Monastic Medicine: Scots Pine
"The porter had set fresh pine torches in the shelter of the arched gateway to provide a beacon glow homeward, for fear some of the searchers should themselves go astray and be lost." ~The Virgin in the Ice

Once upon a time, the only place many people could get health and medical care was the local mosque, synogague, church or monastery. The records of such places share some interesting insights into the mindset of the people as concerns the application and relationship with some plants.

For instance, Scots Pine, a native of Britain appearing in the landscape not long after the last Ice Age, was common in monastic medicine. The wood was used for construction as well as a source of turpentine, resin, and tar. Indeed, the Trappist monks I've had the joy of working with still use this as a primary source for their works (

Pine oil, including the essential oil, has a monastic history of being used in medicine, perfumery and soap. These were added to bath water to treat pain, aches, and assist in wound healing. Pine oil was also used in salves and steams for wound healing, irritated skin (though a plaster was more common), muscle pain/ache, colds and bronchitis. Other pine extracts were also used as they are today for urinary disorders, respiratory infections and gallbladder problems.

Not to waste anything, the cones yield a reddish yellow dye that some monks still use in their wares (other cones are used to flavor beer- again hat tip to the Trappists, who are believed to make some of the best beer in the world! The ground inner bark was also used to make bread and, mixed with a grain (usually oats), cakes.

Indeed, a plant suited for torches, ships, caskets, clarity of the emotional organs of the body, and for making beer- it's no wonder the medicine of pine helps a person find their way home!