A mature white pine tree is a magnificent being! Pine's healing effects on the respiratory system are due to it's aromatic, resinous oils and tannins. These and more make it an important herbal medicine for the lungs that can be used on its own to good effect, as a full-strength infusion or a steam, or as a cough syrup.
White Pine Infusion
2 cups fresh white pine needles
1/2 gallon water
Cut up 2 cups or more of fresh pine needles and the small twigs that they grow on. Use your fingernail or a knife to nick the twigs every half-inch or so, to reveal the inner bark (the green cambium layer). Put everything into a half-gallon jar. Cover with boiling water, and let the infusion steep anywhere from 12-24 hours.
This pleasant-tasting, slightly sour infusion will help relieve a cough and release tightness in the chest. It is specifically helpful for a bacterial infection and will generally support the immune system in fighting off any kind of respiratory invader. When you nick the twigs as you prepare your medicine, it will immediately release the fragrance of pine, and perhaps send you into a waking dream of walking through pine-filled woods.
White Pine is rich in tannins. These polyphenols are acid-like compounds that are highly antioxidant and scavenge the free radicals that contribute not only to respiratory infections but also to heart attacks, strokes, cancer and premature aging. Perhaps this is why, in Taoist legend, pine needle tea is an elixir of longevity.
Think of all the different pine-scented cleansers you see on grocery-store shelves putting pine to work freshening our homes. Here, we are putting pine's refreshing qualities to work inside our bodies. This simple infusion is so antiseptic that it doesn't need to be refrigerated (though refrigeration won't harm it). In fact, if I have the time to wait, I like to let fresh white pine steep in the jar for a week when I'm preparing it as a cough syrup.
White Pine Syrup
Infused White Pine (recipe above)
Sweetener of choice - I recommend local, raw honey
After you decant your infusion, put on the stove, uncovered, on the lowest possible heat. Slowly steam off half the liquid. How long this will take depends on how much liquid you started with, the larger the volume you're steaming off, the longer it will take. This method makes your infusion twice as strong each time the liquid is halved.
When the decoction is complete, take if off the heat and stir in your sweetener. I use approximately one tablespoon of honey per cup of syrup.
I generally add about one ounce of alcohol for each cup of syrup. Brandy will add an anti-spasmodic quality to your syrup. It works especially nicely if you're making the syrup for spasmodic coughs or the muscle cramps that can often accompany them - it's like an old-fashioned hot toddy with an herbal twist.
I keep my syrups refrigerated and find that they last for about three months without alcohol, and six months to a year with alcohol, though these time frames vary.
Take syrups by the tablespoon. For a preventative or tonic medicine, take one or two tablespoons daily. For an acute situation, such as a cough that comes with a cold, you might take a tablespoon every few hours up to about eight tablespoons or so, as needed.
Sign up for my free newsletter at WiseWomanHealingWays.com. You can find hundreds of healing recipes in, The Gift of Healing Herbs-Plant Medicines and Home Remedies for a Vibrantly Healthy Life and clear guidance on how to connect with Nature and your own true nature in Healing Magic, A Green Witch Guidebook to Conscious Living-10th Anniversary edition. My meditation CD's are available through CD Baby.