foods to incorporate into your diet regularly to help you stay healthier during cold and flu season.
Researchers at the University of Maine found that pine needles steeped in hot water readily released shikimic acid, one of the key ingredients in the antiviral drug Tamiflu, though of course a cup of pine needle tea will have only a tiny amount of this compound compared to a dose of Tamiflu.
You’d have to consume an awful lot of pine needle tea to take in significant amounts of these compounds. But adding an easily foraged tea to your herbal tea rotation will help you expand the range of polyphenols you get in your diet, always a good thing. And as a herbal remedy for coughs and colds, a steaming cup of pine needle tea may provide some much-needed relief. Immune-boosting elderberry tea is another great option. Here are more effective home remedies for cough.
Curious about other medicinal plants you might grow in your yard? Here are more than 45 options to consider for your medicinal herb garden.
Note: Pregnant women are advised to avoid spruce and pine tea.
IDENTIFYING PINES FOR PINE NEEDLE TEA
The first rule of foraging is ALWAYS to make a positive identification before harvesting. Though some people refer to all evergreens as pines, there are actually many different types of conifer, and not all are safe to consume.
There are over 100 species of pine in the genus pinus growing around the world, and they share an easy-to-identify feature: clusters of long needles, usually found in groups of 2-5 called fascicles.
If you find an evergreen with individual leaves coming directly out of the branch, you don’t have a pine, but likely a spruce or fir. You’ll see these used in a lot of blog posts purportedly about pine needle tea, but they’re technically making a spruce or fir tea. More than you wanted to know, perhaps, but it’s irksome when people share foraging information and don’t bother to check they’re correct. Here’s more detail on identifying spruce vs fir vs pine.
Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus, pictured above) grows widely in North America, and can be easily identified by its clusters of 5 needles, while red pines have 2 and yellow pines have 3. Count the needles on more than one cluster in case a needle has fallen from the cluster.
Here’s more on distinguishing different conifers from Iowa State Extension. This post on conifer identification from Grow Forage Cook Ferment is also very informative.
–> Always consult a good field guide for foragers or enlist a local expert so you know what you’re collecting.
Here are some of my favorite foraging books.
Since correctly identifying the specific type of pine you have can be a little tricky, this identification tool from the Arbor Day Foundation can help you distinguish exactly which pine you’ve got. Make sure it’s not one of those to avoid listed below.
If you’d like to know more about safe foraging, you might consider taking a foraging class, like the Herbal Academy’s online foraging course, which teaches plant identification and ethical wildcrafting practices.
–> Avoid the trees below when foraging for pine needle tea. Note that though some are sometimes popularly referred to as pines, they’re not actually in the same family:
- Yew Plum Pine or fern pine (Podocarpus macrophylla)
- Norfolk Pine or Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla)
- Cypress (Cupressus) (More on issues of edibility here.)
- Yew (Taxus)
Another non-pine with pine in its name is the Australian Pine (Casuarina equisetifolia). Here’s more on uses for it from Eat the Weeds.
Here’s how to identify yews and why to make sure to avoid them. This video also has a good description of what to look for to make sure you don’t accidentally harvest this poisonous plant.
A much-cited study of cattle fed large quantities of ponderosa pine found that pregnant cows were more likely to miscarry on a diet of ponderosa pine, leading to assertions that ponderosa pine is unsafe for consumption by pregnant women. Though concerns about ponderosa pine may be overblown, most experts recommend caution with many herbs in pregnancy because of the lack of safety data.
Ponderosa pines have 2-3 needles per cluster. Lodgepole or Shore Pine (Pinus contorta) also has conflicting information about its edibility, so skip it if you have concerns.
If you want to be extra-cautious, using needles from trees with 5 needles per cluster means you’ll be using only white pine for tea.
HARVESTING NEEDLES FOR PINE TEA
Once you’ve correctly identified your local pine trees, you’re ready to collect needles for your pine tea.
Harvest needles from a tree that hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals, which may mean avoiding public parks or yards where homeowners spray their lawns with herbicides.
If you’re foraging from your Christmas tree, make sure it wasn’t sprayed, as many commercial growers spray their Christmas trees.
Gather needles sparingly, as the tree needs plenty of needles to stay healthy. Take a few bunches of needles from several trees rather than lots all from one tree.
Many foragers prefer the flavor of younger needles, which you’ll find toward the end of the branches. I’ve read that the older needles may have more vitamin C, but I haven’t found any study supporting that claim.
If you don’t have ready access to a pine tree and want to collect extra when you find one, you can use dried pine needles for pine tea.
Many readers have asked about purchasing pine needles for pine tea. These sellers on Etsy ship fresh and dried pine needles.
How much pine needle to use: Some pine needle tea drinkers suggest dunking the tip of a branch into boiling water, while others suggest chopping the needles and using a couple of tablespoons per cup of water. Different trees will have different flavors, and the flavor can vary with the season as well. There isn’t just one ‘right’ way to make pine tea, so do what works for you.
You’ll likely get more out of your pine needle tea if you chop the needles to help release their medicinal compounds. I also recommend making your tea too strong and diluting it rather than using too little pine and having a weak, tasteless tea you won’t want to drink.
–>Pour freshly boiled water over needles rather than boiling your pine needles on the stovetop to preserve medicinal compounds.
I find pine needle tea lovely on its own without sweetener, but if you prefer sweeter tea, add a little honey or other sweetener to taste. Or try making this lightly sweetened pine syrup, which is helpful for soothing coughs. You can also make a pine needle tincture for a more concentrated way to extract pine needles’ benefits.
How to Make Pine Needle Tea
This simple foraged tea is a delightful and nourishing way to enjoy the flavors and benefits of pine.
- 1/3 cup chopped pine needles
- 2 cups boiled filtered water
- Optional: honey or other sweetener to taste
- Collect pine needles from trees you've positively identified as pines, and not from the trees to avoid mentioned above.
- Remove needle clusters from the branch and rinse.
- Chop or snip pine needles into small pieces, discarding the brown covering holding the needle cluster together.
- Place chopped needles in a teapot or cup and cover with freshly boiled water.
- Allow to steep 10-15 minutes, strain and enjoy.
Different pine needles will have different flavors and intensity. Add more pine needles for stronger flavor and less if you find the flavor too strong.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 2 cups (unsweetened) Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 0Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 9mgCarbohydrates: 0gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 0g
If you like foraging wild herbs for making delicious teas, here are some other ideas:
- Birch Tea
- Mulberry Tree Leaf Tea
- Elderflower Tea
- Elderberry Tea
- Dandelion Tea (from leaves, flowers, or roots)
- Ginkgo Biloba Tea
- Nettle Leaf Tea
Wondering what else you might be able to forage in your yard? You probably have a number of edible weeds like dandelions, purslane, wild violets, and creeping Charlie, as well as numerous flowers you can eat. Crab apples can be used for all sorts of things as well. Here’s what to know about how to use crab apples.
If you’re trying to make as much as you can from the plants growing in your yard, you might be interested in the leaves of the lavender plant, which can be used like their pretty flowers. Here’s what to do with lavender leaves.
Pin to save this info on how to make pine needle tea for later!
Disclaimer: I’m a health & foraging enthusiast, not a medical professional. Content on this website is intended for informational purposes only and is not meant to provide personalized medical advice. I draw on numerous health sources, some of which are linked above. Please consult them for more information and a licensed professional for personalized recommendations.
Susannah is a proud garden geek and energy nerd who loves healthy food and natural remedies. Her work has appeared in Mother Earth Living, Ensia, Northern Gardener, Sierra, and on numerous websites. Her first book, Everything Elderberry, released in September 2020 and has been a #1 new release in holistic medicine, naturopathy, herb gardening, and other categories. Find out more and grab your copy here.
Thank you for great information! I’ve collected about 20 ounces of pine needles. Is there a certain way I should store them to make tea throughout the year?
You’ll probably get the most potent pine needle tea with fresh needles foraged when you need them, but if you want to store them you could allow them to dry fully on a screen and then keep them in an airtight container. Enjoy!
Robert G McCrillis says
I live in an area with an abundance of Ponderosa Pine trees, 43 on myproperty alone. This article is beneficial to me because my spouse has received two Pfizer COVID 19 shots and I am trying my best to detox my body because of the “shedding” factor of her decision to be injected with the shots as I have made a conscious decision to NOT be injected. I have researched many natural remedies for detoxification and have found that many sources of information are recommending Pine Needle tea for detoxification. Where can I purchase Pine Needle tea without brewing it myself? Thanks.
I’m not aware of anyone selling pre-brewed tea. Some people sell dried needles, which you would then need to brew. Are you looking for needles or a bottled beverage? It’s certainly best to find fresh needles near you if possible, but if not, there are sellers on Etsy that have dried ones you can purchase.
Hi, found your site very interesting indeed – pine needle and tea.
My source of Norway spruce is quite a few miles away, so can’t go daily. Is it possible to keep twigs fresh in a jug of water for a few days/a week or would too much of the shikimic acid be lost int hat time? Trying to be economical about this 🙂 Also wondering whether to buy an ultrasonic cleaner to extract? Would love your views on that.
Thanks for anticipated reply 🙂
I doubt there’s much hard information on this, but I would think you could keep pine needles in a container in the refrigerator for a week or more. Spruce tips are kept this way for a month. Freezing would be another option. You could also make larger batches of tea at a time and keep them in the refrigerator. I’m afraid I’m not sure what you mean about using an electronic cleaner for extraction?
Thanks for your advice, fab.
If you have any further advice, I;d be grateful to receive.
`pamela Smith says
thank you so much for this information. any idea if this is ok for dogs? or anything else we can do to protect them during this vaccine shedding!
There are a number of pines on the ASPCA plants toxic to dogs list (https://www.aspca.or g/pet-care/animal-poison-control/dogs-plant-list), so I wouldn’t advise giving pine tea or other things made with any plants on their list.
I got some White Pine and Scots Pine needles from this awesome seller on Etsy – They sell them fresh instead of dried 🙂
Just thought I’d share it with you guys! 🙂 Deb
Several sellers have fresh pine needles here.
Thanks for sharing that!
I can’t see why they wouldn’t be dried by the time they got to you.
The drying process begins as soon as they are picked.
If they’re sealed in a bag and kept cool, I expect they’d stay fresh some time before beginning to dry as they would if you left them out on a drying screen. You can ask the seller, but perhaps they ship with a cool pack of some sort?
Bonjour? Je suis très intéressée par l’infusion d’aiguilles de pin blanc. Je voudrais en acheter (en vente sur le net) je n’y parviens pas.
Je suis intéressée par cette infusion car j’ai un cancer : un lymphome. Cette infusion pourrait donc m’aider à lutter (immunité, anti-oxydants, vit C….).
Pouvez-vous m’aider à en trouver à acheter en France ?
Merci pour votre réponse.
Patricia Louise Blanchet
Je suis désolé, je n’ai aucune information sur la recherche d’aiguilles de pin à vendre en France. Peut-être pouvez-vous trouver un pin et en récolter ?
So would a white fir tree or a white spruce tree have the same benefits as the white pine? Those are the two trees we have. Thanks.
I don’t believe any scientific data says for certain, but they’re all tasty and will offer you different polyphenols. I wouldn’t fret much over precisely which needles have which compounds; surely there’s a good deal of variation even within species based on climate and other growing conditions. Enjoy!
Hi! I have an Australian pine tree but I think it has dothistroma. Is it safe to make tea from these needles?
Hi Joe, I don’t think anyone has specific information on this, but since it’s a fungus I’d suggest steering clear. Perhaps you can find a healthy tree nearby instead?
Thank you so much for this wonderful article. Do you have a trusted source for “Organic Fresh white Pine 5 per cluster Needle that I can order from? Thanks
I’m sorry, I’ve only gathered them from trees myself. I would check out the reviews from these sellers on Etsy if you can’t get any locally. If you find something good, leave a comment to let others know. Thanks!
Hi, I find your article very interesting and you did a great job in explaining the Pine Needle Tea. I am somewhat confused as to whether I can use Ponderosa Pine needles. I have several of these on my property and would love to be able to harvest and use these! Is the White Pine needles the only ones that contain the Shikamic Acid?
I’m afraid I’m not aware of a study detailing the amount of shikamic acid in different types of pine. As explained in the post, there are some concerns about the safety of Ponderosa pines, especially during pregnancy, so most sources suggest avoiding them. Read the linked sources and then decide whether you feel comfortable using Ponderosa pine for tea.
Ambrozine Jolly says
Thank you for the information about the white pine tea. However I have these questions….
(1) how often should I drink this tea.
(2) can it be made and stored in the refrigerator.
Thank you for your quick respons
There’s no right answer to your question about how often to drink pine tea. Consuming foods and drinks rich in polyphenols each day is a good idea, so drink nutritious teas as you like as part of a healthy diet. You can store it in the refrigerator for a few days before it may start to turn and taste a little off. Enjoy!
Christel Leger says
Thank you for the info; very useful!
Quick question – Can I add the pine needles into a tea bag?
Certainly, using a tea bag would be fine, but the needles might be a bit of a nuisance to get in. I like using a tea pot and strainer, which makes brewing loose tea a snap and cuts packaging waste. Some great options here, and more tea-brewing gear suggestions in my guide for tea gifts. However you choose to make it, hope you enjoy your pine tea!
I purchased pine tree needle tea from Amazon. No taste whatsoever! No hint of anything. I cut open the square bag it came in, dumped the very small needles in my cup and poured boiling water over it. Strained the needles. Let it set/steeped for 14 minutes. Still no taste. Is it supposed to be this bland? Thank you
Sorry to hear it, Nancy! No, it’s not supposed to be bland — pine needle tea tastes piney! So perhaps what you got was really old and had lost its flavor. I’ve only used the fresh needles I can get myself, and tea made from them has plenty of flavor. Best to collect fresh; if you can’t I guess read others’ reviews carefully to find a quality source. Lots of sellers on Etsy sell fresh needles (see links in post). Hope you find something better!
I have just gone foraging in our beautiful forest and brought home an abundant white pine needles and was wondering if I could dehydrate the needles in my dehydrator to preserve and send to friends..
Would this still give you the benefits ?
Your friends are so lucky! Yes, you can dehydrate pine needles like you would other herbs. Do it at a very low heat, 95 F or so. They will retain many of their compounds, though they’re likely not as rich in them as fresh. Here are more details on lb tea photos? that might help. Enjoy!
Larry Wilson says
I live in Florida, and many slash pines proliferate. Is it safe to make tea from slash pines?
I’m afraid I don’t have any information on that particular pine, which did not come up in my research and about which there’s little on the interwebs. It comes up in the Native American Ethnobotany database, but not the needles. I would try to find a local foraging expert before trying. Sorry not to be able to tell you for sure!
Susan Marie Snider says
Better than expected! Sooooo soothing and calming. Very good! Alot of work to cut off the part that keeps the 5 needles together, but so worth it! I just cut up a bunch and then have it ready to steep every day.
Brandy Mercer says
Hi are you on Tiktok??
Alas, no, I’m not on TikTok. Hope you enjoy your pine needle tea!
Hi, thank you for the info, very useful indeed! I apprecaite you’re probably a very busy woman, but if I emailed you a photo of the pine I found can you give your opinion please, I think it’s white pine, as I counted 5 needles, but I’d love your opinion please..
I just checked and I’m afraid I haven’t gotten an email from you, but if your cluster has 5 needles, you should have a white pine.
Kevin harnish says
Hello Susannah. Thank you for all the information. I have one question how any times a day if feeling sick do I take? Thank you!
Hi Kevin, I don’t think there’s any definitive guideline on frequency, but sipping some hot tea when you’re feeling under the weather may make you feel better and help with congestion. If you’re looking for something with some data behind it for fighting viruses, you might consider elderberry, which has been shown to shorten the duration and severity of colds and flu. More info here if you want to know more. Stay well!
Cynthia McDonald says
Great information for Eastern White Pine needles. I’m curious if you also make tinctures and salves from your EWP needles. If making a tincture, do you think using the fine branches in the alcohol based tincture as well as the needles is alright?
Thanks for your help.
Good question! I don’t personally make tinctures or salves with pine needles, but if I were making a tincture, I’d probably only use the needles, as that’s where the medicinal compounds are concentrated. You’d want to chop them finely first to help them release these compounds. Let me know how it goes!
Good evening Susannah. Thank you for the information on the pine needle tea. I have made it in the past and it is worth the work. I did want to ask if you think it would be ok to make a batch and either can it or vacuum seal it and freeze it. I know the fresher the better but I was going to make this for a friend and not sure if she will be able to make it for herself right now. Thanks in advance for the advice.
Freezing it should be fine, and if it’s used soon (rather than months from now), it should retain most of its compounds. When I was researching my book on elderberries, I came across studies showing medicinal compounds decreased significantly in some varieties after 3 months (though some varieties held onto them much longer). My guess is that frozen pine needle tea should behave similarly in the freezer, and if used in a month or two would still be worth drinking. I’m afraid I’m not a canner, so I’m not able to speak to that. Steeping needles in water is pretty easy, though, so perhaps you could also just bring your friend some needles already prepped for the teapot?
Linda Blackburn says
My neighbor has beautiful, healthy white pines (5 needles) and allows me to pick fresh! Even though the needles are fresh and I chop them up finely after removing the cluster part, my tea is very bland, colorless, odorless, and tasteless. I boil filtered water then steep for 10-15 min. What could I be doing wrong?
Sorry to hear it, Linda! I’ve had this happen on occasion with spruce needles from my tree. I expect it has something to do with the time of year. I would just double the amount of pine needle you use and see if the flavor is better, and also try at different times. Alternatively, you could try simmering them on the stove, but you will likely destroy some of their beneficial compounds. Let me know how it goes!
Thank you in advance, for your help
I have a blue spice in my yard, would that work?
Assume you mean spruce? 😉 Here’s a post all about spruce tea!