Last Updated on February 23, 2023
Want to enjoy the benefits of pine but need a break from pine needle tea? Try tincturing white pine needles (or other edible pine needles) for an easy way to access pine’s benefits anytime. Here’s what to know about how to make pine needle tincture and pine needle tincture benefits.
This simple extract made from white pine needles can sell for up to $20 per ounce, but you can make it for a fraction of the cost.
WHAT IS PINE NEEDLE TINCTURE?
If you’ve never made tinctures before, it may sound like something you have to study to make, but in fact a tincture is simply an herb (in this case pine) that’s steeped in alcohol for several weeks.
You get different compounds from plants when you steep them in different solvents. When you extract them in water, we call it tea, in alcohol we call it tincture. You can also steep herbs in vinegar to make herbal vinegars or in glycerin to make an alcohol-free version of tincture called a glycerite. Oil and honey are other liquids sometimes used to extract herbs.
According to the Herbal Academy,
Using a solvent like alcohol, vinegar, or glycerin, you can extract a greater spectrum of the whole plant and preserve the medicine much longer than an infusion or a decoction. Alcohol is especially an excellent solvent that extracts a wide range of plant properties and allows for easy absorption of healing compounds into the bloodstream.
Pine needle tincture is made by steeping pine needles in alcohol for about a month to extract their beneficial compounds. We typically use white pine needles for pine needle tincture, though you can use other types of edible pine needles as well.
If you prefer to avoid alcohol, you can use vinegar or glycerin, though they will extract slightly different compounds.
PINE NEEDLE TINCTURE BENEFITS
Pine is a rich source of polyphenols, plant compounds that support health in a variety of ways. Antioxidants in pine needles help combat oxidative stress, which can lower the risk of numerous chronic diseases. If you want to know more about research into pine needles’ antioxidant capacities, this study and this one are worth reading.
Pine needles have been used by herbalists and native peoples for centuries. Modern research has explored the compounds in pine needles that help to explain their benefits to health. Pine needles’ medicinal uses include:
- pain reliever
- expectorant (why pine needles are considered a helpful herb for cough)
One study exploring the benefits of pine needles reported 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.”
Making a pine needle tincture extracts these beneficial compounds into a long-lasting herbal remedy that’s easy to keep on hand for when you want it.
FORAGING WHITE PINE FOR PINE NEEDLE TINCTURE
One of the coolest things about using pine needles medicinally is how easy it is to source these useful herbal ingredients. Not only are they readily available all over the world, unlike so many of our short-lived foraging favorites, pine needles are in season all year round. For those of living where the growing season is a distant memory by the end of October and won’t begin again till late April, that’s a pretty big deal!
Just to be clear: we’re talking here about pine needles, not any evergreen needle. While some other conifer needles are also medicinally useful, some are quite poisonous, and it’s important you know how to identify pines correctly. Here’s how to tell spruce vs fir vs pine, which are often confused.
Conifers like pine and spruce provide foraging opportunities at all times of year, whether it’s spring’s tender spruce tips (here are spruce tip recipes if you’re curious) or spruce tea or pine tea made from older needles. Even the cones of many conifers can be eaten! Here’s what to know about edible pine cones.
There are many more wild herbs and medicinal trees you can probably find growing in your neighborhood, including ginkgo (leaves used in ginkgo biloba tea) and mulberry (which produces both yummy edible mulberries and mulberry leaf tea).
–> It’s vital you ALWAYS positively identify any plant you intend to forage. Though some people call all evergreens pines, some are quite toxic and need to be avoided.
The genus pinus includes more than 100 species, sharing a feature that will help with identification: Look for clusters of long needles growing in groups usually of 2-5 bound with a papery brown covering where the cluster attaches to the branch. White pine is most commonly used for making pine needle tincture. White pines have 5 needles per cluster, while red pines have 2 and yellow have 3. Scots pines have thicker needles that come in pairs.
If you find an evergreen with individual needles growing directly out of the branch, you may have a spruce or fir tree. Be sure to consult a good field guide or local expert so you’re absolutely certain you’ve got the right plant.
These are some of my favorite foraging books to add to your reference library.
Learn more about safe foraging with a foraging class, like the Herbal Academy’s online foraging course, which covers plant identification, ethical wildcrafting, and much more.
–> Some toxic trees to know and avoid:
- Yew (Taxus)
- Yew Plum Pine or fern pine (Podocarpus macrophylla)
- Norfolk Pine or Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla)
- Cypress (Cupressus) (More on cypress edibility here.)
Here’s how to identify yews and why to be sure to avoid them. This video goes over what to look for so you don’t mistake yew for edible conifer species. Find additional videos on conifer identification here.
SUPPLIES NEEDED FOR PINE NEEDLE TINCTURE
- Pine needles freshly harvested from trees positively identified as edible pines
- Glass jar (amber glass jars are helpful for blocking light, but not necessary if you keep your tincturing jar in a cabinet)
- Fine mesh sieve
- High proof alcohol (minimum 40%, or 80 proof), typically vodka, though you can also use grain alcohol
- Amber or blue bottles with droppers (like these or these)
- Cheesecloth can help strain out any tiny pieces of plant material, making a longer-lasting finished product
I like to use organic vodka produced by a local distiller, available in many midwestern liquor stores. You’re making medicinal extracts in very small amounts, so it’s nice to get the cleaner stuff if you can. A basic vodka or grain alcohol can work as well, though don’t get the cheapest vodka out there or it will affect the flavor of your finished pine tincture.
Of course, do not use rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol), which should never be taken internally.
If you prefer to make a non-alcoholic extract, you can steep your pine needles in vinegar (great for salad dressings!) or vegetable glycerin rather than vodka.
HOW TO MAKE PINE NEEDLE TINCTURE
We’re going to use the folk method for making this pine tincture, which means using rough measurements so you can use any jar you like. You may want to make just a small amount of pine extract to see if you wind up using it before wasting a lot of good vodka on a giant batch. Though if you or someone you know is into cocktails, this pine needle extract can also be used as a cocktail ingredient.
PINE NEEDLE TINCTURE RECIPE
- Needles from a positively identified edible pine tree
- High-proof alcohol (minimum 80% or 40 proof), typically vodka, organic if possible); you can also use vinegar or vegetable glycerin if you prefer to avoid alcohol
1. Rinse pine needles to remove dirt or insects and allow to dry on a clean kitchen towel.
2. Chop pine needles (I find it easiest to snip them with scissors) into small pieces in order to expose as much surface area as possible.
3. Place your prepared pine needles in a clean, dry jar and cover with alcohol (or vinegar or glycerin) to an inch above the needles.
4. Cover the jar with a lid and seal tightly. Place in a cabinet for 4 to 6 weeks, giving it a shake every few days. Be sure pine needles are completely submerged in liquid.
5. After 4 to 6 weeks, layer cheesecloth in a sieve and strain the infused alcohol into a bowl.
6. Squeeze out all the liquid you can and discard the needles.
7. Allow the tincture to settle for about 24 hours and if necessary strain again through a coffee filter to remove any additional sediment.
8. Use a funnel to fill tincture bottles and label them with the contents and date.
Stored in a cool, dark place, pine needle tincture will last for several years.
Here’s more on the shelf life of herbal preparations from the Herbal Academy.
A word about the time for steeping pine needle tincture: Rico Cech says that you can use herbal tinctures after only 2 to 3 weeks, though the standard recommendation is 4 to 6 weeks. If you happen to forget your tincture in the cabinet for longer than 6 weeks, I’ve been told by other herbalists that it’s still fine to strain and use.
Putting your end date on a calendar or setting a reminder on your phone can help you remember to decant your finished tincture.
HOW TO USE PINE NEEDLE TINCTURE
Guidelines for using herbal preparations such as pine needle tincture can vary quite widely. You’ll often find directions to take an entire dropperful of tincture multiple times per day, sometimes diluted in water or tea. Other herbalists recommend just a few drops under the tongue.
Rico Cech suggests taking tinctures separate from other food and drink to maximize absorption of the herb.
One thing to consider is how much alcohol you’ll wind up consuming, especially if you’re taking multiple tinctures. If that’s a concern for you, I highly recommend making additional extracts with vinegar so you can enjoy them in salad dressings or in oxymels and not have to worry about doing the equivalent of a shot or two next time you’re trying to fight off a cold with elderberry tincture, elderflower tincture, and pine needle tincture.
For tailoring your dosage to your own specific needs, consult a qualified herbal professional.
Now that you know how to make this easy pine needle tincture, go find yourself a pine tree and enjoy some potent homemade medicine. Leave a comment if you do to let me know what you think.
Save this pine needle tincture recipe for later!
Disclaimer: I’m a health 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.