Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

hotscience header

Cough syrup, anyone?



pine needles and bark

Eastern White Pine


Eastern white pine trees are a virtual storehouse of medicine.

The inner bark can be used to treat wounds and insect bites. It can be applied as a bandage—tied in place with string and kept moist—or placed directly on the wound after being ground up and soaked in liquor.

The bark can also be turned into cough syrup. The bark needs to be steeped in a jar of hot water, and brandy and honey are usually added for flavor and to preserve it.

The native people of North America used the needles of the eastern white pine tree to make tea. They chopped the needles up and let them sit in water. This made a tasty tea rich in vitamin C.

Caution: Even though we've described a few ways in which the eastern white pine can be used, we don't recommend that you go out and try any of these by yourself. As with all wild plants, it's best if you have a plant specialist with you, to help you learn to identify plants and to make sure you don't use the wrong plant by mistake. This is especially true of pine needles. The needles of the western pine have been reported to cause poisoning in cattle. (Western pines include ponderosa pine and loblolly pine.) Other types of pine trees contain large amounts of turpentine substances.

Mint medicine | Garlic medicine



back to Hot Science Home Space

Support provided by

For new content
visit the redesigned
NOVA site


NOVA Home | WGBH Home | PBS Home
Search | Feedback | Shop
© 1996 WGBH