Pine Resin – a very versatile substance

I noticed a red gooey substance at the base of one of my pine trees. A Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), also known as a western yellow pine.

I saw it but didn’t take the time to look closely until a few weeks later.

Ever do that? See something, but you’re too ‘busy’ to slow down long enough to REALLY SEE it?

I find myself doing that a LOT. I need to slow down as I move through the day. Often, I tell myself, “I have so much to do”, and as a result I’m in a constant state of busy-ness.

It’s time to tell myself a different story. “I have all the time I need.” 

San Jacinto Wilderness

Back to the gooey substance, which turns out to be resin oozing from the tree. This is the result of being attacked by the Western Pine Beetle. The tree must be under stress, which is why it would be susceptible to a pine beetle attack.

Update: this was confirmed by our local energy company. They showed up at my door and offered to cut down the tree at no charge.

It’s with mixed emotions that I share this news because the tree is under stress and must be removed, and yet we can benefit from the resin. This particular tree had to be removed because it was dying and possibly could’ve created a problem for utility lines. I’m very sad to see it go.

What is Resin?

Resin is a fragrant sticky substance produced by the tree when there has been damage or a cut to its bark. The tree produces resin in order to ‘cover’ the injury and thereby protect itself from bacteria or other insects. It makes its own ‘band aid’ if you will.

When we see resin on a tree, it’s a protective barrier, which we don’t want to disturb completely. We can harvest a little bit of the exterior parts of the resin, leaving the tree’s protective barrier intact. We want the tree to survive after all. Trees are our friends. ?

When we see resin on a tree it doesn’t mean it’s dying, but sometimes this is the case as with my tree.

I often talk and listen to trees (you do that, too, right?), and so when I removed some of the resin, I thanked the tree for sharing its beneficial properties.

I’ve also found resin on dead trees, which I’ve gratefully collected as well.

How do we use resin?

Resin is a great fire starter (if you’re ever out in the wilds and need to make a fire, look for resin on a conifer… these can be found in most places).

I took a pea sized piece of the resin I collected and lit it with a match. Wow! Quite the flame and it lasted a couple of minutes, long enough to start a fire!

My reason for collecting resin is to make a Pine Resin Salve to be used for pain relief, wound healing and relief of congestion. But it’s good to know I can always use resin to start a fire if ever the need arises. I know where to find it now.

I’m always amazed by the versatility of herbs to support the body and even our survival in a variety of ways. When you know what to look for in nature, these herbal remedies are wonderful additions to your daily regime.

Pine resin is oil soluble, which means that melting it in oil releases its nutritive properties and this enhances the final product’s efficacy. Salves are great on their own but adding oil soluble herbs makes them more soothing and yummy.

Salves are easy to make, and they last a long while. It’s a great idea to have an herbal salve on hand. I use salves for burns and abrasions most of the time, but this one has extra benefits.

Pine resin is anti-microbial making it very nice to use topically on wounds of various types. It’s also known to be anti-inflammatory, so it’s equally nice to ease muscle and joint pain. Pine resin can increase circulation, which also explains why it helps with pain relief.

Does it surprise you to know that pine resin can assist in relieving chest congestion, too? When added to an oil and/or salve, rub it on your chest (just like Vicks).

The resin from my tree is a sweet-smelling substance (fragrance varies from tree to tree).

Here’s my simple recipe:

(Adapted from the Herbal Academy)

Ingredients

¼ cup ethically collected pine resin

1-1 ¼ cup carrier oil (choose one that can withstand heat, I used Meadowfoam Seed Oil)

¾ – 1-ounce beeswax grated or pastilles

Note: Pine resin is a beautiful aromatic substance, so I skipped the temptation to enhance this salve with essential oils. Essential oils can sometimes overshadow the beautiful aromatic fragrance of the herbs themselves, so it’s sometimes best to leave them out of your formula/recipe.

Directions

  • Place pine resin and oil in a double boiler or glass jar placed inside a small pan with an inch of water
  • Gently heat until pine resin has melted, oil will look dark and dirty (this is good!)
  • Strain through a coffee filter into another jar, this will take a long while, set-up and find something fun to do for a few hours, and check on it periodically
    • I lost some of the oil in this process, so I recommend starting with a little extra oil or just add more before adding beeswax if needed (salves typically require 1-cup of oil to 1-ounce of beeswax)
  • Once completely strained, pour back into double boiler or place jar back into pan on stove-top and then add beeswax
  • Gently heat until all ingredients are completely melted and consistency is smooth
  • Pour into tins or jars
  • Label and store in a cool, dark place

Let me know if you give it a go…

It’s super comforting to have herbal preparations like this on hand to use as needed. Most recipes make at least several ounces, which is why I like to sell what I can’t use personally.

Have you ever made pine resin salve or used a pine resin product?

I would love to hear your pine resin story below.

 


Resources:

www.theherbalacademy.com/make-pine-resin-salve/

Moore, M. Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West, 2003


 

Disclaimer: The information written in CRY Herbals’ emails, blog & website is for creative and educational purposes only. This information should not be used as a substitute for medical advice. All questions regarding any health condition should be addressed to your primary care physician or other healthcare provider. We are simply ordinary folk who love experimenting and working with natural herbal products to enhance and support the body in health and well-being. It is joy and honor to explore the historical and contemporary practices of herbalism for the purposes of education and personal fulfillment. ?

8 Comments

  1. Júlio de Matos

    Hi Deborah,
    In Portugal whereI live, used to be plenty of pines forests. Now because of the paper making industries, it has been replaced by Eucalyptus. A few years ago i traveled low speed in my car “Ronci”, and as i stoped in a truly secondary road in Castilla, Spain, (in main roads there are no places to stop) i prepared something to eat, took a small Moschino notebook to sketch a fast drawing of this place and noticed all around me, small pottery vases collecting resin from pines. That used to be a familiar sight in my youth in Portugal. Before taking the road again, i collected in a small glass vase. After so long the resin separated in two parts. An aromatic yellowish liquid in the top, and a whitish paste at the bottom. Do you know what it is? Today I decided to try to research potencial uses for this pine tree resin in my everyday rituals. Thank you for your words…, Júlio

    Reply
    • Deborah Burroughs

      Hello Júlio. Sounds like you had a lovely day exploring, sketching, and enjoying a meal. Are you an artist? So delightful that you were able to collect pine resin, too. While I’m not entirely certain of the chemical composition in pine resin, I believe it consists of turpentine oil and rosin. I’ve seen beautiful, variegated colors and patterns in hardened resin, so I imagine yours simply hasn’t completely hardened yet. I’d be interested to hear what you decide to do with your gathered treasure. Isn’t it fun to find things in nature and then spend time getting to know more about them?

      Reply
  2. monica b

    I came across your blog when I was looking to see if anyone else talks about ponderosa pine resin supporting with digestion. I was walking thru the woods and my belly hurt (from bellybutton and over and down felt bloated and crampy) I like to look and feel and taste plants as I move thru nature. I tasted some resin and noticed minutes later my belly felt sooo much better. I have used it a handful of times since and same thing happens each time. Sometimes I belch right after consuming, then the bloating dissipates. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    Reply
    • Deborah Burroughs

      Hi Monica! Thanks for sharing your experience with pine resin. It’s funny that you share this story because I’ve experienced the same benefit, not only from resin but needles as well. Since the needles also contain resin, it makes sense that both will give some relief. Last year I was dealing with lots of digestive issues. I like to taste plants, too, after identifying them correctly. One of my favs along the trail is pine & fir needles (especially fir). That citrusy taste is yummy, and I often think of the Vitamin C content that it contains and the benefits Vitamin C provides. I almost always consume a small dollop of resin, too, mainly for its benefit to the respiratory system.

      There were a small handful of hikes last year when my stomach was acting up, but I felt fairly immediate relief from the symptoms when I chewed on some pine or fir needles, and/or resin. With Pine’s antioxidant and antimicrobial constituents, it makes sense that it could help digestion as it will clean up those free radicals and unhealthy bacteria.

      As with any wild food/medicine, it’s super important to taste it in small amounts to make sure you don’t have a reaction. And I often remind people that a little goes a long way.

      Thanks for visiting!! I’d love to hear how it goes for you as you continue to explore the wild country, and taste, touch, smell and connect with our plant allies. Where are you located (if you don’t mind me asking)?

      Reply
      • jacquelyn

        Pine tar/turpentine (home made medicine only, dont buy it) is an old folk medicine, and there is a doctor that discusses this, a Dr. Daniels. There is even some NIH info on it, been used for healing for ever.

        Reply
        • Deborah Burroughs

          Hi Jacquelyn! It’s a beautiful remedy, isn’t it? I love the fragrance of resin!

          Reply
    • Alicia Mills

      I would like to know more about the pine resin since some articles say it’s toxic for lungs .

      Reply
      • Deborah Burroughs

        Hi Alicia, thanks for visiting my site. Toxicity for lungs is often because of inhalation. However, it is very important for each person to do their own research to determine when/how to incorporate natural healing modalities into their regime. The methods I’ve incorporated into my healing journey are gentle. Please be sure to do your own research. My experiences may not be the same for others. This is why I encourage people to take responsibility for their health, so they know when to rely on natural products and when it’s time to seek medical advice from a healthcare practitioner. Best of luck.

        Reply

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