When you think of pine trees you probably picture a fresh Christmas tree, decorated for the season. The fresh pine scent fills the air and creates the perfect atmosphere for the silly season.
But did you know that you can actually drink a tea made from the needles of pine trees?
There are many health benefits associated with pine needle tea. But before you pinch a handful of needles from any old pine tree, let us first tell you about the history of pine needles tea, the benefits and how you can brew your cuppa.
Historical use of pine needle tea
Pine trees, needles, sap, pinecones and all have long been used in many different cultures for centuries. Chinese, European, Japanese and Korean herbalists would use the different properties of the pine trees to promote health and vitality.
Containing a wide variety of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties and vitamin C, pine needles particularly, were used to boost the immune system and promote health and wellness, particularly in winter, when illness was more common to strike.
Use of pine needle tea for its health benefits has been documented all the way back to the 16th century, where it was used by sailors who were suffering from scurvy. Scurvy was a common affliction for sailors as they would often spend long periods of time out at sea with little access to food, particularly those that contained Vitamin C. Scurvy is caused by a diet deficiency of Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and is an acute chronic illness that can lead to lots of health issues, including bleeding gums, haemorrhages, loose teeth, and even death.
In 1536, Jacques Cartier’s crew were suffering from scurvy, and after getting their hands on an Iroquois decoction which healed the entire crew from their scurvy. In his writings, Jacques referred to pine tree the needles were from, which was the Annedda tree, as the “Tree of Life”!
Throughout the centuries that followed, the use of pine needle tea has continued to develop and gain popularity. Now, pine needles for brewing tea are available all over the world.
Benefits of Pine Needle Tea
So, besides helping sailors stave off scurvy, what are the benefits of drinking pine needle tea?
Well, research into the health benefits of pine needle tea is still relatively early in its journey, however, the long history of its use in European, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Indigenous Americans, have indicated that there are many health benefits associated with it.
One of the most celebrated possible health benefit of pine needle tea is it’s immune boosting properties. As you may be aware, our immune system is our natural defence system of the body, it helps to protect us from all kinds of illnesses and infections that are caused by both internal and external factors.
Some of the reasons why pine needle tea is often linked to boosting the health of the immune system is because they contain:
· Very high levels of Vitamin C
Vitamin C helps to keep our bodies and immune systems fighting fit and strong. Vitamin C promotes white blood cell production, and these help to protect the body against viruses and infections.
· High levels of Vitamin A
Vitamin A is essential for growth and development as well as strengthens the immune system which we need to fight off illness and infection. Vitamin A also helps with improving vision and also aids the functioning of almost all of your vital organs.
Our bodies naturally produce antioxidants, but we can always do with more. That’s because they play the vital role of preventing and/or delaying oxidative damage to the cell. This damage can be caused by viruses and infections, malnutrition, and free radicals.
· Anti-inflammatory properties
Inflammation in the body is one of its natural responses to infection and/or injuries. However, chronic inflammation has been linked to serious diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, and can often be caused by a poor diet. Anti-inflammatory foods and supplements can help to reduce the inflammation you may be experiencing and could possibly improve symptoms that are caused by inflammation.
Flavonoids are a plant compound that help to regulate cell activity and fight off those free radicals which can cause harm to your body. Essentially, they help your body function more efficiently and fight toxins.
· All essential Amino Acids
Pine needles contain all 9 essential amino acids, which you may not be aware, cannot actually be made by the body but are essential for tissue repair, absorption of nutrients, protein synthesis, and perform many body functions.
How do you brew?
So, how do you get a nice warm cup of vitality boosting pine needle tea?
Similar to many other teas, you brew 2-3g of the pine needles in boiled water and let steep for anywhere between 5-10 minutes. The length of time will impact the strength of the tea’s flavour. If it’s your first time trying it, it might be best to only let it steep for 5 minutes, so the flavour isn’t as strong.
In most instances, the flavour of pine needle tea isn’t overly strong or bitter, and depending on the kind of pine needle used, the flavour is usually piney, and sometimes may have a citrus hint.
Which pine needles do I use?
Well, you don’t need to worry about going out and searching for a pine tree to get your needles from.
Here at Superfoods, we offer Siberian Pine Needles in a variety of forms, including their pine needle form, extract and tincture. Each of these varieties can be used to make pine needle tea, so it’s really up to you!
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