Herbal Supplements
Aromatic Pine in Herbal Medicine

Biological Description

The aromatic pine plant is a member of pinaceae family which is made up by a big number of species varieties. The family of coniferous pine trees counts more than 115 species and is native to the Northern Hemisphere; spread in Asia, Africa, and North America. Some pine species (such as Sumatran Pine) reach over the Equator, too. Typical pine tree has a straight, smooth cylindrical trunk that reaches up to 80 m high (average – 10-45 m). The spiral branches in the middle and at the top of the trunk carry needle-shaped leaves, that grow in stages through seed, juvenile and scale. The cones on the pines can be both male and female on the same tree, or, in other species, just of one gender. They mature (or fall – in some species) after pollination and release small winged seeds. Pine is considered as a bitter aromatic herb and is known for its resin widely used in production and medicinal applications.

Growing

Most pines prefer well drained soil with a good acidity, rich in calcium. The majority of species grows well in sandy ground with a good sun exposure. Within species, pines tolerate latitude and elevation, and extreme conditions such as dry and hot climate.

Parts Used

Pine leaves are usually picked in summer and dried for herbal preparations, such as infusions and pine extracts. They are also used fresh. Branches and needles is the source of the essential oil extracted for medicinal and aromatherapy uses. Its fresh camphor-like aroma is highly valued for a variety of household and personal care uses. Also, antioxidant properties of pine bark make it a popular component in herbal blends. In addition, nuts of some pines are edible and considered a delicacy.

Market

Pine is not only the world's favorite Christmas tree, but its components serve as a source for a variety of personal care products, as well as medicinal preparations. Branch tips, needles and shoots are rich in resin from which the pine oil is distilled. It is often found in detergents, perfumes, massage oils and cold and cough preparations. Pine bark and oil are used in topical applications for skin and circulation disorders; and the tea brewed from bark extract or the needles is effective against inflammations. Pine bark is also available in tablets, tinctures and capsules.

Action

The rich chemical content makes pine one of the most valuable plants in herbal medicine. The bark is rich in bioflavonoids (natural antioxidants), acts as anti-inflammatory and antihistamine agent.
Cortisone-like compounds in pine help relieving pain in a variety of conditions, and pinolenic acid in the nut oil affects appetite stimulating the release of a hormone responsible for appetite suppression. Other chemical compounds in the plant include amino-acids, fats, and Oligomeric proanthocyanidins known as vitamin P (enhancing vascular functions).
In herbal medicine pine is known as an anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, diuretic, rubefacient, anti-neuralgic, anti-microbial, antiseptic and anti-viral herb.
                                                                         
Health Benefits
 
Applied externally, remedies containing pine oil are helpful for improving circulation and their mild irritant effects provide blood supply into the application area. These properties are highly beneficial for the patients experiencing muscle pain, rheumatism and neuralgia.
 
The action of so-called vitamin P in pine bark is characterized by the prevention of permeability of blood vessels and capillaries. It strengthens the whole vascular system and also helps reversing the scurvy effects.
                                                                                                                                             
Anti-oxidant properties of bark preparations work well when fighting arthritis, gum disease, ulcers, bruises, varicose veins and other disorders of vascular system, as well as inflammation, cerebral or cardiac infraction. Moreover, these components are able to balance collagen and elastin in the skin, improving its elasticity; and provide antihistamine action which is beneficial in treating allergies.
 

Used internally, pine extract is effective in treating the conditions of lower and upper respiratory tract, bronchial disorders with heavy secretions. As a vapor agent, pine oil is good against colds, coughs and asthma, sinusitis and even hangover.

Those concerned with weight loss might find it helpful to know that pinolenic acid in the nut oil provides appetite suppression actions by enhancing the release of hormone curbing the appetite.

Also, added into a bath or massage oil, pine oil is known to be effective against cellulite.

Pine oil should be used with a special care, though, since in high concentrations it can be toxic and irritate the skin.

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