Last Updated on November 4, 2022
Pine syrup is a tasty cocktail ingredient or home remedy for coughs made from foraged pine needles. Here’s what to know about making homemade pine needle syrup and safe foraging practices. Read on to learn about two easy-to-make pine syrup recipes.
WHAT IS PINE SYRUP?
If you landed on this page from a google search, you may have noticed that “pine syrup” means lots of different things to different people.
One site purporting to share a recipe for pine syrup actually calls for spruce or fir needles. Not sure how to distinguish pine from spruce or fir? Here’s an explanation of how to tell spruce vs fir vs pine so you can confidently (and correctly!) identify your local conifers.
Other recipes actually using pine may call for needles (so pine needle syrup if you want to be technical) or young pine cones, to make pine cone syrup. Some people use the young spring growth of pine trees to make pine bud syrup.
And in case you were wondering: Pine syrup is not made from cooked-down sap like maple syrup. It’s made by steeping whatever part of the pine tree you choose and adding a sweetener of choice.
Since the buds and young cones are only available for a short period each year, we’re going to focus here on using the needles, which you can forage all year round. You’ll find two pine needle syrup recipe options below.
Some pine syrup recipes are meant for cocktails and others for coughs. If what you want is a pine simple syrup for cocktails, you’ll combine sugar and water and then steep the pine needles in it.
Pine cough syrup is made by steeping the needles in water first, straining, and then sweetening with honey. This post will cover what you need to know to make whichever type of pine syrup you prefer.
FORAGING PINE FOR PINE SYRUP / PINE NEEDLE SYRUP
Conifers provide so many fun foraging opportunities, whether it’s spruce tips in spring (spruce tip recipes here) or pine needle tea or spruce tea made from needles at any time of year. They’re just some of the many medicinal trees you can harvest from around your neighborhood.
The number one rule of foraging is to ALWAYS positively identify your plant. There are some toxic evergreen trees that people who aren’t paying attention call pines simply because they’re evergreens. Make absolutely sure you’ve got the right plant before harvesting!
There are over 100 species of pine in the genus pinus, sharing a useful identification feature: clusters of long needles, commonly growing in groups of 2-5 bound where it meets the branch with a papery brown covering.
If you’ve got an evergreen with individual needles growing directly out of the branch, you’ve likely found a spruce or fir tree. You can find more information on identifying pine plus helpful photos in this post on pine needle tea.
Whenever you forage, consult a good field guide or local expert so you’re absolutely certain you’re collecting the right plant.
These are some of my favorite foraging books to add to your reference library.
This identification tool from the Arbor Day Foundation may help you identify different trees. A plant identification app like PlantNet can be helpful as well, though it’s best to confirm using a detailed description.
Want to learn more about safe foraging? Consider taking a foraging class, like the Herbal Academy’s online foraging course, covering plant identification, ethical wildcrafting practices, and much more.
–> Some toxic trees to avoid:
- Yew (Taxus)
- Norfolk Pine or Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla)
- Yew Plum Pine or fern pine (Podocarpus macrophylla)
- Cypress (Cupressus) (More on issues of edibility here.)
Here’s how to identify toxic yews and why you want to make sure to avoid them. This video also explains what to look for so you don’t accidentally harvest yew. Professor Waterson has other videos on conifer identification here.
An often-cited study of cattle fed large amounts of ponderosa pine found that pregnant cows miscarried more often on a diet of ponderosa pine, leading to warnings that ponderosa pine is unsafe for pregnant humans. Though these concerns may be overblown, most experts recommend erring on the side of caution with many herbs in pregnancy because of the lack of safety data.
HOW TO USE PINE SYRUP
Once you’ve made your pine needle syrup, what to do with it? Note that pine syrup is quite thin, not the consistency of what we think of as “syrup” unless you add a thickener or use so much honey you won’t be able to taste much pine.
The pine needle syrup recipe below uses much less honey than most other pine syrup recipes, which lets the pine flavor shine through rather than be overpowered by the honey. You can add more honey if you like. It will make the honey flavor stronger and make the pine syrup a tiny bit thicker.
Suggested ways to use pine needle syrup:
- As a cough syrup. Pine is one of many herbs for cough, and combined with honey, it’s great for soothing irritated throats. Here are many more home remedies for cough to try.
- In homemade vinaigrettes
- In ice cream or sorbet for a yummy dessert with foraged flavor
- As an unusual cocktail mix-in
Note: If you like the idea of pine in your cocktail but don’t want all the sugar of a syrup, you can also make a pine-infused vodka. Simply cover pine needles with vodka till completely submerged and allow to steep 6 weeks, shaking occasionally.
USEFUL EQUIPMENT FOR MAKING PINE NEEDLE SYRUP
All you need to make pine needle syrup is pine needles, hot water, and sweetener, but some helpful tools can take your pine syrup recipe up a notch.
Most important: An effective water filter. Municipal water supplies contain scores of unregulated chemicals you’re best off avoiding! Here’s what to know about choosing a quality water filter. (Most popular filters do not remove dozens of these chemicals.)
Some other tools to help with your pine needle syrup making:
Can’t forage pine needles in your area? These Etsy sellers ship both fresh and dried pine needles.
You can find many more suggestions for awesome green living gear on my recommended products page.
PINE SYRUP RECIPE
- 3/4 cup chopped pine needles
- 1/2 cup boiled filtered water
- 1 tablespoon honey (more can be added if desired)
To make a honey-sweetened pine syrup (best for coughs or for food uses where a strong honey flavor is OK):
- Place chopped pine needles in a teapot or mason jar and cover with freshly boiled filtered water.
- If you prefer, you can bring the water to a boil in a saucepan, turn off the heat, add the needles, and cover.
- For stronger flavor, you can simmer the needles for a few minutes, but heat will destroy some of the vitamin C and possibly other medicinal compounds.
- Allow to steep for 2 to 3 hours. Taste the liquid before adding the honey. It should have a strong pine flavor. Needles from different pines release their flavor more or less readily, so if your pine syrup doesn't have much flavor, simmer briefly and allow to cool again.
- Strain out needles and mix in honey. Stir till dissolved. Taste and add more honey if desired.
Pine simple syrup for cocktails:
For a cocktail mix-in, a flavored simple syrup with sugar may work better than one with honey. I recommend springing for organic sugar.
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4-1/2 cup pine needles, chopped
- Dissolve sugar in water and bring to boil. Remove from heat and put in pine needles to steep for 2-12 hours. Longer steep times should impart more flavor to the syrup.
- Strain and bottle.
- Store in the refrigerator for up to a month.
The honey-sweetened pine needle syrup recipe makes a small amount of pine syrup and can be doubled or tripled if more is wanted. It's so quick and simple to make, though, I prefer to make just as much as needed for immediate use.
Pine syrup is not shelf stable and must be kept in the refrigerator. You can also freeze some in an ice cube tray to have on hand when you need it.
If using pine syrup to soothe a cough, a spoonful every few hours should help. You can also dissolve it in tea or hot water and sip slowly to soothe an irritated throat. This method also works with delicious homemade elderberry syrup.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 tablespoon
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 8Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 0gSugar: 2gProtein: 0g
Nutritional information was auto-generated based on serving size, number of servings, and typical information for the ingredients listed. To obtain the most accurate representation of the nutritional information in a given recipe, please calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients and amounts used, using your preferred nutrition calculator. Under no circumstances shall this website or author be responsible for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on the given nutritional information. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate and complete.
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Pine needle syrup recipe photo credits: piotr_malczyk, jstankiewiczwitek
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.