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Pinus spp.

Family: Pinaceae



Pine trees are evergreen conifers (cone-bearing trees) that originate almost exclusively in the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere.1 Pines are the source of many commercial products. Pine medicinal preparations are made from the essential oil of distilled leaves, from the resin and its derivatives produced from the bark, and from the short (3-5 cm) sprouts collected in the spring.

When the trunk of a pine tree is wounded, pine resin, a thick, sticky material, flows to the surface to form a protective coat that seals the wound to pathogenic microorganisms and prevents the loss of sap.2 To obtain resin commercially, a tapping cut is made in the pine bark and the resin drops are collected into buckets or bags.2 For many years the production of pine resin was almost exclusively a French industry, but later spread to other European countries, Russia, Brazil, India, and North America.3,4 In recent years, production has decreased in the former source nations and has shifted to Southeast Asia and China.4

Historical and Traditional Uses 

Pine needle oil, pine resin-derived turpentine oil, and pine sprouts are approved by the German Commission E for treating coughs, chronic bronchitis, and other irritations or infections of the respiratory tract.5 They are also approved for external use to relieve muscle soreness and stiffness, arthritis, and neuralgia. The Commission E also recognizes that these pine products have antiseptic properties and can help to break up mucus secretions in the upper and lower respiratory tract and increase local blood flow.6

The main products of pine resin are turpentine oil and rosin.2 The viscous resin from various pine species is distilled to produce oil of turpentine. A by-product of this distillation process is rosin, a brittle, translucent substance. Rosin has been used in the manufacture of soaps, while turpentine vapors have been used to treat congestion of the upper and lower respiratory tract associated with chronic bronchitis.1,2 When rubbed on the skin, turpentine oil acts as a counter-irritant to relieve mild muscle, joint, or nerve pain.1 Turpentine oil also has antiseptic properties and stimulates peripheral circulation.1,5 Pine resin extracts, such as turpentine oil, have traditionally been used internally as a treatment for chronic cough, bladder and kidney complaints, and rheumatism.3 They are also used externally as plasters and ointments for antiseptic actions in eczema and to stimulate topical circulation. The crude resin has been used topically for various skin conditions.3

Modern Research

Pharmacological research on pine-derived materials is being conducted in many countries. The extract of the needles of Pinus densifolia was shown to possess strong antioxidant activity.7 A study examining the effects of an extract of P. densifolia bark suggests that it may be useful in the treatment of diabetes.8 In one study fermented pine seed shell extract protected mice from death associated with E. coli infection and also demonstrated anti-tumor and antioxidant activity.9 The essential oil distilled from the needles of P. ponderosa strongly inhibited fungal growth in one study.10 The essential oil obtained from P. mugo has been shown to possess antioxidant activity.11 An extract from the cones of P. parviflora inhibit HIV replication in laboratory studies.12 A study in mice showed that the extract from pinecones of P. parviflora also had antimicrobial and anti-tumor properties.13 An ointment containing pine resin has shown promise in the treatment of wounds, burns, and other skin diseases involving infection and inflammation.14,15

—Gayle Engels and Laura Oeschler


  1. Van Wyk B, Wink M. Medicinal Plants of the World. Portland, OR: Timber Press; 2004.
  2. Moussouris Y, Regato P. Forest Harvest: An Overview of Non Timber Forest Products in the Mediterranean Region. WWF Mediteranean Programme. 1999. Available at: /DOCREP/X5593E/X5593E00.htm.
  3. Grieve M. A Modern Herbal. Vol 2. New York: Dover Publications Inc; 1971.
  4. Coppen JJW, Hone GA. Non-Wood Forest Products 2: Gum naval stores: Turpentine and rosin from pine resin. Natural Resources institute: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Rome; 1995. Available at: Accessed November 22, 2004.
  5. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, Gruenwald J, Hall T, Riggins CW, Rister RS, editors. Klein S, Rister RS, translators. The Complete German Commission E Monographs-Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council; Boston: Integrative Medicine Communication; 1998.
  6. Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J, eds. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council; Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.
  7. Jung M, Chung H, Choi J, et al. Antioxidant principles from the needles of red pine, Pinus densiflora. Phytotherapy Research. 2003;17(9):1064-1068.
  8. Kim Y, Wang M, Rhee H. A novel alpha-glucosidase inhibitor from pine bark. Carbohydrate Research. 2004;339(3):715-717.
  9. Mihara S, Unten S, Kakuta H, et al. Diverse biological activities of fermented pine seed shell extract. Anticancer Research. 2002;22(3):1569-1574.
  10. Krauze-Baranowska M, Mardarowicz M, Wiwart M, et al. Antifungal activity of the essential oils from some species of the genus Pinus. Zeitschrift fur Natuforschung- Section C- Biosciences. 2002;57(5-6):478-482.
  11. Grassmann J, Hippeli S, Vollmann R, et al. Anitoxidative properties of the essential oil from Pinus mugo. Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry. 2003;51(26):7576-7582.
  12. Takayama H, Bradley G, Lai P, et al. Inhibition of human immunodeficiency virus forward and reverse transcription by PC6, a natural product from cones of pine trees. AIDS Research & Human Retroviruses. 1991;7(3):349-357.
  13. Harada H, Sakagami H, Konno K, et al. Induction of antimicrobial activity by antitumor substances from pine cone extract of Pinus parviflora Sieb. Et Zucc. Anticancer Research. 1988;8(4):581-587.
  14. Khmel’nitskii O, Simbirtsev V, Konusova V, et al. Pine resin and biopin ointment: effects on cell composition and histochemical changes in wounds. Bulletin of Experimental Biology and Medicine. 2002;133(6):583-585.
  15. Simbirtsev A, Konusova G, Mchelidze G, et al. Pine resin and biopin ointment: effects on repair processes in tissues. Bulletin of Experimental Biology and Medicine. 2002;133(5):457-460.