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© Royal Botanical Gardens
|Eastern white pine is also a popular choice for Christmas trees.|
© Museum of Health
Care at Kingston
The eastern white pine is a North American native, growing across eastern Canada from Newfoundland to Manitoba.
History and traditional uses
First Nations considered both the resin and needles to have medicinal value. The resin, which has some antiseptic properties, was smeared on wounds as a healing ointment and was boiled up to make a tonic drink. The needles, rich in vitamin C, made a tea that helped prevent and treat scurvy.
During the heyday of patent medicines in the late 1800s, pine was a popular ingredient in many mixtures. As well as having some antiseptic properties, pine had good marketing value: the strong scent penetrated blocked sinuses and suggested that a powerful medicine must be at work.
Eastern white pine also had many non-medicinal uses beyond the obvious one of providing wood. The resin was used by First Nations to seal the seams in canoes; later, pine resins became the source of industrial products such as pitch and turpentine.
Current findings and new possilbilities
Several over-the-counter products sold to relieve the coughs and congestion caused by colds still contain chemical compounds derived from eastern white pine.
More recently, medical interest has centred around stanol, a chemical found in pines, which may help reduce LDL "bad" cholesterol levels.
In the Canadian garden
The eastern white pine is used for landscaping across its native range. However, it's not a tree for a small place: mature trees can grow as tall as 14-story building!
Commercial growing and harvesting
The eastern white pine is harvested primarily for its pulp and lumber. The oils for medical uses are a by-product.