Scots Pine

Aside from being beautiful trees used during Christmastime, pine trees also offer medicinal qualities. Scots pine in particular has several traditional uses.

Quick Facts
General Information
  • Common name(s)Scots pine, Scoth pine
  • Scientific namePinus sylvestris
  • Geographic distributionEurope, Asia, North America
  • Plant typeTree
  • Native regionAsia, Europe
  • Main producer(s)China
  • Main Economic UseTimber industry
Scots pine

The Scots pine formed large parts of forests in northern England and Scotland until around 8,000 years ago. Scots pines form the foundation of the native pinewoods of Scotland, and are vital for wildlife conservation. Only a small portion of the original forests still exist, after much of them were burned for fuel from the Roman conquest onwards. In additional to herbal remedies, Scots pine was traditionally used to make ships, tar, charcoal, and turpentine.

Scots Pine Medicinal Properties

Quick Facts (Medicinal Properties)
  • Medicinal actionAnti-inflammatory, Antimicrobial
  • Key constituentsa-pinene and b-pinene, proanthocyanins, disulfide proteins
  • Ways to useCapsules, Essential oil
  • Medicinal rating(3) Reasonably useful plant
  • Safety rankingSafe

Health Benefits of Scots Pine

Scots pine has several traditional uses and preliminary research has shown that it possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties that can help with:

  • Reducing inflammation. Scots pine has been traditionally used for treating inflammatory processes of the upper and lower respiratory tract, as well as for the relief of rheumatic and neuralgic pain.

  • Treating infections. The antimicrobial properties of scots pine have been long used for eliminating fungus and bacteria, as well as for the treatment of common infections, such as cold and influenza.

Additionally, scots pine's antioxidant action have been shown some influence in preventing cellular damage caused by free radicals, which have been linked to many age-related, degenerative diseases.

How It Works

The bark of scots pine contains at least 28 phenolic compounds, which have anti-inflammatory properties, mainly a-pinene and b-pinene. These phenols have been shown to inhibit the production of two inflammatory compounds, nitric oxide and prostaglandin E2. The disulfide-rich proteins in Scots pine sap have been shown to bind to glucans, which make up the cell walls of fungi. This may be effective in eliminating some types of fungi.

SCOTS PINE CONTAINS THREE DISTINCT BIOACTIVE LIGNANS, AS WELL AS PROANTHOCYANINS, A CLASS OF ANTIOXIDANT PIGMENTS.

Antifungal properties can also be found in herbs like neem and Oregon grape, whereas eucalyptus is great for treating respiratory problems, and turmeric is well-known for relieving joint pain and inflammation.

Scots Pine Side Effects

There are not known side effects due to scots pine use: however, it may cause an allergic reaction in sensitive people, mainly skin irritation when applied topically. 

Cautions

The use of scots pine in any form is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women.

How to Consume Scots Pine

Herbal Remedies & Supplements

  • Essential oil. Only for topical use, scots pine essential oil is useful for treating skin problems, such as fungal infections and local inflammation. The oil must be diluted before application.

  • Capsules. Supplemental forms of scots pine can be found as tablets and gel capsules.

Buying

Herbal Remedies & Supplements

Also known as 'turpentine', pine essential oil, as well as pine capsules, can be easily found online, as well as in specialized health stores and some pharmacies.

These supplements are commonly hailed for their antioxidant content. Some products labeled as "pine bark" may contain an extract from any one of several different pine species - namely P. pinaster - so it is advised to check the labels carefully.

Growing

Quick Facts (Growing)
  • Life cyclePerennial
  • Harvested partsLeaves, Bark
  • Soil pH4.5 – 5.0 (Very strongly acidic), 5.1 – 5.5 (Strongly acidic), 5.6 – 6.0 (Moderately acidic)
  • Growing habitatCool temperate regions, Temperate climates, Mountain regions, Woodlands
  • Plant spacing average5 m (16.4 ft)

Scots pines are relatively low maintenance trees to grow and they do well with cool summer climates, which is why they primarily grow in the Northern Hemisphere.

Growing Guidelines

  • Scots pines require full sun and prefer well-drained soils, although they can tolerate dry soil.

  • The optimal pH range of the soil for growing scots pines is 4.5 - 6.0

  • Trees should be planted 14 feet (4.25 m) apart.

THERE IS A SCOTS PINE IN SWEDEN'S MUDDUS NATIONAL PARK BELIEVED TO BE OVER 700 YEARS OLD.

Additional Information

Quick Facts (Additional Information)
  • Other usesPaper, Disinfectant, Fungicide, Furniture/carpentry, Timber

Plant Biology

Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) is a hardwood tree that can grow up to 100 feet (30 m) tall. It has reddish brown bark and needle-like blue-green leaves, and it produces small, spherical cones. Pinecones are egg-shaped with woody scales that protect the seeds inside.

  • Classification

    Pine trees are part of the Pinaceae family, which encompasses up to 250 species of coniferous trees and shrubs, divided into 11 genera. The Pinus genus is made up of approximately 150 species of coniferous trees.

  • Varieties and Subspecies of Scots Pine

    Contemporary taxonomists recognize up to five or six different varieties of Pinus sylvestris, although at some point, almost 100 of them had been described. Most of these varieties are very similar-looking, differing mostly in their resin composition.

    The most abundant variety is P. sylvestris var. sylvestris, which can be found from Scotland to Spain and Siberia. In addition, var. hamata, which grows mostly in the Balkans, Caucasus, and Crimea; var. mongolica, which grows in Southern Siberia and Northwestern China; var. nevadensis, confined to Southern Spain (the Sierra Nevada); and var. cretacea, which grows between eastern Ukraine and western Russia, are all agreed upon as distinct varieties by experts. On the other hand, controversy still exists regarding P. sylvestris var. lapponica, which grows in extreme northern areas of Europe, and is sometimes thought to be part of the sylvestris variety.

Economic Data

The main economic value of Scots pines lies in the timber industry, since their soft, reddish wood is widely used for home furniture. The pulp is also used for making paper. In the United States, they have added seasonal value as live holiday decor: approximately 30% of the 35 million Christmas trees harvested and sold annually belong to the Pinus sylvestris species. China currently leads world production of pine trees.

Other Uses

  • Timber. Scots pine trees are highly valued for making furniture and building various other structures, such as roof beams, furniture, fences, doorways, and stairs.
  • Ornamental. Scots pine trees are popularly used for Christmas trees, but they are also commonly planted along roadsides.
  • Paper. Scots pine pulp is often made into paper.
  • Industrial. Scots pine's resin was traditionally made into tar, and is still made into turpentine, which is the volatile oil distilled from pine resin.

Bibliography

  • USDA Plants Database, Forest Service: Scotch Pine
  • Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, p. 248
  • Medicinal Plants of the World, p. 242
  • American Cancer Society, Pine bark extract
  • Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Phenolic extractives from the bark of Pinus sylvestris L. and their effects on inflammatory mediators nitric oxide and prostaglandin E2, 2004
  • Revista Medico-Chirurgicala a Societatii De Medici Si Naturalisti Din Iasi, Polyphenol-rich extract from Pinus sylvestris L. bark-chemical and antitumor studies, 2014
  • Phytomedicines, Herbal Drugs, and Poisons, p. 220
  • Laurie Pippen's All Natural Antibacterial Agents
  • Magnetic Resonance in Chemistry, Lignans from the bark extract of Pinus sylvestris L., 2006
  • Plant Molecular Biology, Expression and β-glucan binding properties of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) antimicrobial protein (Sp-AMP), 2011
  • U.K. Forestry Commission, Scots pine - Pinus sylvestris