Pine trees are often adorned with festive decorations and set up as a focal point during the Christmas season, but did you know that their fragrant and pointy foliage can also be a source of a valuable essential oil known as pine oil? Read on to find out more about pine oil, how it benefits your health and how you can make it at home.
What Is Pine Oil?
Pine oil is a colorless to pale-yellow essential oil that may have a fresh, balsamic or turpentine-like odor, depending on its source.1 It should not be confused with pine nut oil (also referred to as pine seed oil), which is a vegetable oil commonly used for cooking.
Pine nut oil is derived from the seeds of the pine tree,2,3 whereas pine oil is extracted from the needle-like foliage of pine trees through steam distillation.4 Several species of pine are used to extract pine oil, some of which include:5
- Dwarf pine needle (Pinus mugo) — A tall and shrub-like tree harvested from the Swiss Alps. In Europe, this plant is used to help alleviate skin and scalp diseases.
- Long leaf pine or turpentine (Pinus palustris) — This tree, which can grow up to 150 feet, originates from the United States and is widely used for the distillation of American gum spirits of turpentine.
- Scotch pine or Norway pine (Pinus sylvestris) — This high, evergreen tree has a reddish-brown and deeply fissured bark that grows pairs of long, stiff needles. Largely produced in the Baltic states, the essential oil from this species is a hypertensive, tonic stimulant.
5 Benefits of Pine Oil
Pine oil has antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal,6 antiseptic and antirheumatic properties.7 It works as a good decongestant and expectorant for respiratory ailments as well.8 Pine oil is also valued for its ability to help:
- Soothe muscular stiffness9
- Ease rheumatic pain10
- Speed up wound healing11
- Protect against airborne pathogenic microorganisms, like Aspergillus and Penicillium genera fungi12
- Fight against free radicals with its antioxidant properties13
Pine oil is also a natural analgesic and anti-inflammatory agent,14 which makes it a potential substitute for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that come with many side effects. Checkout my NSAIDS: The Painful Truth Behind Painkillers infographic for more information on NSAIDs.
4 Uses of Pine Oil
Pine oil is not only valued for its health benefits, but also for its practical uses. This essential oil can be used as:15
- Fragrance — You can use a few drops of pine oil as fragrance when making your own soaps, detergents, lotions, candles and ointments.16,17,18
- Insect repellant — To protect your wool sweaters from moths and other insects, pour 10 drops of pine oil onto small pieces of untreated wood. Place the pieces of wood in your closets or drawers.
- Air freshener — Eliminate the awful smell of cigarettes and stale air by adding four drops of pine oil to a cup of water. Pour the mixture in a spray bottle, shake it well and spray it to instantly freshen up your room. Avoid spraying it on furniture.
- Massage oil before and after exercise — Create your own pre- and post-workout massage oil to inhibit or soothe strained muscles. Add three drops of pine oil, juniper berry oil and rosemary oil in 2 ounces of jojoba oil.
Composition of Pine Oil
Pine oil is composed primarily of terpene alcohols. Its major component is a-terpineol, but it also contains the monoterpenes carene, a-pinene, β-pinene and limonene. It also has dipentene, a-terpinene, borneol, borny acetate and camphene, among others.19,20
How to Make Pine Oil infusion
Pine essential oil is obtained through steam distillation of fresh pine tree twigs and needles. Sometimes sawdust from the hard wood is also used. 21 For a simpler mixture, however, you can make an infusion oil. To make your own infused pine oil at home, follow this easy do-it-yourself guide from Leaf:22
- Harvest fresh pine needles from a pine tree. Do not use pine needles that have fallen to the ground, as they may grow molds and spoil your essential oil.
- Wash the pine needles with warm water and mild detergent soap to remove impurities. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry with clean paper towels.
- Using a mortar and pestle, gently bruise the pine needles.
- Pour sweet almond oil in a large-mouth jar, and then add in the pine needles.
- Cover the jar tightly and gently shake it to coat the pine needles with almond oil.
- Store the jar in a warm room with an ambient temperature of at least 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to keep it out of direct sunlight.
- Shake the jar at least once a day for seven days. After a week, put the jar in a dark storage space — for example, inside your cupboard — and allow it to age or ferment for at 10 to 14 days. Do not shake the jar during this time period.
- After 14 days, sift the oil through a piece of cheesecloth or fine-mesh cotton gauze to remove solid particles. Squeeze cheesecloth to get remaining essential oil.
- Transfer your homemade pine oil in a dark bottle. Cover with cap tightly to keep it fresh longer and to avoid contamination.
Keep in mind that homemade essential oils should not be ingested. You should also discard homemade pine oil after 10 to 12 months.
How Does Pine Oil Work?
The most common ways to administer pine oil are orally, topically and through inhalation. In aromatherapy, pine oil is indicated and used for cuts, lice, excessive perspiration, scabies, sores on the skin, arthritis, gout, muscular aches and pains, asthma, bronchitis, common colds and flu, and fatigue.23,24 ,25
If you’re going to use pine oil topically as a moisturizing oil to improve skin condition or as a liniment for muscle pain relief, I recommend doing a skin test before applying it to large portions of your skin. It should also be diluted with a carrier oil.
Is Pine Oil Safe?
Pine oil is generally safe except for isolated reports of sensitizing reaction in some individuals. Dwarf pine oil is a common cause of contact dermatitis, although this is only true in oxidized oils.26 This is why you should make sure you only buy pure, high-quality essential oils from trusted sellers and manufacturers.
Discard old and expired bottles of pine oil. If you are planning to get pregnant, are already pregnant or breastfeeding your child, I advise against taking pine oil or any kind of essential oil without the consent of your doctor.
Side Effects of Pine Oil
While pine oil has low risks of toxicity in humans, inappropriate dosage, improper application or use of low-quality and oxidized variants may cause skin rashes, eye irritation, gastrointestinal issues, severe aspiration and respiratory distress.27,28,29
As a safety precaution, do not integrate pine oil or any type of essential oil in your treatment protocol without seeking expert medical opinion. Consult your holistic health care practitioner about this matter, so you can be guided accordingly.
Again, for simple dermal applications, I recommend doing a skin test first. Apply pine oil on a small area of your skin. Wait for 24 to 48 hours to see if redness or any sign of irritation will occur before using it on larger parts of your body.