Common in most of the United States and Canada, pine trees also grow in other parts of the world, such as China. There are many varieties of pine trees, yet all leach a sap when damaged or scratched called resin, also referred to as pitch. Pine resin has a host of different uses, including as a sealant, glue, and varnish. It is distilled into rosin, which is used to promote a better grip between objects, and oil of turpentine, which is used as a solvent and as a paint thinner. There are medicinal uses of pine resin, or pitch, as well.
Native Americans have used pine resin to treat rheumatism because of its anti-inflammatory properties. The resin acts to remove the joint inflammation caused by rheumatism, which helps to restore movement and to alleviate pain. The Costanoan Indians gained these benefits by chewing on the gum-like resin.
Burns and Sores
A traditional use for pine resin has been as an external treatment for burns and sores. A long-term study done by Russian scientists and published in the April 2002 issue of the “Byulleten’ Eksperimental’noi Biologii i Meditsiny” found that pine resin, as a main active ingredient in Biopin ointment , inhibited anti-bodies found in bodily fluids but aided healing and prevented infection by boosting cell immunity. The ointment did not cause irritation or allergic reactions.
Other Uses for Pine Resin
During the Civil War, the Confederate surgeon Francis Porter used pine resin as a stimulant, diuretic, and laxative. In China the resin from a particular pine tree is used to treat abscesses. Resin from the spruce tree was used by colonial Americans as a cold and cough remedy, as well as straight from the tree as a cancer treatment. Physicians in colonial America also recommended tar water, or ground pine resin mixed with water, as a remedy for ulcers, smallpox, and syphilis. These are traditional holistic medicinal uses for pine resin that have not, as of yet, been confirmed by modern science as effective, but that does not mean there is no basis for some of the claims made about resin’s anti-inflammatory properties.
References and ResourcesUSDA Plant Guide: Monterey Pine
Pine Resin and Biopin Ointment: Immunotoxic and Allergenic Activity; Simbirtsev et al,
Plant Resins: Chemistry, Evolution, Ecology, and Ethnobotany; Jean H. Langenheim; Timber Press, 2003, pgs. 453-454