If you’re looking for something a little different for your daily cup of tea, you might try looking in your own backyard. Pine needle tea is a delicious foraged tea that you can gather from the trees in your surrounding area, and it provides a variety of associated health benefits.
Pine needle tea is a foraged tea brewed from the fresh needles of a pine tree, traditionally Manchurian red pine. Pine needle tea originated in Korea but is enjoyed by survivalists all over the world. This tea has a pleasant flavor and fragrance as well as medicinal benefits.
Pine needle tea is often one of the first foraged foods a survivalist ends up collecting and making for themselves, so it’s a great introduction to brewing teas and tisanes where you’ve gathered your own ingredients. Read on to learn more about making pine needle tea and why you should try it for yourself.
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What Is Pine Needle Tea?
Pine needle tea is a type of tisane created by steeping fresh cut pine needles in boiling or very hot water until the nutritional essence of the needles is brewed into the water. Since pine needles are considered a nutritious source of food in the wild, pine needle tea can help you stay alive in the wilderness if you find yourself stuck without other food sources.
Native Americans in North America have long known to harvest pine needles and pine bark (both outer and inner bark) for medicinal uses.
Where Does Pine Needle Tea Come From?
Pine needle tea is an indigenous foraged tea consumed in many parts of the world. However, it was popularized for drinking in Korea, where this tea is known as solip-cha.
Korean pine needle tea is brewed from Manchurian red pines harvested in December. Pine needles are harvested from trees at the midway point of the mountain, preferably grown in sunny areas. The tea is also often fermented for several weeks.
Since pine trees are indigenous to regions across the world, it’s possible to forage pine needles and brew this tea even if you don’t have access to red pines. However, there are some pine needles that shouldn’t be used for pine needle tea.
Which Pine Needles Should You Use for Pine Needle Tea?
Pine needle tea is safe to drink, but it has to be created from certain types of pine trees.
The best types of pine for making pine needle tea are:
- Manchurian red pine (pinus tabuliformis)
- Eastern white pine (pinus strobus)
- Korean red pine (pinus densiflora)
- Eastern hemlock trees (tsuga canadensis). Also called eastern hemlock-spruce or Canadian hemlock, this is NOT the version of hemlock that killed Socrates.
- Common juniper (juniperus communis)
Interestingly, the berries of the common juniper can also be used for juniper berry tea, so it you have access to one of these, you’ll get double duty when it comes to healthy herbal tisanes.
Which Pine Needles Should You Avoid for Making Pine Needle Tea?
There are dozens of different varieties of pine, and some of them are toxic if ingested. Make sure you’re not harvesting clusters of needles from these toxic varieties of pine trees.
Toxic pine trees to avoid for pine needle tea include the following:
- Ponderosa pine (pinus ponderosa)
- Cypress (cupressaceae)
- English yew trees (taxus baccata)
- Norfolk island pine (araucana heterophylla)
- Lodgepole pine (pinus contorta)
Pine needle tea created from these species of pine can create symptoms such as nausea or worse. Yew is especially poisonous to humans and should not be consumed.
Benefits of Pine Needle Tea
Some people drink pine needle tea because they enjoy its fresh scent and flavor, but the main reason people drink pine needle tea is that it is an effective herbal medicine. These are some of the health benefits of pine needle tea:
- Rich in vitamins and nutrients: Pine needle tea has many botanical nutrients and essential minerals that make up part of a balanced diet. For a wild food, it is a very rich source of antioxidants. For example, a cup of pine needle tea contains 4-5 times the amount of Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) you’d ingest in a glass of orange juice or lemon juice. It’s also a strong source of Vitamin A.
- Expectorant effects: Pine needle tea can act as an expectorant, which means it helps you expel phlegm from your lungs and respiratory system when you’re congested from allergies or a head cold. This can relieve sinus pressure and make breathing easier.
- Immune system boost: The high levels of Vitamin C and other nutrients in pine needle tea make it good for bolstering your immune system, especially in the winter when immune systems are weakened by cold weather and illnesses like cold and flu. As much vitamin C as an orange and more!
Along with its many health benefits, pine needle tea has a refreshing scent and taste, too. And you can get pine needles for tea commercially, so you don’t have to have a pine tree on your property to enjoy this seasonal treat!
Risks of Pine Needle Tea
Aside from staying away from the known poisonous types of pine, pregnant or nursing women should consult their health practitioners before consuming any herbal medicine.
How to Make Pine Needle Tea
Making pine needle tea is as simple as making any other type of tisane. Here’s the process you should follow to brew a pot:
Pine Needle Tea Recipe
- Prepare the fresh pine needles. Be sure to remove any browned parts of the pine needles and cut the fresh green parts of the needles down to 1/4th-inch chunks. This will make it easier for the pine oil to seep into the water during steeping.
- Boil the water. Bring a teapot of water up to a boil, then add the cut pine needles to the water and cover.
- Steep the tea. Steep the cut pine needles in the hot water for 10-15 minutes. Remove the pine needle tea from the heat.
- Strain the tea. After the pine needles all sink to the bottom of the tea, it’s ready to serve. Use a tea strainer to pour the tea into cups and serve hot.
Pine needle tea can be served with honey, agave nectar, or some other sweetener since it has a naturally astringent flavor. Sweeteners can help remove some of the pine needle tea’s dry, bitter flavor. Adding a small pinch of baking soda can also make pine needle tea taste more mellow.
While the best way to make this tea at home is to harvest pine needles locally, if you don’t have access to Manchurian red pine or Eastern white pine needles, don’t despair. You can buy loose pine needle tea, pine needle tea bags, and even pine needle powder online. What a world we live in!
Pine Needle Tea Is a Tasty Treat for Foragers
Even if you don’t need the medicinal benefits of pine needle tea, knowing how to make this foraged brew is a good first step into creating herbal medicine. Try brewing a cup of pine needle tea for yourself and see just what all the fuss is about!