Pine trees are an incredibly abundant and useful natural resource if you have the know-how. They have all kinds of survival uses beyond the resin. You can consume the nuts (in the cones), needles (tea), and even the inner bark (not the hard outer stuff). It's a fast burning fire wood, especially useful for getting a fire going. The roots can be used for cordage. Branches can be used for bedding. And, you can of course build with it. We're gonna focus on the resin – frequently called pitch, tar, sap, amber or rosin, though these are slightly different forms of the substance. First things first, you have to know how to harvest it.
Pine Resin Collection
Pine resin is a very viscous and sticky substance secreted by coniferous trees when they are damaged. It forms both a physical and chemical barrier to bacteria and insects. Depending on how recently it was secreted, you may find it soft and pliable (resin), or hard and brittle (rosin). This transition occurs as the more volatile substances like turpentines evaporate.
So, look for damaged areas – missing bark, broken limbs, recently fallen branches. If needed, tear small patches of bark off yourself and come back later. If you're dealing with rosin, it will often times be less conspicuous as it gathers debris and blends in with the bark. You'll also have to chip rosin away, whereas the resin can be more easily scraped.
Depending on its condition and your use case , you may want to purify your resin. Toss what you have into a pot and throw it on the fire. Be careful as it is very flammable. Burn/melt it down, stir it up, and then pour it into a new container leaving the debris behind. (When purifying for home use, I pour it through a coffee filter.) *The less overall heat exposure the better, as your evaporating and breaking down beneficial chemicals.
Pine Resin Firestarter
If you've ever thrown pine branches on a fire, you know they burn well. This is due to the pine resin, and enables pine branches to burn even when slightly damp. The isolated resin is very flammable. It's a good idea to collect some when you come across it, for later use.
In damp conditions, it is invaluable because it can burn long enough to dry some tinder. In more agreeable conditions, the resin will make igniting your tinder and kindling much easier. The pine needles, cones and bark can also make excellent tinder!
You can also use pine resin to make a torch. Simply coat a rag in your resin, wrap it around the end of a stick, and light it up!
Treating Injuries and Infections with Pine Resin
As I mentioned earlier, pine resin acts as both a protective physical and chemical barrier for a damaged tree. It can do the same for you! *This is not medical advise so use at your own risk blah blah standard disclaimer.
The earliest accounts of using coniferous resin therapeutically are from ancient Egypt. They used resin salves to treat burns. In the Nordic countries, people have made spruce ointments to treat infected wounds, burns, rashes and sores. Native Americans chewed pine resin to acquire its anti-inflammatory properties for the treatment of rheumatism. Colonial Americans used pine resin as a cold and cough remedy mainly in the form of tea.
• Suture (stitches) substitute: If you need to treat a cut that would normally require stitches, the pine resin glue with hair mentioned above is a useful substitute. The hair provides cross-sectional strength across the cut to hold it together.
Just remember, contrary to popular belief, an open wound cannot get infected. Infection occurs when foreign matter is trapped inside on the body, so be sure to flush out any debris before closing the cut.
• Neosporin and/or antibiotic substitute: The complex mixture of resin acids and lignans present in pine resin are strongly antimicrobial against a wide range of bacteria and fungi. This makes it a good antibiotic treatment both topically and systemically. To use it topically, it's nice to make a salve by mixing with wax, oil or fat, but this is not necessary. For systemic ingestion, you can eat it directly, or make a tea. Pine needles are a great addition to this tea! These treatments have been used by Native Americans for generations.
• Anti-inflammatory substitute: Pine resin is also a potent inhibitor of signaling molecules in the inflammation process. This means it can help reduce swelling/inflammation when necessary. You can use it both topically and systemically as stated in the previous paragraph.
Pine Resin Glue
Pine resin makes a fairly reliable glue. Recipes will vary, but generally you'll want:
• 3 parts pine resin
• 1 part powdered charcoal OR • 1 part charcoal + fibrous material (hair/fur or pulverized bark)
The powdered charcoal tempers the resin, and to some extent increases its bond strength. Many use only charcoal without extra fiber. Adding a fibrous material like animal fur or finely shredded bark will give your glue more cross-sectional strength, but also decrease the flow and increase its volume. You may or may not want this depending on your application.
• Step 1: Melt down your collected resin. A tin can works great!
• Step 2: Pulverize your charcoal to a powder. If adding hair, separate hairs to avoid clumps. If adding tree bark fiber, tear the fibers apart with the goal of attaining thin fibers. Desired length will vary with application, but half inch sections is a good starting point for both hair and bark fiber.
• Step 3: Evenly mix your charcoal and/or fiber into the melted pine resin.
• Step 4: Apply your glue, or package it for later use. Perhaps you'll want to let it harden in your mixing can, which you can then throw back on the fire when you want to use it. A more compact method is to form the glue on the end of a stick and let it harden. You can then heat this over a flame for later use.
The Pine Resin Mustache Wax
Beyond survival, pine resin has another great use – providing an excellent hold in the best mustache wax on the market! In a formulation perfectly balanced with other natural ingredients, resin provides an ideal amount of tackiness and rigidity without being sticky or losing its pliability. Get your SavvyJack Mustache Wax here!