Holmes describes the Functions and Indications for the oil:
1. Resolves mucus damp, removes congestion and stops discharge and bleeding; opens the sinuses, promotes expectoration and resolves mucus damp.
2. Stimulates digestion, warms the middle, resolves accumulation and relieves constipation; promotes urination and dissolves stones.
3. Clears heat and damp heat, reduces fever, inflammation and infection, and relieves pain.
4. Promotes tissue repair, relieves pain and swelling, and benefits the skin; clears parasites; antidotes phosphorus.
For more information on these functions and indications (which are just the headings for more detailed lists) see Holmes' text The Energetics of Western Herbs.
These indications are in line with uses for the herbal material (needles, bark, etc.). It is curious that such a useful, not to mention abundant herb, has been so forgotten. Neither Lesley's book nor Weiner's discusses Pine. The only other reference in the collection at hand is from Planetary Herbology, which discusses Pinus tabulaeformis and P. sylvestris (a Chinese species and Scotch Pine, which is often planted locally and which Holmes also discusses). Tierra lists the knots in the wood as the part used (standard for Chinese medicine) as analgesic, antispasmodic, and stimulant. "The knot of the wood is used in decoction with Dong Quai and Angelica for rheumatoid arthritis. It is also used in combination with such other herbs as Clematis, Acanthopanax, Quince, and Mulberry branches. Other pines possess similar properties, particularly in the resin, but also to some extent in the leaves. The oil of Pine makes one of the most effective external treatments for local relief of rheumatism, sciatica, chronic bronchitis, coughs, pneumonia (applied over the chest) and nephritis."
Holmes' indications for Scotch Pine are:
1. Promote expectoration, resolve phlegm damp/dryness and opens the sinuses; restores the bronchi and relieves pain.
2. Tonifies the yang, opens the chest and relieves wheezing; restores the adrenals and generates strength.
3. Stimulates digestion, resolves accumulation and relieves nausea.
4. Reduces infection and inflammation; promotes tissue repair and relieves pain.
Again, with an herb this useful, how could it be so forgotten. Coughs, colds, arthritis, and digestive complaints are among the most common illnesses. And Pine is among the most common trees - in many parts of the world. Indeed, the fact that it is so common is what prompted my research into it initially as well as this blog post currently. I am always interested in using what is local. There are many wonderful plants from China, the South American rainforest, and many other places. Since our dis-connect with Nature is at the root of many health problems, it seems strange to rely on herbs from thousands of miles away when we have so many important plants within steps - even in winter.
The White Pine was sacred to the Lenape. As the more-or-less tallest tree of the forest and the host to the Bald Eagle (who builds its nest in the tree) it holds a special connection to the Creator. When I was building my cabin of White Pine I chewed the bark and prepared decoction from it. Much of the felling and construction took place during the coldest spells of winter. I am certain the Pine, in addition to plenty of venison and Shaolin training wines, gave me the energy demanded by the labor. This is in line with the notion above regarding tonifying (nourishing) yang and generating strength.
As my fascination with trees increased, I began preparing formulas for coughs and respiratory infections, arthritis, and circulation with various trees (mostly bark) which I call "forest blends". Cough medicines are often the easiest to see benefit, as a remarkable formula will produce immediate benefits. Along with barks from Cherry, Spicebush, Black Birch, and other deciduous trees, the evergreens combine nicely to produce formulas that benefit the lungs and immune system along with removing stagnations causing pain by benefits circulation and opening the energy channels in the joints.
Primarily I utilize the two most common evergreens in our area: White Pine and Hemlock. Both are good for the lungs as simples (used individually) and can be combined in formulas.
I also remember a 31 mile walk from Narrowsburg, NY to Liberty, NY. In order to keep my endurance up I took with me a drink of American Ginseng, Calamus, and Hemlock. I think this too supports that these evergreens give strength. Certainly, the deer and other animals that survive so well in winter gain some heat and vitality from chewing on the bark and needles from these trees.