Plant Talk: Scots Pine

Linking the Sacred & Profane

Have you ever been enthralled by a pine tree? Pine tree, you say? Yes. Those evergreen beings who embody the sacred states of immortality, grace and fortitude. Yet they also give so much of the tangibly profane: wood, resin, essential oil and more. This article (and soon to be associated video) features Pinus sylvestris, one of the noble conifers of aromatherapy that fortifies body and spirit. Continue reading for plant highlights, therapeutics and personality of the essential oil and aromatherapy blending ideas.

A Pioneering & Well-Travelled Spirit

Scots Pine is the world’s most widespread conifer after Juniperus communis. Circumferencing the Northern latitudes of Earth, it originally ranged across Eurasia and was introduced to North America from Europe. This ancient, prolific and ruggedly adaptable Conifer of the Pinaceae family is a key member of the North-Eastern Hemisphere’s temperate-boreal forests: imagine the snowy forests of Austria and Sweden, the Russian taiga and steppes of Mongolia. Commonly known as Scots, Scotch, Norway and Forest pine, it is the national tree of Scotland, hence its popular moniker of “Scots Pine”.

A Foundation for Community

Hardy and adaptive, P. sylvestris is a pioneer species often found alone, in a grouping or among other pioneers such as Birch and Poplar in well drained, lean and acidic soils. Intolerant of shade, it puts down roots in barren & sunny places where there is little competition. When conditions are right Scots Pine will grow up to 100′ tall, develop a wide “crown” of evergreen branches and create nut bearing cones; providing shelter and nourishment (pine nuts).

Scots pine is an unassuming being belonging to a plant community that creates and fosters the backbone of terrestrial ecosystems.

An Immortal & Giving Provider

With its prevalence across Northern latitudes, it may be easy to overlook this “common” but important being. Though folklore has it that Scots Pine was honored for its evergreen nature, which espoused the notion of immortality and remembrance. The trees often marked places of happenings and thresholds such as noble burial sites, crossroads and perimeters. Mature trees, whose canopies are often wide, are inviting places to linger for protection and rest.

When injured, the noble tree produces a resin that may be rectified into the solvent, turpentine. If the resin is untouched and hardens on the tree it transforms into amber. The virtues of pines (e.g., Pinus strobus, Pinus edulis) and other noble conifers (e.g., Tsuga Canadensis) led indigenous peoples of the Northeastern United States to recognize conifers in general as “friends of spring.” Similarly, communities of Mongolia-Siberia considered scattered groves of Scots Pine across the barren grasslands as sacred; imagine the Pine forests providing a northern type of oasis. Isn’t that one of the many things conifers offer in general? An oasis of food, shelter and more…especially during barren winters and in extreme climates.

P. sylvestris is an ancient long-lived species with many beings living up to 300 years (up to 1,000 in some locations). Living in slow motion, as trees do, this pioneering evergreen quietly bears witness with patience, fortitude and humility whilst continually offering nourishing seeds, protection to others from abiotic stress, and medicine from its essence, resin and wood. It is a resilient, giving, soul of the forest; a creator of the forest I feel is often overlooked for showier essential oil-bearing plants of aromatherapy.

Scots Pine Essential Oil

This image is not of Scots Pine trees but I feel it represents community, fortitude, quietness and the overall protective and unassuming yet noble nature of Scots Pine.

Scots pine essential oil bears qualities of humbleness, fortitude and patience. It is a giver of supportive, safe space and asks for little in return. Within this space lies the profane clarity, quietude and restoration needed to fortify the sacred Will to Live.

Scots Pine essential oil is distilled from the twigs & needles of Pinus sylvestris. Scots pine is notably grown (or wild harvested) and distilled in France, Bosnia and Herzegovina for its volatile essence. Though traditionally, a notable oil was obtained from trees of the Tyrol region of Austria.

Impressions & Personality of Scots Pine Essential Oil

Physical Impressions

The vapors of Scots Pine quickly and deeply fill the lungs, initiating full diaphragmatic breaths. Its movement goes straight into the lower lungs almost making the diaphragm expand. Breathing is fortified, even and calm. The fresh and cooling vapors deeply penetrate the mouth, touching the back of the throat with a slightly drying sensation.

The overall energy is rising and stimulating for mind and body. Scots Pine first settles the breath and lower organs so deep breathing opens up, allowing energy to then rise up through the lungs to the head. Upon several occasions, the lower organs (e.g., intestines and bladder) are stimulated yet energy rises upward, bringing clarity to the mind. Awakening pulses are felt in the temples and the trigeminal nerve is activated. Despite all of the activity there is a container of stillness around the clarity. A feeling of equanimity envelopes the mind and body. The vapors impart a willingness to let go and smile.

There is not a feeling of rushing or needing to “get things done”; energy of receptivity, patience and endurance pulse through the body. Standing tall with steady active, “yang” energy, Scots Pine embodies a Will to Live. Standing up to adversity in a subtle yet firm way–it is not a bully or arrogant. It says “I am here. Here I am.” Scots Pine is an ally for those who are reluctant to take up space. It stands by and with you, affirming everyone belongs and is a part of the Earthly community. With this knowledge we may openly receive the therapeutic and restorative properties of Scots Pine.

Aromatic Personality

Pinus sylvestris is no-nonsense. It is not coy or shrouded in mystery; it has no secrets to hide. Its immediate aroma is slightly penetrative and sharp without pungency. Although a hint of sweet fruity-freshness is present, the taste-sensation is at first terpenic with a slight bite of ammonia. The air is green over layers of resinous and tarry notes. Smoky gasoline vapors quickly give way to the balsamic backbone of subtle woodiness, of camphor and cedar. Rather upfront, the oil is not overly complex yet is true-blue to what it is: the power of equanimity.

Affinities and Usage Applications for Scots Pine Essential Oil

Essential oil of Pinus sylvestris is a go-to for supporting respiratory health, fortifying the nervous system and soothing aches and pains. Following are notable affinities & actions although there are other secondary actions (i.e., lymphatic support) that are not noted in this article:

  • Respiratory system: Cleansing, deepens and quiets breathing, decongesting & expectorating; overall excellent for wet, drippy conditions.
    • Consider blending with the other Conifers (e.g., Cedrus atlantica, Abies balsamea, Abies alba, Tsuga canadensis…), Frankincense (Bosewllia sp.), Myrtus communis, Rosemary (cineole rich), Eucalyptus sp., Hyssop among many others.
    • Cleaning surfaces and the air. An abundance of monoterpenes in most “pine” oils make them amazing broad spectrum antimicrobials, hence why Pines in general are often used in cleaning & disinfecting.
  • Nervous system: Considered by many to help with adrenal fatigue, be “cortisone-like” and [my words:] regulator of the hypothalamus. In a sense it is tonic, calming, clearing, fortifying, energizing. Its calming/modulating action may be due to an increase in oxygen and deeper breathing. Regardless, it has marked, immediate action.
    • Consider blending with Petitgrain, Neroli, Sandalwood, Geranium, Clary sage and Ylang ylang.
  • Musculoskeletal system: Stimulating and slightly warming, Scots pine is a supporter in blends for muscle & joint aches and pains.
    • Consider blending with Rosemary (camphor chemotype), Black pepper, Spike lavender and Wintergreen

Aromatherapy in Practice: Scots Pine

Feeling Frazzled? Clarify and Reconnect

If you’re feeling on-edge, off-kilter or frazzled turn to Scots Pine for quiet clarity, Geranium for balance and Angelica seed for connecting thoughts back to your gut. The goal of this blend is for carving out the space you may need to settle down and recharge.  

  • 75 drops Pinus sylvestris essential oil
  • 40 drops Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) essential oil
  • 10 drops Angelica seed (Angelica archangelica) essential oil

How to Make: Combine the essential oils into a 5 ml bottle with orifice reducer or similar sized bottle with a dropper cap. Label with the ingredients and date.

Usage Suggestions: Put 30 drops of the essential oil synergy into an aromatic spritzer, up to 12 drops in a full body bath or mindfully diffuse* 10 minutes a day for 5 days (20 drops into a nebulizer or 5-10 drops in an ultrasonic diffuser). [*Meaning sit near the diffuser and focus on your breathing and the oil.]

Luxurious Bath Idea

Elevate your bathing experience by adding the following to a warm bath right before getting in the tub: 1 cup each of Epsom Salts, Magnesium chloride and Yarrow hydrosol to a small bowl. To that add 10 to 12 drops of the synergy OR 4 drops of Pelargonium graveolens essential oil & 8 drops of Pinus sylvestris essential oil. Enter the tub, dispense the mixture into the water and swish the mixture around.

Extinguishing Exhaustion

This particular blend combines Scots Pine for clarity, integrity &, restoration, Petitgrain for stability & uplift and Sandalwood for holding space and opening your heart to yourself. (Another oil to consider is Palmarosa.)

Sandalwood, specifically Santalum album, is a scarce, precious and regulated botanical which I recommend only calling upon with precise intention. It is in this blend to call upon the mindfulness needed to honor the quality of REPOSE.

  • 9 drops Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris)
  • 4 drops Petitgrain (Citrus aurantium var. amara leaves sur fluers)
  • 2 drops Sandalwood (Santalum album or Santalum spicatum)

How to make: Combine the oils into a roller ball applicator, cap and let them sit for 7 days if possible. Then add a carrier oil such as sunflower or jojoba. Apply a label (i.e., name, ingredients, date).

Usage suggestions: When life has you rushing so much that you are forgetting to slow down and recharge take out this special blend and keep it close to you, even ON you (pants pocket!). Apply the roller ball along your jawline and pulse points. Then gently massage the oil blend into your skin. Apply daily during times of stress (at least 3x/day) and as needed.

Support Breathing Space

Who needs “Vicks” when you can make your own respiratory salve? Combine the following essential oils into a salve base. Apply liberally to the neck and chest when experiencing stuffy airways. This blend is also beautiful to diffuse. (Note: the gentler Rosemary and Eucalyptus chemotypes and species, respectively, make this blend acceptable for judicious use with children, over age 3.)

  • 40 drops Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris)
  • 15 drops Rosemary verbenone (Salvia rosemarinus ct verbenone)
  • 10 drops Eucalyptus radiata

Who Are Your Local Conifers?

One of the blessings of aromatherapy is getting to know many plants from the Earth. Though that may turn into plant “wanderlust” (which I’m guilty of!), bringing our focus to everything other than what is at home.

I spend a lot of time around Pitch pine, Virginia cedarwood and several other local aromatic plants. These plants thrive here because they adapted to this particular environment over thousands of years. My point is that you and I don’t have to look very far to find plant friends. So although I love the European Scots Pine, there is so much to love and respect around me. I don’t have to go far from home.

Thank you for spending time with Scots Pine and me.


References:

Pinus sylvestris (fs.fed.us)

Pinus sylvestris (Scots pine) description (conifers.org)

Scots pine mythology and folklore | Trees for Life

How the Conifers Show the Promise of Spring – A Seneca Legend. (firstpeople.us)

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