Pine needle tea has significant amounts of vitamin C, vitamin A, and flavonoids that make it a citrusy flavoured tonic drink to forage in winter. It has been shown in studies to contain antiviral and anticoagulant actions, as well as offering respiratory support. While there are many ways to make pine needle tea the simplest is to extract its benefits in hot water by making a tea.
As I type this I’m sitting with a steamy cup of pine needle tea, unsweetened, on the desk beside my computer. The fragrance reminds me of winter holidays, walking in the woods in summer, when the needles are baking in the strong sun, and harvesting food in our forest garden under the pine needle mulch. It’s a homey fragrance, rich in grounding memories as well as health benefits. Pine grows abundantly around me in the conifer forests of the dry southern interior of BC, where I live. Pine is my herb of the month, as I study one herb at a time.
Pine needle tea has a citrusy flavour with a hint of resin. The flavour depends upon the pine or confers tree you harvest the needles from. Nibble on a few needles from several pine trees before you harvest and pick the tastiest for your tea. Save the more resinous flavoured needles for making pine infused cleaning products. Use the citrusy flavoured needles for tea and herbs in cooking. Drinking pine needle tea is a way to get to know your local conifer resources and build your local herbal knowledge with hands-on experience. The best kind of learning.
Vitamin C is a vital nutrient necessary for health. It is a water-soluble vitamin with many benefits. See this post on the benefits of vitamin C. Pine needles have 4 times as much vitamin C as freshly squeezed orange juice. However, they don’t have quite as much vitamin C as rosehips. But pine needles come with other health benefits, too. Pine needles are also high in vitamin A.
Health benefits of pine needle tea
The needles from pine trees and other conifers have many health benefits. If you are coughing, pine needles can help to make the cough more productive. They relieve congestion. They also support the immune system to do its job recovering from viruses and infections. Pine is high in antioxidant flavonoids including anthocyanins.
A 2011 Korean study demonstrated using pine needles in tea was the best way to access the antioxidant benefits from pine needles. Pine needles contain shikimic acid, an antiviral precursor to the drug Tamiflu. Some other benefits that pine needles share with other conifer species:
- Improves circulation
- Reduces clotting
- Relieves nervous exhaustion and fatigue
- Relieves sore muscles
Pine needle tea is one way to enjoy the benefits that your local conifers have to offer. Pine needle tea is rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants however, before you plan to drink a mug of this natural vitamin C supplement, there are a few things you should understand.
Be cautious drinking pine needle tea if:
Some species of pine have been known to cause abortion in pregnant cattle, so if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant soon, avoid using pine needle tea out of an abundance of caution. Particularly avoid ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), as cattle drinking water under these trees have been reported to have a higher rate of miscarriage.
The diuretic actions of pine needle tea can be irritating to the bladder. If you are taking prescription medication check with your health professional before drinking pine needle tea regularly. Pine needle tea can lower the amount of other drugs circulating in your blood.
Some conifers can be toxic so make an identification of the specific species before using it in this recipe. Avoid yew, cypress, and Norfolk pine and Norfolk Island Pine as they are reported to be toxic. Also avoid hemlock trees and poison hemlock, if it is in your area.
How to Make Pine Needle Tea
- Prep Time: 5 minutes.
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 15 minutes
- Yield: 1 cup 1x
Pine needle tea is a vitamin C and antioxidant rich tissane that is tonic and restorative in winter, with 4 times the vitamin C of fresh squeezed orange juice. It should be avoided, however by pregnant mothers and those who plan to become pregnant.
- 2 tablespoons fresh pine needles
- 1 cup boiled, hot water
- Honey to taste
- Remove the fresh, unblemished pine needles from the pine branches. Rinse the needles in cold water.
- Using herb scissors or a sharp knife, cut the pine needles into smaller pieces. Discard the brown scale that joins the needles to the brand.
- Place the pine needles in a tea strainer. Place the tea strainer in a mug. Pour boiled water into the mug, over the pine needles. Cover to inhibit the volatile oil from escaping in the steam. Steep for 5 minutes.
- Remove the strainer from the mug. Add honey to sweeten the pine needle tea.
- Drink while warm.
The needles of some species of pine can cause abortion in pregnant animals, including humans. Avoid drinking or eating pine needles if you are pregnant.
Making Pine needle Tea:
- After identifying a safe pine variety, like lodgepole pine, or go with a nice douglas fir, harvest a few small branches, the tenderer the better.
- Rinse the branches and remove the needles from the stems. Chop the needles lightly, and put into a sieve.
- Pour just boiling water over them, or boil them in water and strain. Let steep for at least 5 minutes, covered.
- Add lemon juice and honey to improve the flavor. Enjoy.
Pine Needle Tea
The plant family Pinaceae covers pine, spruce, fir, cypress, cedar, juniper, and other conifers. When speaking of pine needle tea, many people will assume this refers to any plant within the Pinaceae family. So look beyond pine trees and also consider spruce, fir, and cedar as candidates for a daily cup of tea. All these have high amounts of vitamin C and vitamin A as well as other antioxidants that can help you stay healthy in a long winter.
Get a good field guide for your region though, before you head out on a foraging hike. Some trees are potentially toxic and should be avoided. Spruce and fir trees are safe and in my opinion, have a nicer flavour with a less resinous quality than pine or cedar. The flavour also varies between individual trees even within the same species. So nibble as you hike. But avoid yew, Norfolk pine, and some cypress trees.
Shikimic Acid in Pine Needles
In addition, shikimic acid derived zeylenone displays anticancer, antiviral and antibiotic behavior, and triacetylshikimic acid exhibits anticoagulant and antithrombotic activity. (source)
Shikimic Acid is the precursor used in the production of Tamiflu, a prescription drug used in the treatment of H1N1, swine flu, and avian flu. It is generally extracted from star anise spice. It can also be extracted from fennel seeds or pine, fir, or spruce needles. Researchers at the University of Tasmania developed a technique using a home espresso machine to extract shikimic acid from star anise, inexpensively. While their experiment extracted shikimic acid using alcohol and water (75% vodka and 25% water), under heat and pressure. Shikimic acid is water soluble and can be extracted using water alone.
Should you use fresh pine needles or dried pine needles?
To extract the most antioxidants and vitamin C, needles should be fresh, or freshly dried with a green color and fresh evergreen scent. If you plan to use a home espresso machine to extract your pine needle tea, grind the fresh needles briefly in a vitamix jar or Blendtec blender, until they are coarsely ground. Do not over process. Freeze unused portions of ground pine needles to preserve their antioxidants.
How to extract Pine Tea using a Moka Pot
I found that a stove top “Moka” pot makes a stronger pine tea, while the rapid extraction preserves antioxidants, volatile oils, and color, evidence of flavonoids. Use 1/4 cup of coarsely ground pine needles in the filter basket of a 6 cup Moka pot. Fill the lower chamber with filtered water. Place on the stove top on medium heat, as per Moka pot manufacturers instructions. In a standard 6 cup Moka pot you’ll have 3 servings of concentrated pine tea.
Use 1/2 cup of this strong pine tea in your mug and then top up with water. Sweeten with local wildflower honey, to taste. Drink warm or cold.
You can keep unused portions of this concentrated pine tea in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Does pine needle tea contain Suramin?
Dr. Judy Mikovits did not say that Suramin can be found in Pine Needles. She was misquoted. Suramin is a 100 year old World Health Organization chemical drug. Suramin is not found in Pine Needles. You can hear Dr. Judy Mikovits testimony here (9:40 minute mark).
Pine needle tea is a natural source of vitamin C, flavonoids, and polyphenols and is a good choice to maintain good health.
Hi i just new to white pine that I bought.and I making tea..another persons post I was on said to boil it 20 minutes and I did..is it safe to drink? Your saying just to steep it.thanks
Thanks, Chris. I had a reader asking about pine needle tea and appreciated being able to direct her to your site.
Nancy Marciante says
The shortleaf pine is the only true native pine tree in Missouri. Do youor anyone else reading this know if it is safe to make tea from its pine needles?
I have a ton of loblolly pines that are mature and organic. I also have sweetgums. I have heard or read that loblolly and sweet gum also contain Shikimic Acid. Can you give me the step by step directions to extract the Shikimic Acid from a expresso machine. I know some people using ethanol and methanol but I dont want to use those. I know there has to be a way to extract it organically and dry it out to create the shikimic acid to put in capsules to store exact mg amounts to be used as medicine from home as needed. I f you know or know where can find in simple language and process instructions start to finish it would be very helpful.
Joybilee Farm says
Linda, you’d need lab equipment to precipitate the shikimic acid out of the liquid and then purify it. Plus you’d need standards to compare your results to standardized shikimic acid to see how strong your shikimic acid is. Its not possible to do this in a normal household kitchen with household kitchen equipment. Also do you know that shikimic acid, removed from the other bioflavonoids in pine is safe to use? Generally when we are talking about herbal remedies there is a synergistic effect of all the constituents working together in the plant to bring health. When you remove one part of the whole sometimes there are unexpected negative effects.
Loblolly pine needles are possibly poisonous to humans and not recommended for consumption
This is miseducation that has spread throughout the internet. I have been drinking tea from Loblolly and Longleaf pine trees for years with zero negative effects. Yew trees, Ponderosa Pine, Norfolk Pine should all be avoided, though.
Where can I go to scientifically confirm what you said, that loblolly Pine needles are safe to make tea from, since there are many sites that say they are toxic. I only ask because I have a nice Loblolly pine next to my yard I could use. I don’t mean any offense at all. 🙂
Hello, I’d like to add to this question. I too was wanting to confirm safety of Loblolly. In my research I found all online claims the Loblolly is toxic referred to or copied from a single article on SurvivalResources.com
So I emailed them to inquire and asked if they could provide me with the source(s) they used in their research. I sent them this:
“I came across the article on your web site about pine needle tea, in which you mentioned that the Loblolly Pine needles are toxic. I was wondering if you had a source for that, or any further information? I am researching it and have found conflicting info. A number of other sites claim it is safe, except for pregnant women since it contains phytoestrogens that could lead to miscarriage. ”
To which they replied,
“When we did the research for that article, we came across a few sources that declared Loblolly Pine as toxic. To err on the side of safety, I would personally not use it for tea.”
I then replied,
“Thanks for the response. After quite a bit of searching, your site was the only source I could find to say that it was toxic. Do you happen to have links or references to any of the other sources you referred to in your research? ”
Take this for what it’s worth, but it’s the only original source I’ve found for the claim of Loblolly toxicity and they’re unable to cite their sources.
Minyon davis says
Needed to know the kinds of trees not to use. You answered my questions! Thank you.
Johanna Verbiest says
I would like to know if the Pinus cembra, also known as Swiss pine, Swiss stone pine or Arolla pine or Austrian stone pine or just Stone pine, is a species of pine tree that grows in the Alps is one of the pines which may be used
S Morr says
So I am really unclear as to how u make this pine needle tea since there is so much “advice” on here. The first thing I read was to boil it 20 min then let it sit 20 min before drinking. Another says ‘never let it boil’. ??????? I am in a state of confusion & really need to try this for a bad cough. What to do???
Joybilee Farm says
Simmer it for 20 minutes to make a decoction (not boil but simmer). OR just steep it like you would a tea bag. Either is fine. It depends on what constituents you are hoping to extract. If you simmer it you will get more of the flavonoids and antioxidants. If you just steep it you’ll get more vitamin C. Right now I’m using a Mokka pot to make mine, chopping the needles fine, and then putting them in the filter basket of the mokka pot and pushing the water through the needles at a moderate pressure — this is to extract more of the flavonoids and polyphenols.
Carol L says
I don’t use a mokka pot as they are made from aluminum, which it not healthy for you. Can a French Press be used to do this to extract the flavonoids and polyphenols? If not which other type of appliance would work to do this? I have just about every type of coffee maker there is…LOL!
Joybilee Farm says
Hi, Carol. Yes you could use a French Press. My Mokka pot is stainless steel. There are a couple of Bialetti moka pots that are stainless steel including the Kitty model. The 2 stainless steel Moka pots I have are from Ikea. They never wear out. One advantage of the Mokka pot is that it forces the steam through the pine needles at a low pressure which does extract more of the constituents without harming the antioxidants.
If I want to purchase pine needle tea – which one is best?
Has anybody tried Mugo pine? I have one I need to trim, but I’m a little afraid it could be toxic. If you survived, I’ll try it. : )
Great article, Thank you!
I do enjoy my White Pine tea with a small pinch of Hibiscus and a bit of organic orange peel.
Regarding Vit. A. It’s a Fat Soluble Vitamin, it requires a little fat to access it. I’m not thrilled with the fats I’ve tried so far, whole milk works the best for me
Pine Needle tea with honey and milk, great way to relax after a trying day!
I use raw heavy cream in my tea on a daily basis. It makes everything wonderful 🙂
Could the pine needles also be used in the bath. Seems like it could. I’m drinking loblolly pine needle tea in Alabama.
I personally would NOT want the needles in my bath and sticking to everything. Plus, it would take a lot of work to prepare enough needles to get the benefits to fill a bathtub.
Thank you for the instructions. It’s just what I was looking for.
I’m interested in homesteading, herbs, gardening, and DIY projects. I’ve begun planting a large variety of perennial edibles that are easy to grow in Central Florida – EASY is top priority!
I look forward to exploring the rest of your site for more useful info.
Mark ONeill says
boiling is probably too hot. vitamin c and the associated compounds will break down under extreme heat. Use just warm water.
Vitamin C is ok up to boiling point. You don’t boil the tea, you just pour boiling water over the leaves.
Hello, last night we used about 3/4 cup of evergreen needles (we believe spruce) and poured 1/2 gallon of boiling water over them. Let steep for an hour. Then we strained it and put it in a stainless steel container. When we returned home the plan was to put it in mason jars and put it in the refrigerator, but I forgot and it set out all night. It was still a little warm and the color is much darker. After it has steeped an hour it qas mostly clear, but now it is a medium dark amber color even though there were no needles sitting in it. How do I know if it is safe yo drink? How long can you keep it in the refrigerator safely as well. Thank you!
Joybilee Farm says
If it was in a thermos it is probably fine. I would only keep it for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator. But you can freeze it in ice cubes for longer storage.
I believe the water is just supposed to be steaming. Actually boiling the water can destroy some of the antioxidant elements and vitamin C. The boiling water may also bring out a bitter taste.
What about new growth vs. old growth also I missed the answer regarding dried pine needles.
After looking up a few articles, I am trying my first cup of spruce needle tea! This article says that older growth has a higher vitamin C content. I hope that helps!
Rod McGough says
I kind of have the same question as Sussane…, are there still any health benefits from the pine needles once dried for future use? As I write this there’s a couple Amazon ads on your page selling the dried needles for tea.
Where did you get your tea strainer? So cute!
Hi, I noticed on your instagram the picture of lodgepole pine and referred back to your blog. Is this the post you were referring to? You mentioned it is the “tea tree of Canada” so I was looking for a post specifically on lodgepole but didn’t find one.
My children love making fir needle tea but we haven’t used pine as much. I tried collecting and drying some white pine because I read it was so good for coughs and I don’t have access to white pine all the time but it dried into an unappealing brown. I’m assuming fresh is best since it is an evergreen. =)
Thank you for all you share!
Since 1995 I have been taking pycnogenol and/or pine bark extract in capsules. I never knew I was probably taking suramin in capsule form. I never get sick!