KÜHL’s Guide to Pine Needle Tea - Benefits And Nutrition

By Emily Leikam on May 07, 2024
10 min read

In the vast world of herbal teas, there's a unique, forest-derived variety that might not be on your radar yet – Pine Needle Tea. This nature-inspired beverage has been consumed for centuries by various cultures worldwide. Pine needle tea benefits include everything from immune support and cold reduction to stress relief and sleep improvement. In this comprehensive guide, we examine pine needle tea’s rich nutritional profile, potential health effects and how to safely brew it at home. So, let's immerse ourselves in the verdant world of pine needle tea and unearth the potential wellness boost hidden in these coniferous leaves.

Key Takeaways

  • Pine needle tea is an herbal infusion brewed from the needles of pine trees, packed with vitamins like Vitamin A and C.
  • Regular consumption of Pine Needle Tea could potentially boost immunity, soothe colds, help with weight management and balance testosterone levels.
  • Pine needle tea contains anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties.
  • The tea is believed to support heart and brain health and may offer better sleep and stress relief.
  • Not all pine needles are safe for brewing tea, and some species should be avoided, especially by pregnant women. It's crucial to identify the correct type of pine tree before brewing your tea.
  • Brewing pine needle tea requires careful preparation, but with a few tips, it can be easily made at home for a soothing, health-boosting beverage.

What are Pine Needles?

Pine needles are the slender, pointed leaves that cover pine trees, a type of coniferous tree found in diverse regions across the globe. As a part of the Pinus genus, these trees are characterized by their distinct needle-like leaves, which are typically bundled together in groups. While the needles serve essential functions for the tree, such as photosynthesis and water retention, they are also packed with beneficial compounds like vitamins and antioxidants. These properties make them an excellent ingredient for brewing a nourishing cup of pine needle tea, which could be a great addition to your list of food for hiking.

 Close up of spruce tree branches
 Spruce tree branches. Photo by: Besjunior.

What are the Benefits of Pine Needle Tea?

Drinking pine needle tea offers an array of potential health benefits, primarily due to the impressive nutritional content of pine needles. From immunity boosts to soothing colds, let's delve into these benefits and understand why pine needle tea might be a fantastic addition to your wellness regimen.

Rich in Vitamins

Pine needle tea contains essential vitamins like Vitamin A and C. These vitamins support immune function, skin health, wound healing, vision and iron absorption.

Boosts Immunity

The high Vitamin C content stimulates white blood cell production and fights harmful free radicals, enhancing overall immunity.

Soothes Colds

The warm tea and its high Vitamin C content may reduce the severity and duration of common cold symptoms.

Balances Testosterone Levels 

Pine needle tea may help balance testosterone levels, supporting bone health, mood and libido, though more research is needed.

Relieves Menstrual Cramps 

Anecdotal evidence suggests that pine needle tea may help alleviate menstrual cramp discomfort.

Supports Weight Management 

The virtually calorie-free tea may boost metabolism, promoting calorie burn and aiding in weight control.

Anti-Inflammatory Properties 

Pine needle tea is rich in antioxidants which help reduce inflammation and activate enzymes. These anti-inflammatory properties may help fight cancer cells and manage chronic diseases.

Anti-Aging Properties

Traditional Eastern cultures have always touted pine needle tea for its anti-aging properties, and a recent study proves this. It found that the flavonoids in pine needles can bind to a particular receptor that helps regulate your metabolism and promotes anti-aging. 

Promotes Better Sleep

The naturally caffeine-free, calming properties of pine needle tea may improve sleep quality and fight fatigue.

Relieves Stress

Sipping on pine needle tea can alleviate stress, with some compounds potentially boosting mood.

Supports Heart & Brain Health 

The antioxidant-rich tea may support heart and brain function by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress, though more research is needed.

Pine Needle Tea
Always easy to make while camping. Photo by: Tom Check.

Side Effects of Drinking Pine Needle Tea

Despite all the pine needle extract benefits, it's essential to consider the potential side effects. While most people can safely consume the tea, if you have pine allergies you should avoid drinking pine needle tea because it could result in skin rashes, respiratory issues, nausea or diarrhea. If you're new to pine needle tea, it's best to start with small amounts to see how your body reacts.

One important note is that pregnant women should avoid drinking pine needle tea. Some compounds found in pine needles can potentially cause uterine contractions, leading to miscarriage or preterm labor. Always consult with a healthcare professional before introducing new herbal teas into your diet, especially during pregnancy.

Which Pine Needles are Safe for Tea?

While pine needle tea is generally safe for consumption, it's crucial to know that not all pine needles are suitable for tea preparation. There are numerous species of pine trees, and while many are safe, a few can be toxic.

Are All Evergreen Trees Pine Trees?

Pines are the most notable of evergreen tree types, but fir and spruce trees are also part of the evergreen family. Pines, firs and spruce are frequently mixed up because conifer trees (trees that produce cones) are not always pine trees and some evergreens are not always coniferous. An easy way to identify pine trees is that their needles come in clusters, while those of spruce or fir will be attached individually to the branches. 

Common Trees to Use for Pine Needle Tea

There are several trees that are particularly suitable for making pine needle tea, thanks to the characteristics of their needles. Below are some of the commonly used trees for making this nourishing brew:

  • White Pine (Pinus strobus): This tree's needles are long, thin and flexible, typically appearing in clusters or bundles of five. They are known for their mild flavor which makes for a subtly fragrant and pleasant tea. Majority of white pine needle tea benefits come from its vitamin C content; the Eastern white pine needles have between 0.72 mg and 1.87 mg of ascorbic acid.
  • Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis): Not to be confused with the poisonous plant of a similar name, the Eastern Hemlock is a tree with flat and short needles that are less than an inch long. They're great for a more robust and earthy brew.
  • Yellow Pine (Pinus subgenus Diploxylon): Yellow Pine needles are arranged in bundles of three, adding a unique texture to the tea-making process. They tend to have a stronger, more resinous flavor.
  • Red Pine (Pinus resinosa): Red Pine needles are arranged in bundles of two, and they lend a slightly sweet taste to the tea.
  • Spruce (Picea): Unlike pines, spruce trees have single needles that attach to the branches. They have a sharp point and roll easily between fingers. Spruce needle tea is known for its refreshing and slightly citrusy flavor.
  • Firs (Abies): Firs have flat and friendly needles that do not roll between your fingers. Fir needle tea has a mildly sweet flavor, almost like a hint of citrus or orange in your cup.
  • Himalayan Cedar (Cedrus deodara): Although not a pine tree, Himalayan Cedar's needles are also used for making tea. They offer a unique flavor profile that's distinct from that of pines, firs or spruces.

Each tree's needles offer a unique taste, so try different varieties and discover your favorite tea! After you've found your preferred pine needle tea, it might be a delightful way to recover after a long day outdoors. Read more on how to recover from long hiking and consider incorporating this soothing beverage into your recovery routine.

Spring branch with cone and flowers of coniferous Eastern Hemlock tree
Eastern Hemlock tree, also called Canadian Hemlock. Photo by: zayacsk.

Trees to Avoid for Pine Needle Tea

While many trees offer beneficial pine needles for tea, there are several you should avoid due to their potential toxicity. If you're unsure, always refer to a trusted field guide and familiarize yourself with the trees in your local area. Here are some trees to steer clear of:

  • Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa): Recognizable for its distinct smell and bark that smells like vanilla or butterscotch, the Ponderosa Pine is not suitable for tea-making.
  • Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla): This pine has symmetrically arranged branches, with the needles curving upwards to a point. Despite its aesthetic appeal, its needles should not be used for tea.
  • Common Juniper (Juniperus communis): Junipers are identifiable by their small, yellow cones and bright blue berries. Their needles, however, should not be used for brewing tea.
  • Yew (Taxus baccata): With long, narrow, and flat needles that have rounded tips, the Yew tree might resemble the Eastern Hemlock, but it's not suitable for tea-making due to its toxic properties.
  • Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda): This tree's needles grow in bundles of three. They are long, slender, stiff, and thin - not ideal for a safe, pleasant tea.
  • Monterey Pine (Pinus radiata): This tree, with bright green, long needles growing in clusters of three on upward-pointed branches, is not safe for tea preparation.
  • Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta): Lodgepole Pine's needles come in pairs, measure 1-2 inches long, and have sharp ends. They should not be used for making tea.
  • Australian Pine (Casuarina equisetifolia): Despite its name, the Australian Pine is not actually a pine tree and its needles should not be used for tea.
Blue Berries On Brown Tree Branch
A tree to avoid, a Common Juniper tree. Photo by: Sébastien Noël.

How to Make Pine Needle Tea

Creating your own pine needle tea at home or in the woods is a simple process that allows you to enjoy this unique, aromatic beverage anytime. Here are the steps:

Harvest fresh, green needles: Choose a healthy, pesticide-free tree, ideally away from busy roads or polluted areas. Collect a handful of green needles, avoiding the brown, older ones.

Clean the needles: Rinse your harvested pine needles thoroughly under running water to remove any dirt, insects, or sap.

Prepare the needles: Cut off the brown ends of the needles and chop them into smaller pieces. This step helps to release the essential oils during brewing.

Steep the needles: Place the prepared pine needles into a cup or teapot. Pour boiling water over the needles and allow them to steep for about 15-20 minutes, or until the water takes on a light green hue.

Strain and serve: Once steeped, strain the tea into a cup, removing the needles. Your pine needle tea is ready to enjoy. You can add a bit of honey or lemon for extra flavor if you wish.

Making pine needle tea when you're out camping can be a novel experience. It's simple to brew and pairs perfectly with other camping recipes. For more camping food ideas, consider this complete camping food plan. If you're following a plant-based diet, try out these food ideas when camping as a vegan.

Tips for Making Pine Needle Tea

There are a few things you can do while harvesting pine needles to make sure they are good quality.

  • Verify the tree species: It's essential to correctly identify the tree species before making your tea. If you're unsure, ask an expert, or don’t try to make tea with them.
  • Avoid polluted areas: When harvesting pine needles, choose trees that are away from roads and other pollution sources to ensure your needles are as clean as possible.
  • Use fresh needles: Fresh, green needles will yield the best flavor. Avoid using brown or yellowing needles, which indicate the needles are old and losing their nutritional value.
  • Don't boil the needles: While you should pour boiling water over the needles, you should avoid boiling the needles directly in the water. High heat can degrade the vitamins and alter the tea's flavor.
  • Experiment with blends: Don't be afraid to experiment with your tea. Pine needle tea can be blended with other herbs like mint, chamomile, or green tea for a unique flavor profile.

Choose pines 10 to 20 years old: These mature, yet not excessively old trees have developed a full nutrient profile, without the degradation associated with older trees. Importantly, the relatively younger age of these trees means less exposure to pollutants like heavy metals, promoting a safer and cleaner tea.

Close up view of woman person hand picking fresh young spruce tree
Picking a fresh young spruce tree. Photo by: FotoHelin.

Final Thoughts on Pine Needle Tea

Pine needle tea is a beverage that is both delicious and healthy. It can help you sleep better, reduce stress and boost your immune system. The health benefits of pine needle tea are numerous, and it's so simple and easy to make. What better way to connect with the forest than by benefiting from what it has to offer? So, gather up some fresh pine needles on your next hike, and make yourself a hot cup of tea for a soothing, healthy way to end your day!

Featured image by: Chamillew.


Is it safe to drink pine needle tea every day?

While pine needle tea is a nutritious beverage, like anything else, it should be consumed in moderation. Drinking it every day in large quantities may cause certain side effects due to its high vitamin C content. Always consult with a healthcare provider to determine what's best for your health needs.

Is pine needle tea good for your kidneys?

What is pine needle tea good for? Some studies suggest that it can be beneficial for kidneys due to its potential diuretic properties, which aid in flushing out toxins. However, more research is needed to confirm this benefit.

Does pine needle tea detox?

Pine needle tea is high in antioxidants which can help your body fight off free radicals, potentially aiding in detoxification. It also promotes hydration, which can further aid in eliminating toxins from your body.

How much caffeine is in pine needle tea?

Pine needle tea is naturally caffeine-free. It makes a great option for those looking to decrease their caffeine intake or seeking a relaxing beverage to enjoy anytime.

Is pine needle tea FDA approved?

As of now, the FDA does not typically approve or disapprove teas. However, it's important to note that while pine needle tea has been consumed for centuries, some pine species are toxic. It's essential to ensure the species you're using is safe for consumption.

How do you store pine needles for tea?

The benefits of pine needles are lost if they’re not freshly harvested. If you need to store them, do so in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight. You can also refrigerate pine needles in a sealed bag for a few days to maintain their freshness.

Emily Leikam
Emily Leikam

Emily is an avid traveler and has been all around the world from Alaska and Iceland to Peru and Bali. Her home base is Nashville, TN and when not traveling you can find her hiking, practicing yoga or cooking/baking!


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