Herbal Guide to Pine Needles ? How to Identify and Use Pine Needles

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If you are in North America, you likely have pine needles all around you! Did you know that these needles offer a host of benefits? From aromatherapy to cleaning to medicinal benefits, learn how to use pine needles in daily life. 

When I think of winter gardening, I think of evergreens. For those who live up north, evergreens are some of the only greenery you will see for months.

However, what most people don?t know is that the evergreen family of pine trees, Pinaceae, are edible and medicinal! Pine is easy to find year-round, making it extremely accessible for most people. It has many useful benefits (I use it for aromatherapy and cleaning!) and is ideal for a selective herbal cabinet.

Pine is also good for respiratory health, making it very useful for this cold and flu season! With all that being said, this herbal guide to pine will cover how to forage for needles, the health benefits of pine, and useful ways to utilize one of winter?s best plants!

Lori?s Green Blessings

This article was reviewed by herbalist . This is not to be used as personal medical advice; always consult your health care professional for individual concerns.

Here is what Lori had to say:

The taste and flavour of pine is an indicator of its? healing properties.  One of the ways I love to engage with pine is to put the resin or fresh needles into honey.  This infusion is great for sore throats and for flavouring my homemade tea blends.  Anything sour-tasting lets us know it is full of vitamin C.  The resin is anti-microbial therefore helping with inflections.  Note the ascorbic acid is found to be higher when harvested in the winter months vs the warmer months!

History and Meaning of the Pine Tree

Pine essential oil with fresh pine needles around it

The beacon of green during the winter, pine trees have been around a LONG time. The pine species originated about 150 million years ago in the mid-Mesozoic Era and spread during the Cretaceous Period. As the trees evolved in response to new plants and trees, the family found its way into low nutrient soil, extreme cold or heat, and into fire-prone landscapes.

Christians and Pagans have been using the evergreen tree for thousands of years during winter festivals. During the winter solstice, Pagans used branches to decorate their homes and remind them that spring was on the way. In Northern Europe, people planted evergreen trees in boxes inside for the winter. Over time, this and other practices led to the tradition of decorated Christmas trees.

Pine has been used since the Middle Ages for its medicinal benefits and was a favourite healing plant for Native Americans. They taught early settlers how to utilize the needles, bark, and sap for their health.

The Eastern White Pine in particular was useful to settlers in the winter as it is high in Vitamin C and was used to treat scurvy. The needles also contain Vitamin A. Native Americans have been using pine for centuries to help with the respiratory system and for healing wounds.

Identifying Pine Needles

identifying pine needles

What you may think is a pine tree, may not in fact be a pine tree! Pine, fir, and spruce trees are often confused as not all conifer trees are pine trees and not all evergreens are coniferous. It doesn?t help that common names of trees can be misleading. For example, a Douglas Fir is not a fir tree and is actually a pine tree. My first advice for identifying pines is to look at the scientific names of the tree and not their common names.

To define pine trees (Pinus spp), look at their needles. Pine needles come in clusters of 1-6, most often found in 2-5. These clusters are called a fascicle and will have a papery sheath at the base, as well as an attached pinecone.

Most pine species will have long needles but there are a few with shorter ones. Meanwhile, spruce or fir needles will be attached to the branch rather than a cluster.

When foraging, be sure to look for local species in your area. Research them ahead of time so you know what to look for. It is also important that you do not harvest any yew, a conifer often mistook as pine, but its needles are poisonous.

Since pine trees are around every corner in North America, you could forage for them in the forest. However, if you?ve never foraged before or are inexperienced, be sure to consult with someone who has some experience. A great resource is for those who are interested in learning more grass trimmer_2468 about safe foraging.

Pine tree with pine needles and pine cones on a branch

Common pine varieties along the west coast include:

  • Douglas Fir
  • Ponderosa Pine (not suitable for use by pregnant women)
  • Blue Spruce
  • Coastal Redwood

Health Benefits of Pine Needles

There are many health benefits of pine needles, making it a great basic selection for your herbal cabinet. Pine needles contain a compound called alpha- or beta-pinene, which is a natural decongestant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antimicrobial, and anxiolytic.

When ingested, pine can be used to treat colds and coughs, reducing phlegm and helping with sinus infections. It is an expectorant, which means it thins mucus to help you cough and draw phlegm up from the lungs.

pouring distilled pine needle steam into a jar

As mentioned earlier, pine needles are high in Vitamin C and are especially helpful in preventing scurvy. Younger, fresh needles called pine tops contain the most Vitamin C and are an effective survival plant.

Traditionally, these pine tops are boiled in water to make a tea used to treat fevers and coughs, as well as increase urination. Essential oils are collected specifically from pine needles for remedy use, but the needles can also be used for crafts and food.

When applied topically, pine can be used to draw out toxins or objects from the skin. Pine pitch is especially helpful in removing splinters, glass, and toxins from bug bites. This can help to avoid infections.

You can also bathe in it to help with joint inflammation and to ease sore muscles. Traditional Chinese medicine used infused pine in wine to apply topically for joint pain. Pine bark is especially convenient for topical uses.

Using Pine Needles

cutting board with pine needle clippings and empty jars

Given the range of benefits, there are many ways to incorporate pine needles. First, forage for them well away from roadsides where there might be constant vehicle exhaust, and the same if you live in a rural area that is subject to roadside herbicides, pesticides, or other contaminants.

The flavour of the needles can vary quite a bit based on the season and species. Spring is the best time to harvest needles as they are a little tastier and more sour than older needles.

It is also best to harvest the bark in the spring. Try to choose a tree that could use some thinning or has fallen from a winter storm. While spring is the optimal time for harvesting, you can do it year-round.

Before using the needles, you will want to thoroughly wash and dry them. Cut the brown ends off and trim the rest of the needles into small pieces. Let them dry in a basket or gently bruise the needles with a spoon to release the compounds, which will also produce more flavor for immediate use.

Now that we have discussed all things pine, let?s use them!

Pine Needle Vinegar

Infusing vinegar is one of the easiest ways to amp up your cooking. I often use different combinations of herbs to get different palettes for dishes. Infusing with pine needles will provide a balsamic flavour. Check out for step by step instructions on how to infuse your own vinegar. Be sure to use only clean and dry pine needles to avoid spoilage.

Pine Needle All-Purpose Cleaner

Pine needle spray

I like to infuse alcohol and vinegar cleaners with pine for use around the house. It adds a refreshing, winter scent that makes the space feel clean instantly. To make your own all-purpose cleaner, combine the pine-infused vinegar above with baking soda and castile soap. You will likely want to use a basic, white vinegar as your base for cleaning purposes. This can be used in the kitchen, bathroom, on the floors, and anywhere else that needs some pine action.

Pine Needle Tea

Pine needle tea is the most traditional way to utilize the herbal benefits of pine. To make your own cup, add a small handful of pine needles to a mug and pour boiling water over top. Allow the needles to steep until they turn a light brown or sink to the bottom of the cup. You may wish to place a saucer over top to keep the essential oils in. Peppermint, catnip, and thyme also compliment the flavours and benefits of this tea well. Add honey for some sweetness!

Pine Needle Salve

Making a healing salve is an effective way to use pine needles topically. I recommend the . Apply to your temples or chest for headache relief, or on your body for sore muscles and joints.

There are many ways to use pine needles, making it a great addition to your remedy list and your herbal cabinet. The health benefits alone are worth the time spent learning to identify pines from other conifers and to forage from your local forest.

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Want to add some whimsey and playfulness to your Christmas decor? Make this Whoville tree! It?s simpler than you think, and everyone will admire your unique decor. Here?s how to make a Grinch Christmas tree. 

Grinch style Christmas tree with ornaments

There are many versions of the Dr. Seuss-inspired Grinch Christmas tree from Whoville-esque trees adorned with candy-coloured ornaments to snow-covered, oddly-shaped trees that set the scene outdoors.

Perhaps the most iconic is a tall, skinny evergreen wound up with wire and a heavy ornament dangling from the curved-over top. These represent the trees that Mr. Grinch robbed of ornaments then shut like an umbrella before tossing in his giant sack.

Quirky looking and cartoonish, a Grinch tree?s message is that Christmas isn?t about presents, or ornaments, or trees, or even roast beast.

?Maybe Christmas, he thought? doesn?t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps? means a little bit more.?

Add Cheer with a Whoville Christmas Tree

It was Christmas 2011 when I was feeling a little blue during the holidays, and I wasn?t in the mood to celebrate much. By some magic, a Grinch tree entered my life, and Christmas was saved!

You can read all about the . Bonus: you will get to see how much Meatball resembles the Grinch.

After I published that post, I proceeded to field what seemed like endless emails from people ALL OVER THE WORLD trying to order the tree. I was blown away!

I emailed everyone back to say that I had described in the post how I made it, but they just wanted me to make them one, or fifteen, and in, like, the next two days, and then ship it across the continent.

Good grief!

I considered making them (for a minute) but since I?m more about ?teaching someone to fish? than ?fishing for them? I planned to write a tutorial for how to make a Grinch Tree someday.Faded image of a whoville tree

A Simple DIY Project

That is really the whole point of everything I do here on Garden Therapy:  showing how to make some fun garden (or garden-inspired) project that gets people jazzed enough to give it a try. My hope is that they just may catch the gardening bug, get outside, have fun, and sing the praises of gardening to all, just like those little Whoville kids. I have big dreams.

Anyway, I politely told folks how to make the Grinch tree and the ones who made them sent the praises of a) how much fun it was, b) how easy it was, and c) how everyone loved their unique tree. Want to learn how to make one too? I?ve got you covered!

How to Make a Grinch Tree

Today I will break down the whole thing, step-by-step. Even better, you won?t be making a regular old Grinch tree. Nope, today you will learn to make one that is nine-feet tall!

By the way, if you don?t have the space, or just want something a bit smaller, I recommend you check out my post on . It?s the perfect way to pack all that holiday whimsy into a tiny package. ;)

For this particular tutorial, however, we are going large! Let?s talk about how to build an impressive 9-foot tall Whoville Christmas tree!

9- foot tall Grinch tree in a burplap sack


  • 5? potted cedar hedge (you can certainly purchase a larger hedge, perhaps 8? tall, which would make this project even easier!)
  • 2-3 x 4?
  • Cedar boughs (extra cedar branches usually sold for wreath-making or swags)
  • Large pot tray to fit the nursery pot
  • Ribbon to tie sack
  • Many smaller ornaments (like these 

How to Make the Whoville Tree

Choose a full cedar shrub that is healthy, stands upright, and is symmetrical. I used a 5? cedar hedge because that was what was available during the winter months.

If you think ahead and grab one when there are plenty of nurseries open that are full of 8? hedges, you will have an easier time fashioning it into a Grinch tree.step by step images of cedar shrub being turned into a grinch tree

Use the wire to attach the green plant stake to one or more strong stems in the center of the hedge. You want the stake to add an extra 3? in height. (The remaining foot will be the branches that hang over the top.)

Begin adding boughs of cedar to build up the tree at the top, covering the plant stake. Begin with the cedar branches starting from below the stake with the leaves facing upwards, and layer more and more onto the stake to fill in branches all the way up to the top.

Continue adding branches and securing it with the garden wire until you have the rough shape that you want, with at least a foot of cedar draping from the very top of the plant stake. Reserve a few branches for filling in spots once you have bound the hedge.

If the tree is unstable at all, use 1-2 more stakes inserted in the center of the plant and use wire to attach it.

Now, when you have the height and fullness you want, you can begin wrapping the lights around the tree. Start at the bottom and wind miniature white lights around the tree, fairly snugly, tucking in floppy branches as you go.

The final look should be a bound, skinny, evergreen tree with a floppy top.

Decorate the Tree

Place the pot on the plant tray and set the whole thing into the burlap sack. Use ribbon to tie the sack at the top.

Wind decor mesh around the tree,Grinch tree in a burlap sack with red mesh

then add a large but fairly light ornament to the very top of the tree.close up of a green ornament on a Christmas tree

At this point, you can really personalize it. The tree is complete as it is, but you can add some of your favorite ornaments as well. I would recommend small ones, so as not to overpower the skinny design.Looking up at a Grinch Tree

Want a smaller version? Don?t forget to check out how this turned out!

More Christmas Ideas:

Nine foot tall living Whoville Grinch Tree

DIY Grinch Tree {How to Make a Whoville Christmas Tree}

This 9-foot tall grinch tree is sure to add whimsey and fun to your Christmas decor this year.


  • 1 potted cedar hedge  At least 5' tall, 8' is better if you can find it. Should be full and symmetrical.
  • 2 3 x 4?
  • cedar boughs extra cedar branches usually sold for wreath-making or swags
  • large pot tray should fit the nursery pot
  • large enough to go over pot
  • ribbon to tie sack
  • 5 yards
  • 1 large
  • Many smaller ornaments (like these 


  • Place your pot into the burlap sack and tie it with ribbon.
  • Use the wire to attach the green plant stake to one or more strong stems in the center of the hedge. You want to add the extra height to the tree to make it 9-feet tall. The amount you need to add depends on how tall your tree is.
  • Begin adding boughs of cedar to build up the tree at the top. Make sure to cover the plant stake. Begin with the cedar branches starting from below the stake with the leaves facing upwards, and layer more and more onto the stake to fill in branches all the way up to the top.
  • Continue adding branches secured with the garden wire until you have the rough shape that you want. To get that classic Whoville Christmas tree look, make sure to leave at least a foot of cedar draping from the very top of the plant stake.
  • Fill in any areas that look sparse with more branches if necessary.
  • Wrap lights around the tree, starting at the bottom. Make sure to tuck them into the greenery.
  • Next, wrap the deco mesh ribbon around the tree. Red will be the most classic color to use.
  • Add a large ornament to the top of the tree, then smaller ones within the branches if you like.

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Looking for ways to add beautiful rustic Christmas decor to your space? Look no further! These decorating ideas are both simple and beautiful and will add festive cheer to any space. 

Christmas decor with pine cones, scrabble and cranberries

You don?t have to be a decorating wizard to create beautiful and striking holiday decorations. And you certainly don?t need glitter! Nature gives us all we need to decorate with, from gorgeous evergreens to bright berries.

So go grab your boots and some pruners, and craft up some simple Christmas decorations. You?ll get some much needed garden therapy while dressing up your home for the holidays. I promise, this is a chore that will give you rosy cheeks and a festive home.

Rustic Christmas Decor Ideas

When I?m decorating for the holidays, my main goal is always to incorporate the beauty of nature as much as possible. It makes my home feel so festive and cozy with touches of greenery, wood, and brightly coloured berries.

Nature has provided us with so many unique and pretty simple Christmas decorating ideas. Next time you are on a walk just look around and start gathering inspiration! Meanwhile, to help you get started, here are my favorite rustic Christmas decor ideas.

Floating Cranberries

Floating cranberries and evergreens in a make for a simple and festive holiday table decoration. You can add clippings from attractive outdoor plants like holly and succulents (as I have done in this festive holiday flower arrangement), or you can simply add and light them up.

This will last you for a few weeks as long as you change out the water when it starts to turn pink (which is every 4 days or so). The cranberries themselves will last many water changes. These berries are used to being in water as they are bog plants. Therefore, they don?t decompose quickly.

floating candle with berries in front of christmas tree


Rustic and Natural Christmas Candle Centerpiece

With just a few candles, a wooden box, and some fresh evergreen clippings, you can put together an incredibly elegant in a few minutes. I always get compliments on this centerpiece and it makes my table extra festive.

Re-Style Your Poinsettias

Taking a little bit of time to once you get it home makes a huge difference. These blooms can be quite chic if given the chance!

Plant it in a decorative ceramic pot, something plain, or even a salad bowl?anything other than leaving it in that shiny foil wrapping it comes in will make it look SO much more sophisticated.

poinsettia in a vase on a table

Decorating with Fresh Wreaths

is not that difficult, but it does take a little bit more time than these other projects. That being said, it?s a task that?s well worth it?your guests (and yourself) will be greeted with lovely fresh-scented evergreen at the door.

If you?ve never made one before, don?t be intimidated. I?ll walk you through .

evergreen wreath on front door

Once you have a wreath, here?s an add-on that will really make it shine: wrap a string of decorative , and flick the switch.

You can change also the look of your wreath in moments by swapping out the lights. Here are some string lights with , , or that would work well!

decorateive pine cone light on a wreath

Festive Outdoor Planter Box

It?s easy to put together this eye-catching with whatever decorative branches and greenery you have in the yard. You can even bring it indoors and display it on the mantle if you like. Either way, this rustic Christmas decor is beautiful to look at.

I?ve also made several of these for hostess gifts in years past for holiday parties. It?s truly the gift that keeps giving.

Miniature Garden

If you have a miniature garden, deck it out for the holidays!

To trim a tiny tree, you can make small wreaths out of evergreen clippings. I also like to use string ribbons and beads and even fasten little festive bows! See for instructions and more ideas.

Pinecone Trees

Make a table centerpiece by topping a few glass candle holders with pinecones. Set them on a dish and add a few clippings of evergreens, and you?ll have a centerpiece for a buffet table or atop the fireplace.

Bonus points for flocking the pinecones with a bit of white craft paint on the edges to add that little extra something.

Pinecone table decoration centerpiece

Scented Pinecones

This rustic Christmas decorating idea is multi-purpose. Not only does it look nice but these pinecones can deliver all kinds of aromatherapy benefits to your home with oils.

Yes, you can use pinecones as a decorative essential oil diffuser. Follow and then lay your scented pinecones out on a decorative dish with some whole spices (cinnamon sticks, star anise, nutmeg) for festive decor that smells like Christmas!

Scented pine cone and natural festive spices as a centerpiece

Stars, Balls, and Evergreens

Decorate the holiday table by setting a few of the smaller branches you pruned from your Christmas tree on the table cloth, and add a few ornaments like and a few red glass balls.

Now you have table decor for a holiday dinner or buffet. I also have used these on top of the fireplace mantle for quick and easy decorations.

tablecloth with holiday decor including evergreen red glass ball and a birch star

Decorate with Scrabble Tiles

I love Scrabble tiles for their simple wooden texture topped with letters. They are the definition of simplicity itself!

Set up festive words with amid your display. Try FaLaLa, Merry Merry, or Xmas Time for a good use of the ?8-point X?.

Christmas scrabble decor with pine cones and greenery

Pinecone Spheres DIY

If you find yourself with 20 minutes, some pinecones, and a hot glue gun, you can as well. They take more than a few minutes, but it still isn?t a difficult project. See how to make them . These are a great tool to keep in your decor arsenal toolbelt.

Make These Easy Pinecone Spheres - an easy nature project for festive holiday decor

There you have it! There are so many cute, simple ways to incorporate rustic Christmas decor into your home this year. Which one is your favourite?

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