Scotch Pine

Pinus sylvestris

Herbs gallery - Scotch Pine

Common names

  • Scotch Fir
  • Scotch Pine
  • Scots Pine

Scotch pine is a perennial coniferous tree indigenous to the northern European and Asian regions. While it is found growing in the wild in vast stretch ranging from Scotland to Siberia, over the years the tree has been naturalized across the north-eastern and mid-western regions of North America, who use it as an ornamental evergreen tree in the garden and even inside the house during Christmas. This species is grown widely in the rural areas of Ohio to prevent soil erosion. Scotch pine not only matures quickly, but also has the aptitude to tolerate extreme temperatures, soil conditions and rainfall. Mature Scotch pine trees are felled for timber in Europe, while in America people cut the tree in its formative years as the best liked popular Christmas tree.

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Scotch pine, related to other pines and also firs, spruces, larches and hemlocks, is known to have derived its name from Scotland in Great Britain. This variety of pine has a twisted trunk. On its maturity, the trunk may possibly divide into numerous extensively deviating branches forming a striking coronet of twisted branches. Some trees of this species may grow to a height of 50 feet. The growth rate of Scotch pine is average during the formative years and sluggish as it ages. Very often, the trees bend forward as they grow old. When the tree is young it resembles an inverted pyramid, but with age it becomes twisted.

In addition to providing valuable timber and being an effective reforestation species, Scotch pine is also helpful medicinal plant. The history of the tree as a medicinal plant too is notable. People in North America used this plant as a diuretic as well as to bring on perspiration during the 19th century. In addition, Scotch pine was also used by herbalists to cure fevers. Herbal medicine practitioners recommended the plant for treating constipation as well as persistent bronchitis. The tar of the plant was added in ointments or tar water that were applied externally to cure chronic skin ailments like eczema, psoriasis and even to heal open wounds. Scotch pine pitch prepared by filtering the tar obtained from the wood was also used in medications for treating eczema and other related skin disorders. This medicinal preparation was also taken internally to heal skin ailments as well as hemorrhoids.

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The timber of the plant is also used as a valuable building material, which is light, but hard-wearing. Once upon a time people in North America used the needles of Scotch pine to create a mattress stuffing called pine wool. It was believed that pine wool was effective in keeping away insects like fleas and lice.

Parts used

Leaves, branches, sterns, seeds, essential oil.


Taking medical preparations with Scotch pine leaves internally brings about a gentle antiseptic effect inside the chest. This formulation may also be used to treat rheumatic and arthritis troubles. The essential oil extracted from Scotch pine leaves possesses many remedial properties and may be used to cure respiratory infections, asthma and even digestive problems, such as flatulence. The branches and stems of the plant produce a dense resin gum that also has an antiseptic effect in the respiratory tracts when taken internally. The seeds of the plant produce an essential oil that has the aptitude to invigorate the respiratory system as well as promotes urination. In addition, herbalists also recommend the seeds of the plant to treat conditions, such as bladder infections, tuberculosis and bronchitis. A decoction prepared with the Scotch pine seeds may be applied externally as a wash to treat or hold back extreme vaginal discharge.

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Although Scotch pine has numerous medicinal utilities, the plant is especially held in high esteem for its antiseptic properties as well as the valuable impact on the respiratory system. However, people who are susceptible to skin allergies should not use any medical formulations prepared with Scotch pine or its parts. In addition, the essential oil obtained from the plant should never be used internally without the recommendation of your healthcare professional and under the supervision of an expert medical professional. The solvent acquired from the resin of the Scotch pine branches and stem possesses medicinal properties, such as antiseptic, anti-rheumatic, balsamic (aromatic resin used for healing wounds and comforting pains), diuretic, expectorant, rubefacient (producing redness of the skin) as well as vermifuge (property to eliminate worms from the body). Herbal medications prepared with different parts of Scotch pine are useful for treating conditions like kidney ailments, diseases of the gall bladder and rheumatism. In addition, they have also been found to be useful in healing ailments of the mucous membranes as well as medication of respiratory problems. Medications prepared with Scotch pine are also used externally as ointment plasters to heal wounds and alleviate pain as well as inhalers to treat respiratory problems.

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The leaves and the young shoots of Scotch pine possess antiseptic and expectorant properties and, hence, are useful in treating respiratory problems. The leaves and young shoots of the plant are collected during the spring, dried and stored for use when needed. Owing to their antiseptic actions, medical preparations with the leaves and young shoots are often taken internally to alleviate chest problems and for the treatment of arthritis and rheumatism. In addition, the leaves and young shoots may be boiled in water and used in bath water to alleviate tiredness, nervous exhaustion, sleeplessness or insomnia and skin disorders. Moreover, these parts may be steeped in boiling water and used as inhalants to treat different types of chest problems. The essential oil obtained from Scotch pine leaves is also helpful in treating bronchitis, asthma and other types of respiratory contagions. Additionally, these formulations are also recommended for internal use to treat digestive problems like gas. On the other hand, the essential oil extracted from the seeds of Scotch pine possesses diuretic properties and, at the same time, stimulates the respiratory system. The essential oil is also used in Bach flower remedies, such as treatments for stress, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, fear, getting pregnant and smoking cessation. The keywords for to prescribe the formulation include 'self-approach', 'despondency' and 'guilt feeling'. This essential oil obtained from the seeds of the plant is also used in aromatherapy and the keyword for prescribing it is 'invigorating'.

The inner bark of Scotch pine tree serves as an edible substance. Soon after collecting the inner bark, it is dried and pounded into powdered form and used to make bread. On many occasions, the powdered inner bark is also blended with oatmeal. It is generally known as a famine food and is usually consumed by people where other foods become scarce. The resins secreted by the pulpwood of Scotch pine is used to obtain a vanilin flavouring substance as a by-product of the tree part.

The needles of Scotch pine yields a tan or greenish dye. In fact, the needles of this variety of pine enclose a substance known as terpene that is discharged when the needles are washed by rain water. Terpene is detrimental for the growth of other plants as it imparts a negative effect on the germination of a number of plants, such as wheat. The cone of the plant yields a reddish yellow dye. In addition, Scotch pine trees also give up resin and turpentine. Although the tissues of nearly all the species of pines enclose oleo-resins, the amount of the substance found in the plant is not viable for commercial extraction. The resins are collected by making holes (tapping) the tree trunks. Alternately, sometimes the resin is also obtained by the destructive distillation of the wood (decomposition of wood by heating with a minimal exposure to air and collecting substance produced). Usually, Scotch pine trees grown in warmer climes produce more amounts of resin. On the other hand, on an average, turpentine encloses about 20 per cent oleo-resin and is obtained by the distillation process. Turpentine is a very useful substance that is used in an assortment of products, such as a solvent for making waxes, in medical preparations, manufacturing varnishes and other substances. After the turpentine has been removed, it leaves behind a residue called rosin, which is made use of by violinists on their bows. In addition, rosin is also used in the manufacture of varnishes, wax and other products. Resin from Scotch pine also yields pitch that is useful as a wood preservative, waterproofing and other utilities.

The essential oil extracted from Scotch pine leaves is utilized in making perfumes as well as herbal medicines. The fiber present in the inner bark of the tree is used in rope making. In addition, the roots of the plant enclose sufficient quantities of resin and they burn well enabling people to use them as alternatives for candles. Moreover, the leaves of the plant are also utilized as a packing material. After the fibrous substance present in the leaves is removed, they are filled in cushions, mattresses and pillows as a packing material. It may be noted here that Scotch pine trees are wind resilient and grow rather rapidly. These plants may be planted in a bed sheltered from marine exposure. The wood of Scotch pine is light, pliable, not sturdy, supple, but very lasting and contains rich amounts of resin. The timber from this tree has several uses, including utility as building material, paper manufacture, furniture making and other assorted jobs. In addition, the wood is also an excellent fuel, but is to some extent smoky.

Habitat and cultivation

As discussed earlier, Scotch pine is indigenous to the rocky regions of Europe as well as the northern and western parts of Asia. However, over the centuries, the species has extensively spread and has been naturalized all over the northern hemisphere. While the leaves of the tree are collected during the summer, the stems are harvested when the mature trees are cut down.

Although Scotch pine trees have an aptitude to grow well in poor soil conditions, they generally thrive well in a light sandy or gravel soil that that sufficient drainage. The plant has a preference for an acidic soil and turns yellowing owing to its inability to produce chlorophyll when grown in soil having a pH level above 6.5. In addition, this variety of pine is able to sustain on thin soil over a chalk base. Scotch pine is able to endure chalk for some time, but dies soon. Though the plants prefer a soil that has sufficient drainage, they are also able to endure water logging to some extent. However, they have an aversion to insufficiently drained soil found on the highlands. Scotch pine also has the aptitude to endure draught conditions and is very resilient to wind. Trees of this species can, however, tolerate exposure to marine conditions as well as atmospheric pollution. Scotch Pine trees have a reasonable long life, often thriving up to 200 years. They usually grow rapidly, but the growth is sluggish in damp soil conditions. While the young Scotch pine trees often grow one meter in a single year, such rapid growth is inhibited as the tree ages and the growth usually becomes sluggish after they attain a height of 18 meters. Scotch pine is particularly grown in cool temperate climatic conditions for its valuable timber, which is used for a number of purposes. Plants of this species of pine are potently out breeding as the self-fertilized seeds generally develop feebly. Scotch pines easily produce hybrids by crossing with other members of the same genus.

It takes around two seasons for the Scotch pine cones to ripen. Plants of this species of pines are very susceptible to fire and they cannot regenerate from the roots once they are destroyed by fire. Scotch pine forms an excellent plant for many species of butterflies and caterpillars to thrive on. In fact, as many as 50 different types of insects are associated with this tree. In addition, plants belonging to this genus are also easily susceptible to honey fungus. Some secretions for the plant's leaves slow down the germination process of the seeds and hence, this diminishes the number of plants that grow beneath a mature Scotch pine tree. As the plants are used to decorate gardens and even inside the homes, especially during the Christmas, they are known by different names in different regions.

To propagate Scotch pine from its seeds, it is advisable to sow the seeds in separate containers in a cold frame soon after they ripen. If it is not possible to sow the seeds soon after they ripen, alternately they may be sown in the latter part of winter. Forming a layer or strata on the seeds for a brief period of six weeks at a temperature of 4°C is likely to augment the germination prospects of the stored seeds. The seedlings need to be planted in their permanent positions outdoor as quickly as possible with a view to shield them from the frosting during the first two winters of their growth. Scotch pine plants have an extremely thin root system, hence, the earlier they are planted in their permanent positions, it is better for their growth.

It is important to transplant the young trees in their permanent positions when they are still small - having a height of anything between 30 cm and 90 cm. Usually, people plant the seedlings into their permanent positions when they are around 5 cm to 10 cm in height. The young Scotch pine plants are able to establish themselves well as long as they are provided with mulch bereft of any weeds. It is interesting to note that while the young Scotch pine trees grow rapidly, the bigger trees of the species have a very sluggish growth and in several instances the trees do not grow at all for many years. The slow growth rate of the larger established trees actually have an adverse impact on the growth of their root system and also diminishes the trees' ability to resist wind.

Scotch pine trees may also be propagated by cuttings. However, this process is only viable when the cuttings are made from very tender trees that are below 10 years. While adopting the cutting process to propagate Scotch pine, ensure that you use fascicles (a cluster of stems) having a solitary leaf and the base of a small shoot. Removing all buds from the shoots before cutting them for propagating the plant is likely to ensure better growth prospects. Anyways, when the plant is propagated by the cutting process, the growth of the new plants is usually very slow.


The leaves of Scotch pine contain a volatile oil (consisting mainly of alpha-pinene, but also including beta-pinene, delta-limonene, and other constituents).

Usual dosage

Several medicinal preparations are made with the leaves, twigs and seeds of Scotch pine to treat different conditions. Below is a brief account of these formulations and their appropriate doses.
Infusion: Scotch pine infusion is prepared by adding half teaspoonful of the plant's twigs in a cup of boiling water. The twigs should be allowed to permeate in the boiling water for around 10 to 15 minutes. The infusion should be taken thrice daily to heal different conditions.
Tincture: The tincture prepared with Scotch pine twigs should be taken in dosage of 1 ml to 2 ml thrice every day.
Inhalant: Add some amount of Scotch pine twigs (2 to 3 handfuls) in two litres of boiling water and leave them to seethe for about five minutes. You may use the vapour from the formulation as an inhalant. Cover your head with a towel and inhale the vapour for about 15 minutes. Repeat this process for a number of times daily.
Bath: Put three handfuls of Scotch pine twigs or leaves in 750 ml of water and allow it to soak for about 30 minutes. Next, boil the water with the twigs and allow it to seethe for about 10 minutes. Filter the water and include it in your hot bath.


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