It's a chilly spring morning and I'm out with the goats in the conifer forest harvesting pine resin. Balsam Fir, White Pine and Spruce are growing together abundantly above 1500 feet. and we're carefully gathering the dripping resins on a warm spring day.
While resin has properties that make it beneficial to us, it’s primary purpose is maintaining the health of the tree. Resin is produced as a protective agent to seal physical wounds and create a barrier to infection by bacteria and fungus or invasion by insects. Resin produced in the tree’s cells are directed through ducts toward an injury and can flush and seal the wound, trap invaders, and act as an antimicrobial to eradicate them (Meyer, n.d.; Trapp & Croteau, 2001).
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.
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.
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.
Herbalist, Matthew Wood writes, “The abietic resins stimulate topical circulation, increase inflammation, and noticeably speed up the foreign body response; pus and fluids build up much more quickly than if unattended, and the splinter will usually pop out the next day.”
I made a batch just in time for a painful shoulder injury that has me resting, which is hard to do if you know me!
Isn't is amazing how the medicine we need is always available and shows up just when we need it?
Oh plants and trees, how I love you.
Hey, there! Now, let's make a healing salve...
How to make Pine Resin Salve:
1/4 cup resin
1/2 cup oil
1/2-1 ounce beeswax
butter muslin or cheesecloth
pot and spoon
rubber band to hold cloth while straining
1) Ask permission of the tree and make an offering. I use tobacco or a piece of my hair. Sometimes I sing a song to the tree and offer my heart.
2) Using a dull butter knife, so there is no damage caused to the tree, scrape the resin into a glass jar. Only harvest a small amount and leave 90% off it on the tree for its own healing properties.
3) Warm the resin with oil of choice on low heat. I like organic golden jojoba oil because it is the closest to the human body's natural oils. It's actually a wax, so it won't stain clothing or bed sheets!
Melted Resin in Oil (left) Beeswax from our honeybee hives (right)
4) Once the resin has dissolved, there will be some tree bark and particles. Strain those through a fine mesh butter muslin or cheesecloth into a jar.
5) Add the hot oil and resin back to your pot and heat on low adding beeswax. 1 cup of oil calls for 1 oz. of beeswax so adjust depending on how much you're making. If you prefer a softer salve, add less beeswax.
6) When the beeswax has dissolved pour into tins or jars and label.
Optional: add 3-5 drops of Balsam Fir essential oil for extra aroma. I sell local oils from Full Kettle Farm in Sunderland, MA on my website. It's made from Christmas trees in Ashfield, Ma over a wood fired still.