Pines are no longer just popular seasonal icons. With their antioxidant properites and well- known fragrance they are sure to make an appearance in future skincare formulations.
Pines are evergreen, coniferous, resinous trees (or sometimes shrubs). The bark of most conifers is thick and scaly, but there are some species with thin, flaking bark. Pines are very long-living conifers, typically reaching ages of 100–1,000 years, or more. They are among the most commercially important of tree species, valued for their timber and wood pulp throughout the world. Pines are also commercially grown and harvested for Christmas trees. Pine cones, the largest and most durable of all conifer cones, are favorites in the craft industry. Pine boughs, used especially in wintertime for their pleasant smell and greenery, are popularly cut for decorations. Pine needles are also used for making decorative articles like baskets, trays and pots.
Other common species in the pine family include Abies (fir) species which are usually of more northern distribution and found at higher altitudes. Sap-filled "blisters" on the trunks of some species provide balsam. Larix (larch) and Pseudolarix (golden larch, of China) are the only two deciduous types of pine. Picea (spruce) is the world's most important source of paper. Cedrus (cedar) ranges from the Mediterranean area to the Himalayas.
Beyond the aesthetic appeal of conifers there are a plethora of health benefits for the skin. The intensely studied French pine bark extract (also known by the trade name Pycnogenol), delivers powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and antimicrobial benefits directly to the skin. Among the primary components of the extract are antioxidants called procyanidins, which are also found in red wine and pomegranates.[1.] Topical application of Pycnogenol, which is readily absorbed by the skin, protects skin from the constant bombardment of free radicals, diminishes and prevents inflammation, and promotes overall skin health. A recent study showed that Pycnogenol is the only natural supplement that simulates hyaluronic acid production in human skin.[2.]
Pine essential oil is often steam distilled from the needles of conifers and has shown useful in the treatment of various skin problems. It also has a mesmerizing essence and gives a sweet aroma to the cosmetics it is used in. It is commonly used in making perfumes, skin care products and soap making. Pine oil is also added in many household products due to its clean, powerful aroma. These include room sprays, volatile liquids and room fresheners. The aromas overall action is considered stimulating and is purported to bring alertness to the mind.
Pine oil is a phenolic disinfectant that is mildly antiseptic, relatively inexpensive and widely available. It is considered a pesticide by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and approved for use as a disinfectant, sanitizer, mircobicide/microbistat, virucide and insecticide. Pests specifically targeted through the use of Pine Oil include: Brevibacterium ammoniagenes, candida albicans, enterobacteraerogenes, escherichia coli, gram-negative enteric bacteria, household germs, gram-negative household germs such as those causing salmonellosis, herpes simplex types 1 and 2, influenza type A, influenza virus type A/Brazil, influenza virus type A2/Japan, intestinal bacteria, klebsiella pneumoniae, odor-causing bacteria, mold, mildew, pseudomonas aeruginosa, salmonella choleraesuis, salmonella typhi, salmonella typhosa, serratia marcescens, shigella sonnei, staphylococcus aureus, streptococcus faecalis, streptococcus pyogenes, trichophyton mentagrophytes. In acute toxicity studies, pine oil was shown to be of low toxicity, with the exception of an eye irritation study. Pine oil is also a moderate skin irritant.[3.]
Pine needles are often used for decorative purposes, although they can also be found in botanical tea form. According to Eat the Weeds, by Ben Charles Harris (Barre Publishing, NY, 1975), scientists have found that the needles of Pinus strobes (White Pine) contain high amounts of Vitamin A and five times the Vitamin C of lemons. Pine needle tea may also be useful as a bath infusion.
Pine wood carbonization produces a substance known as pine tar. Traditionally, pine tar has been used to heal infections and wounds. Today, pine tar is used to treat a variety of skin conditions. It has antibacterial and antifungal properties and doctors prescribe it for a variety of skin conditions. The National Psoriasis Foundation says pine tar is used for medicinal purposes.[4.]
There is far more to pine than meets the eye. This useful tree is not just a seasonal icon; it's unmistakable fragrance and antioxidant properties make it a boon to the cosmetics industry. With continued sustainable farming, we can expect to see pine in skincare formulations for years to come.