Herbal Medicine of the Pine Tree

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This episode about the herbal medicine of the pine tree was so much fun to record and I know you’re going to love listening! Kat Mackinnon is hilarious and quirky, while sharing an impressive amount of information about the medicinal gifts of pine. Just to name a few, pine can:

► Free the breath, whether there’s tightness or stuckness in your lungs from a cold or flu or from that “weight on your chest” that sometimes accompanies depression or grief

► Relieve indigestion, sour stomach, slow digestion, constipation… pine can be a great digestive tonic and delicious addition to bitters blends

► Gently ease that bloated, irritable, crampy feeling of stuck menses 

► Soothe achy muscles

► Promote healing of superficial wounds

► Provide nutrient-dense physical food… and the soul-food that comes from being with a plant whose very presence invites you to take a deep breath, ground and unwind (even if you’re an “inside kitty,” as Kat put it)

No wonder Kat describes pine trees as beautiful “year-round medicine cabinets”!

By the end of this episode, you’ll know:

► How to work with pine safely

► Are pine pollen supplements worth the money? Why or why not?

► Why Vitamin C is so much more than ascorbic acid

► How you can personalize your own herbal first aid kit

As a listener, you’ll also receive free access to Kat’s recipe for pine elixir, which she turns to anytime she needs relief from stuck respiratory crud.

In case you don’t already know her, Kat Mackinnon, RH(AHG), has been a certified clinical herbalist and nutritionist through the NAIMH since 2011. Kat is the founder and director of Meet the Green, through which she runs a private clinical practice and teaches classes on herbalism and ancestral skills. She is the co-founder of Plant Camp, an online and in-person botanical learning community. She has also been primary faculty at the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism in Lafayette, Colorado since 2012, and the Clinic Program Director, where she mentors student clinicians at the public low cost clinic, and is a principal reviewer of student clinician cases.

I’m so thrilled to share our conversation with you today!


  • 01:28 – Introduction to Kat Mackinnon
  • 02:29 – Kat’s winding journey to herbalism
  • 06:31 – How Kat fell in love with pine
  • 08:43 – Does the species of pine matter?
  • 11:18 – Is pine toxic?
  • 14:33 – Pine medicinal actions
  • 24:13 – Making pine needle tea
  • 27:27 – Topical applications for pine
  • 29:46 – Vitamin C content of pine
  • 34:43 – Pine as food
  • 37:47 – What about pine pollen supplements?
  • 43:12 – Forest to Field Festival
  • 48:06 – Kat’s current projects
  • 52:20 – What’s in Kat’s herbal first aid kit?
  • 58:36 – Kat’s Pine Elixir recipe
  • 1:01:08 – Herbal tidbit

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Transcript of the 'Medicinal Gifts of the Pine Tree with Kat Mackinnon' Video

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Hello and welcome to the Herbs with Rosalee Podcast, a show exploring how herbs heal as medicine, as food and through nature connection. I’m your host, Rosalee de la Forêt. I created this Channel to share trusted herbal wisdom so that you can get the best results when relying on herbs for your health. I love offering up practical knowledge to help you dive deeper into the world of medicinal plants and seasonal living.

Each episode of the Herbs with Rosalee Podcast is shared on YouTube, as well as your favorite podcast app. Also, to get my best herbal tips as well as fun bonuses, be sure to sign up for my weekly herbal newsletter at the bottom of this page. Okay, grab your cup of tea and let’s dive in.

This episode was so much fun. Kat is hilarious and quirky while sharing an impressive amount of information about pine--a tree that she clearly loves. I know you’re going to love this episode. For those of you who don’t already know her, Kat Mackinnon is a registered herbalist with the AHG and has been a certified clinical herbalist and nutritionist through the NAIMH since 2011.

Kat is the founder and director of Meet the Green through which she runs a private clinical practice and teaches classes on herbalism and ancestral skills. She’s the co-founder of Plant Camp, an online and in-person botanical learning community. She’s also been primary faculty of the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism in Lafayette, Colorado since 2012, and the Clinic Program Director where she mentors student clinicians at the public low cost clinic, and is a principal reviewer of student clinician cases.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Thank you so much for being here, Kat.

Kat Mackinnon:

Thanks for having me. 

Rosalee de la Forêt:

It’s such a pleasure to be able to connect with you. I’ve known you through the years of what’s been going on in your world and we share a mutual friend. I’m just so excited to really be able to connect with you here and I’d love to start with your herbal story.

Kat Mackinnon:

I’m originally from Connecticut. My grandmother was a farmer and then my mother is a horticulturalist, so I’ve just been kind of surrounded by plant nerds since the beginning. That was very useful and there’s always just—it was always plant people, not just like, “Those are plants and they’re green things.” It’s like, “Look, it’s a little such-and-such-i-cous.” That was the beginning into that world and then I had—it’s Connecticut so lots of sweet fern tea was in my childhood. We make that, as a matter of course, every summer playing at being witches and being [inaudible] at the same time. 

When I got older, I got into the ancestral skills world. I took a number of classes for Tom Brown, Jr., who’s a fellow who does a lot of—He owns the Tracker School on the East Coast there. My brothers and I got into that and that opened up this world of wild foods and then medicine as well. Plants is medicine, and really getting into that. I studied, as a lot of us do, self-study in the beginning and I took a little break. I call it my “break from herbalism” to go to college in Northern Arizona for forestry. I was like, “I need to do something with plants and that’s a job that involved plants,” but it wasn’t quite what I thought it was. I studied forestry, anatomy and physiology for a bunch of years and was like, ooh, this is still off.

I came back to the East Coast and started to work for a non-profit that Tom Brown started working with ancestral skills for kids and families, and got even more into that world and more pulled into the plant skills. I took, like so many of us, Rosemary Gladstar’s distance course. That was my first on paper education with herbs, studied with an herbalist named Melinda Runyan, and decided at a certain point I want to do this for a living. I moved out to Boulder, Colorado and studied with Paul Bergner during some of his final years here with the North American Institute of Medical Herbalism. I went through that clinic program. Lisa Ganora purchased the school and it became the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism and started teaching. I used both my botanical training and my anatomy training.

My poor longsuffering parents were like, “What are you going to do with an anatomy degree?” An anatomy minor with forestry studies, what do you think you’re going to do?” I was like, “Ah, perfect!” I started working with teaching anatomy and physiology and materia medica, just started making herbalism my work. A couple of years ago, I took over the clinic program there at CSCH and just still getting sucked in. I guess that that’s—I think that’s probably—that’s the short version. There are lots of little stops and wells along the way, but that’s the general gist of things.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

It’s always surprising to me when I have folks on and I hear their story and how much I have in common with their story. I feel it happens to every single person and you are no exception, Kat, because guess how I got started? Tom Brown Tracker School.

Kat Mackinnon:

No way!

Rosalee de la Forêt:

I wonder how many herbalists that he has inadvertently created.

Kat Mackinnon:

When where you there? I have to know!

Rosalee de la Forêt:

I didn’t go East Coast. I was West Coast, so it was in the Santa Cruz area that I took his classes and then studied with Karen and Frank Sherwood who was instructors at a school for a long time. Later, I began my clinical stuff with Paul Bergner. Again, from a distance so I didn’t make it to Colorado. So many similarities there.

Kat Mackinnon:

That’s so cool. I didn’t know that. I should’ve done my homework on you before I came. That’s so fun.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

It’s wonderful to hear your story and the meandering ways of how we’ve become herbalists. Another thing about me is I live in a pine forest so I’m really excited to hear about all that you have to share about pine.

Kat Mackinnon:

I know. I’m like, “Okay, we have about an hour for this podcast? We really need five more. You know what’s funny? Because pine, in the beginning of my getting into food as medicine and plants as medicine, pine was one of those first ones. I came to herbal consciousness. I feel everybody has their plants that were like, “Oh, my God. You can? Plants?” I will devote my life to this and pine was one of them. It’s yarrow, mullein, pine. Pine needle tea was one of those first kind of, “I’ve seen this.” I’ve been surrounded by white pines. In Connecticut, that’s the predominant pine around there. They’re the native pine. It was in New Jersey Pine Barrens and you’re making pine needle tea. I saw out in the corner. What are they doing with those pine needles? They were taking them and putting them in a clay vessel with all this steam coming off of it. What are they going to do with that? And then the first cup was just this explosion of like, “This is everything!” It tastes so good. It smells so good.

There’s this—with a lot of pines, there’s of course, the sappiness everybody thinks of pines and there’s like, “Oh, it smells like pine,” or there’s this resinous nature to it, but then when you get into the needle medicine and actually tasting it—the complexity of the aromatics and the taste, the astringency, then you have the bitter and then you have the sweetness, plus, this pungency, plus, these aromatics. It just reached its organoleptics into my soul and grabbed me. I kind of been heart-linked to that plant ever since I would—I tell my students if I could bleed resin, I would. I had dreams about that before where I’m like, “I am a pine.”

I don’t know where you want me to start. I feel like I could continue to just wax on, but if you have any guidance what you want to talk about first, it can start with medicine or food or whatever.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

I want it all. One thing comes to mind is that, just to start, People will often wonder, “What about my pine?” Like, you mentioned white pine. People will be like, “What pine do I have and can I use it?”

Kat Mackinnon:

Such a good question. I thought about that before coming on to this because it always comes up in the discussion of pine. There’s 49 to 51 pines, depending on who you talk to. I feel like there’s a 49-ish native ones. If you talk to some botanist, they’re like, “No, there’s 52.” Anyway, there are a lot of pines and they’re all throughout North America. They’re kind of tip to tail. They go all the way from really cold climates way up in Alaska, tundra area, and then you’re down into tropical areas where there are pines that like to be in wetland areas and some more unique pines compared to what we consider the pine type Christmas tree. As long as it’s a Pinus species. There’s pine family, Pinaceae. There’s the Pinus genus.

Really, when we’re talking about pine medicine, in my mind I think of everybody in the pine family as having a similar nature if not exactly the same. There’s firs and spruce, etc., but just sticking to the Pinus genus, if you have a pine species, if it’s actually Pinus, it’s medicine. It’s food. All of them have a similar— not exactly the same nature—they all have—just like apples. Every apple has a distinct taste, distinct smell, aromatic profile. It’s the same with pines, but we’re talking about the same neighborhood medicinally, and as far as edibles too.

The big thing that comes up is pines that are not pines. Yew is not a pine. Totally. Taxus is the genus and it’s a totally other slightly toxic evergreen and it’s a conifer. We’ve got conifer species that are a little bit toxic, so I think people will mix those two things up. They’ll mix up conifer, which just means “cone-bearing.” Just like juniper and cypress and Western cedar – those are all in the realm of either low dose or just frankly, toxic. You have things that aren’t even conifer that are totally different like Norfolk Island pine, if you’ve heard of that before. That’s the predominant “pine” in Hawaii. I had a student who texted me, “Which pine is this?” I’m like, “It’s not!” because—what is it? Araucariaceae or something. Araucarians is kind of the family. As long as you actually have a Pinus genus, you’re okay.

Have you heard of pine being toxic? Have you come across-

Rosalee de la Forêt:

I wanted to ask you about that because the first time somebody told me that, I was like, “No,” but I should probably look into it more and so I did. It often comes up specifically with ponderosa pines. Now, it’s kind of hazy in my mind. I know I did a video covering this but it was something like cattle ate an amazing amount of pine and that was a problem for the animal, but it doesn’t mean that it’s toxic in any way, shape or form for humans who have been interacting with ponderosa pines, specifically for eons. I drink pine needle tea made with ponderosa needles. Still here.

Kat Mackinnon:

It’s not like—I think there’s this—the biggest thing that comes up with pine, but especially ponderosa pine which I feel like I may have to go more into it, but that brief synopsis, I’m like, “cows.” Cow. Are you a cow? Do you have a rumen? Do you have many stomachs? Because all the studies they did where they ate 40lbs of the twigs, the bark, the leaves—just don’t do that everybody! They gavage-fed the cows. I did the calculations similar to you. I calculated out and how much pine needle tea would I need assuming I’m a cow, and assuming that there’s no other companion molecules protecting. It’s like I would have to drink 8 1/2 gallons of tea in an 8-hour period of time. I’d be in so much trouble if I had just that much water.

The main thing that comes up is abortifacient. Have you heard of that? It’s going to cause miscarriage to the thing. There’s like there’s lots of Vitamin C in pine needles and lots of Vitamin C can cause pregnancy trouble and miscarriage. It’s all these types of ridiculous—it’s always like ponderosa pine and yew and Norfolk Island pine – they’re all mentioned in the same breath. Every time I see it, it gets my goat so much because it’s this very mystifying—it’s just bad PR and it’s silly because it’s just copy and pasted, copy and pasted, copy and pasted by somebody doing a wild foods or an herbalism thing. So, same deal. As long as you don’t eat 40lbs of the twigs and leaves and the bark, you’re going to do okay.

The ponderosa--that’s actually one of the—in the recipe that I gave you. That’s the pine that I usually use around here because I’m in Colorado. The main pine in my bioregion, in the foothills where I have the most exposure to, is the ponderosa pine. Making elixirs and cookies and ferments and soda and tinctures and honeys. Still alive. No kidney damage, no liver damage, no anything. I love that you have a whole video on that. I’m like, “Yes, yes, yes,” bringing that into the world, demystifying that weird toxicity aspect of it.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

I’m also personally offended by it. I look out onto ponderosa pine forest everyday, so I love them like you do. Let’s maybe dive into some medicine and then we can talk about the recipe that you shared with us as well.

Kat Mackinnon:

I’m thinking about pine. I mentioned yarrow is one of my first herbs. I feel like pine is like yarrow. It’s this very multi-faceted—what herb isn’t multi-faceted? For me, it’s the polychrest, the herb with many actions that I often come back to in relation to so many body systems and so many conditions.

The one thing that I really think with pine is just the respiratory system and the aromatics. Pine, just like any of our aromatics, goes through all of our systems and turns things up so there’s that mild, emmenagogue action, carminative and bitter. But in relationship to the respiratory system, I think that’s often what I put it in the most. For anything to do with the respiratory system that involves tightness or stuckness that can look like funny stuckness.

I was just recently sick, non-COVID sick but respiratory sick, and that was one of the things that was happening. There was this consistent stuckness and just crud--the kind you get in the shower. This is an herbalist podcast, right? This will be fine here. You get in the shower. You get the hot steam and everything comes up. That kind of stuckness and that kind of crud, as well as emotional stuck crud. I think of it—I actually put it into a lot of my formulations for folks who have depression as this heart exhilarant, but also especially when there’s either depression or grief that manifests as this creature that’s like sitting on your chest, that’s like reaching into you and squeezing your lungs.

I lost my father rather suddenly in the past year, just this last summer. I took so much pine because I would wake up and there’ll be this physical manifestation. It wasn’t panic exactly. There are moments of that too, but these moments of your breath gets taken away. It feels like your lung capacity is half what it was and it’s hard to breathe deep--that grief residing in the lungs, that nature of grief. Pine has been something along with—I think that pine elixir recipe—that’s part of why I like it too. There’s this element of bitterness to the pine and even the fresh needle medicine. There’s that bitter aspect, but there’s also this sweetness I think that’s inherent with pine as part of why it make it makes such a lovely tea. You have that bitterness and the aromatics, plus, that little bit of sweetness, plus the sweetness of the honey itself and it makes for this heart and lung tonic that lets you open up and breathe a little easier.

That’s what came out first. That’s something that I really—I haven’t seen that in the books as much but I’ve experienced it so profoundly with myself and with my students. All of our students who do their Herbs of the Week on pine, or we go into the field and we do our botany and we sit under pine. There’s this persistent—we try not to color the situation and be like, “So, this is pine. It’s really good for grief.” We just say, “This is pine! Go sit under it.”

What tends to come back is this elder medicine, this grandmother nature medicine. People often—I think it happens when people sit down and slow down enough—their tears will often come, but especially with the pine, people will just sob and say, “I had this thing that was there and I just feel like I can breathe. I feel like I’m just tasting a bit of that needle. I’ve moved something that needed to be moved,” that was on a physical level and then on that energetic, emotional level as well. That was my recent favorite things about pine that I really, really been digging into the last couple of years.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Thank you so much for sharing that. I love how pine, especially as it grows up to be big and strong, it does have that comforting feeling of just—I’ve sat beside many pine myself and it is such a comfort.

Kat Mackinnon:

I think that that’s just the physical nature of them in the ecology. They’re hosts to so much and that’s part of why I also love pine. It’s this force on the landscape. You have your planted individual pines but most of the pines that I see in their bioregion, in their habitat, it’s usually a mature forest or sometimes like a secondary forest. It’s this profound presence. Their smell and their nature, the habitat that they provide is this medicine all on its own that you can actually step into.

It feels like you’re wearing it like a cloak or something. It’s going to be good. It’s not going to be good, but it’s going to be okay. That primalness I feel like you tap into as humans or as human animals--I feel like that’s really true. I think that that medicine and the persistence of it and the abundance of it—even people who don’t know a whole lot about pine.

I’ll do plant walks where folks who work, you know… inside kitties for the most part, they’re like—I’m in the tech area here in Boulder county. There are a lot of people who work for Google or IBM or whatever. They come on a plant walk just on a whim or something like that and we’ll step into a grove of pines and they’ll change. They’ll have that visual like something unwinds or something reprograms and people just kind of chill out. I love that. I love that nature of pines too--the way that they can hold us as humans.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

We’ve talked about medicine for the lungs, both stuck physical congestion, stuck grief. What else would you say about pine medicine?

Kat Mackinnon:

Where to start? Digestively, I feel like as a digestive tonic even just pine needle tea by itself, maybe balanced with a little bit of honey or something else that provides a little bit of moisture, has this multiplicity, this long list of actions that are appropriate for the injury to the gut that’s from indigestion to feelings of sluggishness in the gut that slow digestion, in general. Also, sour stomach after eating or feelings of fullness after eating. I’m a sensitive, delicate petunia.

Corn and gluten are things that just wreak havoc in my digestive system. As a tincture or as a tea, but as a simple, the bitterness, the astringency and the aromatics that bring in the carminative effect, I find are just really useful. I put in most of my bitters formulas and most of my—I have just general formula that I keep on me on the regular—my digestive “tummy troubles” formula. It’s one of the six or seven herbs that I’ll keep in there for that that provides this movement.

I’m in Colorado in the southwest. It’s like our version of ginger. When the supply chain fails and everyone is out of ginger like, “Oh, pine!” That’s our perfect analog and it has a very—with its spiciness and with its movement, I feel like that’s a similar correlative for analog nature to ginger. Everything from constipation to general collywobbles, you’re like, “I just ate too much” this, that or the other thing. As a simple or usually I’ll put in a formula that fit that niche, that similar to ginger niche. So, digestivewise.

Reproductivewise, at least for the kind of tract that I have, especially for looking and working with stuck menses, I’ll occasionally put pine and formula or just when I’m traveling and I don’t have anything else, I’m like, “What do I have?” Probably you’ll have pine somewhere near you. Drinking cups of pine needle tea to help with bringing on menses when you have that, “I’m stuck. I’m bloated. I’m irritable. My digestion is weird and I’m crampy,” for that piece of movement, again, these aromatics moving through the body. It’s gentle. It’s not a kick-your-ass dong quai or damiana or something like that. It’s a little bit more in the realm of—it’s somewhere between probably chamomile—like chamomile and Melissa, very gentle emmenagogues to let’s say dong quai is over here. Pine is somewhere right on in here. You should take a lot of it to have a really strong effect. Even just that gentle movement I feel like it’s incredibly useful. What else?

Rosalee de la Forêt:

One thing I’m wondering is how do you like to make your pine needle tea? Fresh needles? Dried needles? Simmered? Steeped for how long? I want all the details.

Kat Mackinnon:

Let’s say for the digestive tonic effect or for the emmenagogue effect, just using the fresh needles cuts I find that that’s got the most potency. I’ve made it from dried needles before, but I feel like dried needles unless you keep them really well and they’re quite young when you pick them, they lose their potency.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

That’s what I feel like too.

Kat Mackinnon:

It doesn’t happen as much with the fir and the spruce species. I feel like you can pick those tips and they’ll maintain their potency. They won’t have as much of the bitter astringency. For whatever reason, pine—honestly, I’ve only experimented a little bit because pine is one of those year-round medicine cabinet plants, so it’s kind of like, “Why would I?” It’s like, “I’m going to dry my lemon out,” but what about fresh lemons? It feels kind of like that equivalent. 

The fresh needle for the tea--I’ve simmered it before too. I find—this is great. I can ask you. I find that the boiled or simmered needle has a mild to moderate laxative effect. I don’t know whether that’s because you’re losing the aromatics or there’s this concentration of resins or whatever it is. Maybe it’s the particular pine species I’ve tried. It’s mainly white pine. I haven’t honestly tried to replicate the process, but I’ve seen it happen with myself and then with a number of my students that do it as an Herb of the Week. They’re like, “Whoops. That was intense!” I don’t tend to simmer it. One, because it ruins whatever pot—not ruins, but it permanently marks a pot as like, “This is your pine pot now,” because it’s all the resins that just stick to the sides. Also, for that mild to moderate laxative effect. Anyway, that’s [crosstalk].

Rosalee de la Forêt:

I haven’t noticed that, but I do notice the simmering makes the decongestive properties more pronounced so I will turn to that for that deep congestion, like I need a big “mover” in the lungs, I’ll do the simmering.

Kat Mackinnon:

Wait. It’s just the needles? Or you [crosstalk].

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Just the needles. No. No, just the needles.

Kat Mackinnon:

I wonder if that’s an element of the tonic astringency because you’re covering and then you’re keeping all your aromatics, etc. How long are you simmering for?

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Twenty minutes.

Kat Mackinnon:

Okay, so that’s like a solid, long period of time. This could just be my individual reaction, but I mostly just do steams for that reason or I’ll do a 20 drops of tincture in a cup of saline or something like that instead of taking it internally. I’m so interested. I wonder if that’s just really pronouncing the resins, extracting those from the needles and concentrating that because that seems to—just thinking of that that seems to make sense that it would really create a lot more movement through the lungs. Let’s see. Topicals? Do you work with topicals with pine?

Rosalee de la Forêt:

I have, yeah. Sometimes it’s very generous and gifting. It’s pine pitch.

Kat Mackinnon:

I love the resins. There are strong resins in liniments and in salves for all the aches and pains. It has this sort of camphory—like camphor but a little more mild. Lots of movement, lots of warmth. I love that in most of my pain liniments and topical muscle rubs and things like that for that warmth, as well as—and of course, it’s so famous for wounds and wound care. I feel like that was one of my first salves that I learned how to make with just no beeswax, no anything else just the oil and the resin.

I’m just in love with that forever. I wear a lot of sandals. I’m barefoot a lot of the time in the summer and I end up getting these cracks in the heel that you get when you’re out barefoot or you’re out in the woods even with sandals all the time. The power of that medicine, I’ll put a little bit of that resin salve or sometimes just the resin itself into those kinds of cracks and injuries. They’re so healing. They’re in places where you’re moving a lot in the body. It’s this perfect binding agent/antimicrobial, so there’s that.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

That’s interesting. I use cottonwood for that very specific thing. Both those resins are… It’s interesting.

Kat Mackinnon:

It will make sense that correlation of this strong—usually comes along with a giant parcel of essential oils for that antimicrobial or volatile oils for that antimicrobial effect--that “knitting together” nature of things. For me, cottonwood is another one that I’ll put in my formulations for wound salves that I’ll just keep on me. It’ll be something like pine resins and cottonwood resins. Sometimes some Hypericum but that’s almost pretty consistently one of the players that I’ll keep in my formulas is that tough aromatic resin.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Love it. I think you mentioned previously Vitamin C, but I think that’s a lot of people’s entry way into pine is, “Oh, that’s Vitamin C.” I’m wondering if you could speak to that a little bit.

Kat Mackinnon:

I know you’ve had Lisa Ganora on your show here before, but I’ve talked to her a good bit about this. Think about it. It’s not just Vitamin C. It’s Vitamin C and friends--all the other associated antioxidants that you need for that antioxidant effect. I think it’s not just the Vitamin C, which thank goodness because the pile of white powder kind of Vitamin C, just ascorbic acid, I feel like that in of itself you can go too far and it can become oxidative in that concentrated form. I think that the Vitamin C and friends speaks to the synergy--the plant synergy. It’s always about synergy, right? Sometimes it’s about isolated extracts. Whatever. It’s great. It’s much easier to study one thing rather than one thing, plus all its friends and companion molecules.

I think that’s part of the medicine in relationship to the digestive tract. I think of the way that we eat and the way that we consume whatever it is, whether it’s super high glycemic things or more commonly like high oxidative oils, like the hydrogenated oils, the way overcooked oils, etc. I’ve seen this for so many folks who they have fast food kind of thing and drinking pine needle tea. I think it’s part of that antioxidant effect along with everything else – the aromatics, the astringency, etc. I think that that antioxidant effect is part of that. I can’t imagine it not being. 

In relationship to our respiratory tract, I had a client. This is a couple of years ago. They were a pack a day smokers and one of our things, one of our therapeutics was to get them to just be absolutely chock-full loaded with antioxidants. That was the first step. It’s like, “Reduce if you can, but let’s just start every single time you have a cigarette, just take as many antioxidants as you can.” We had them on turmeric, a handful of raspberries and then pine needle tea. As simple like, “Just put that into your morning routine.” They really loved it. That was one of the plants that they had that was in their backyard that they could connect to and actually be with. That was one of the things that we have them—we. Me and the mouse in my pocket. I had them—I asked them to do was to really just double down on trying to get antioxidants from all these sources including the pine. That’s what I got on Vitamin C and the pine people.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

I get this. I love that you work with pine so much and you have all these different ways of working with it. Hearing you talk makes me realize that I think that it’s a seasonal plant, in that when the snow comes and everything out there is covered. All the plants in my garden are covered. There is pine and that’s when I tend to work with pine is during the winter, which it’s a long winter here. I’m realizing that maybe it’s not such a seasonal plant. I could be turning to it a little bit more besides when it’s just winter.

Kat Mackinnon:

The year-round medicine cabinet, for sure is just so steady. It’s just so there and present. I think it’s so ubiquitous. It’s kind of just this “in the background” thing. I think it’s part of why there’s an element of—I feel like every herbalist is like, “This herb is underrated.” You could only so many herbs, honey. Calm down. Within the context of what we have is local medicine, I feel like there’s this—especially here in Colorado because it’s pretty much every tree you can see is chances are good. Nine times out of ten, it’s going to be a pine when you get to a certain elevation. It’s so ubiquitous. It’s kind of just this green wall but wait a minute. I can totally use this. I feel like—I don’t know—I feel like there’s an element too of your landscape telling you when you need certain things. When I feel like winter time is the perfect time for being inside and having stuck crud and all the things. I wonder if that’s part of it too. Is it because there’s nothing else? Or is it because you need it the most during that time of year?

Rosalee de la Forêt:

It could be. It could be. Is there anything else that you feel like you’re really excited to share about pine?

Kat Mackinnon:

I think the food aspect as well. It depends on the pine, but most of the pines—here we have pinyon pines. There’s the pine nuts and the seasonal relationship. There are mast years where you’ll have so many pine nuts. Pretty much all the pines have nuts that are similarly delicious. There might just be a little bit harder to get to.

When I was studying forestry—this is in NAU—that was when I first got introduced to pinyon pine as a food. I was sitting down there and one of the professors working with folks who are Paiute in relationship to basically, how they harvested pinyon pine, how it worked into their mythology and their culture. We ended up studying about the way that cones will open. Have you ever done that? You put a cone in front of a fire and it just does that thing. Oh, I’m hooked. Pine nuts gathered that way, gathered with either the pinyons.

Even out here, we have ponderosas with these huge armored cones with the relatively tiny pine nuts, but they’re still so good. The pine nuts and the little—they’re not stamen—they’re pollen producing cones. Basically, the little ones that you can pull off and squish them, squirt their polleny goodness everywhere at the right time of year. Just eating those straight up or on salads and then working with them with the pine pollen, of course, just gathering that and working with it in foods. It’s like this micro powerhouse. It’s the reproductive parts of plants. They concentrate all their goodness into those reproductive parts whether they’re cones or flowers.

The pollen, and then my recent love is sodas. Have you ever made pine soda out of the cones? It’s so good. It’s like—what do they call those? Ginger bugs? You can make a pine bug and use the little—the little stamen in cones aren’t quite as resinous as the seed bearing cones that are usually like—they’ve got that seed goodness in there. They protect themselves with a giant coating of bitter, sticky resin. Doesn’t that always…isn’t tasty unless you had a lot of sweetener due to your soda. Pascal Baudar do you know? Probably slaughtering his name… pronunciation. He has this great recipe on general fermentation and making your own soda. I worked with that and started making these little pollen cone… pine soda. It’s just so good. It’s so fun and so simple.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Lovely. Since you brought up pine pollen, I wonder if we should just visit that for a moment because pine pollen in somewhat recent years, has become a bit notorious. Have you seen products out there like pine pollen products that are incredibly expensive and they come with all of these pretty incredible claims as well. Could you speak to that, Kat?

Kat Mackinnon:

Sure. I think I was looking the other day and there was a 1 ounce tincture of pine pollen. We always made it—you know the ratio you make it at? I think it was like—it’s really strong. It’s a 1 to 2 or something like that, so it was like half an ounce of pine pollen which takes a little while to gather that. It was $120 and it was promising all sorts of fantastic erections and an increase in energy, and all that coming from a base of it helps—it’s a natural version of testosterone. The basics—I have known a number of people who work with it and who were just like, “I love this. I love how it makes me feel,” but I’ve also heard from a number of people who are trying to do some sort of hormonal placement therapy.

For the masculinizing nature of testosterone, they want to take testosterones. They don’t have a menstrual cycle and they can have a deeper voice and more facial hair, etc. For those folks, pine pollen just doesn’t cut the mustard. It doesn’t do the thing. So I wonder about its efficacy in folks who are taking it for greater sexual libido or for greater energy or for muscle mass and bone density. It’s a little bit of like, “Are you sure that’s doing what you think it’s doing?” Because in the concentrations that you’re looking at in the studies, they’re really high! They’re not what you’d be getting necessarily from the dosages that are recommended on most of the products. I can’t speak to all the products that are out there. I’ve seen a handful of them that kind of been like, “Umm, cool. Moving on. They’re recommending 2 to 3 dropper fulls or maybe in the high end, 6 to 9 dropper fulls a day or as needed, whatever that means in relationship to pine pollen helping you with energy and erectile function, etc.

If you are going to do that, you need to take a lot of pollen, which I feel like that’s the experiment to do. That’s the experiment that I’m waiting for, the study that I’m waiting for – is someone taking 2gm to 5gm doses a day of pine pollen rather than—I calculated it out because I was getting nerdy about it a little while ago. It’s like if this is 1 to 2 tincture and it’s an ounce and you’re taking 3mils a day, that means you’re getting .00 whatever grams. It’s kind of a microdose. I think of it like taking—I don’t know what would you take—like a horsetail tincture. I feel like that should—maybe you’re going for the salicylic acid for healing connective tissue. You mostly want that in a tea. You want that in high amounts. Or a raspberry leaf or something. You’re taking it for something besides the astringency. You usually want that in almost foodlike doses.

I think of that same thing in relationship to pine pollen. I don’t work with it a ton as a medicine. So, there’s my caveat. That’s my bias. I haven’t experimented with it a lot as medicine, but I also haven’t experimented with horsetail tincture a lot as a medicine because this seems silly. I want to give this in a tea. I know it works in tea.

That being said, I’m open-minded to some study being like, “Oh, no, no. Actually, you can take nanograms. You can take 00—a fifth of a milligram and it will still be good. It still promotes testosterone production in the body or mimic testosterone.” It’s sort of bioidentical testosterone the way that it’s promoted on all these sites. It makes sense that it has a lot of dense nutrition in it. You see a lot of the traditional use and it’s used as a tonic--as a tonic in relationship to energy, but it’s usually used in a decent dose. It’s actually pretty much more in the food or even spice realm, more a couple of grams to getting up into the high, almost to 10gm a day dose.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

I was first taught to take a paper bag and put it over the pollen producing cones, give it a shake and get the pollen in there, and then we would add it to pancake or waffle mix and just have that in there. That was kind of-

Kat Mackinnon: Oh! Mmmm! Okay. Fangirling.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

For people who might not have heard of this, Karen Sherwood taught me and apparently, Kat too, but that food dose—but it was taught as “Here’s a nutrient dense, wonderful gift that we can turn to.”  Thank you. I love all that you had to say both with your caveats and open mindedness, so I appreciate that.

Kat, if you’ve shared what you want to share about pine, which I just absolutely loved every little bit of it, I’d love to hear what kind of stuff do you have going on in your world? What projects are you working on?

Kat Mackinnon:

The thing I’m the most excited about coming up, my good friend and I, Briana Wiles, have been scheming for the last—since 2017? 2018? Since we started doing wild foods and herbalism programs together, I’ve been thinking about trying to make an event, a conference that included not just herbalism, but all the things that we geek out about and that we’re nerding into all the time--everything from ancestral skills, which is my original stomping grounds and entry way into herbalism, to more homesteading skills. We finally did it. We got it. We’ve got our events sites and got all of our teachers. It’s called “Forest to Field Festival.” The idea being everything from the wild forest to the cultivated field, trying to bring all those human skills together in one place. We’re holding it in September. I’m so excited about it. There are folks doing herbal first aid.

What’s the thing—what do kids say? FOMO? I already have FOMO because, “No, wait. I want to take all these classes and I can’t because I’m organizing the event!” I’m just excited about that because I feel like people are so ready for it after 2020 and after so much distance and so much disembodiment--I feel like is the thing that came out of that era/this era. I feel like the antidote to all of that.

I was talking about this in the class the other day—isolation and feelings of loneliness is embodiment. It’s of things that we could think of and all the teachers that we could think of. It’s been really cool to see it all come together, but all the people that we know are good at bringing together these embodied skills. It’s a little all over the place for topics because we have basket making and primitive fire by friction. We also have herbs for pregnancy. Herbs for supporting the menstrual cycle and reproductive health for everybody – those kinds of classes that are tuning into your body, tuning into your health and figuring out the signals that you need to help support that, as well as wild foods. It’s so cute. This is more fan girl. Katrina Blair is going to come up and teach some wild foods classes for us. There are lots of other classes. Some herbal first aid classes. Briana and I, of course, are going to teach on herbalism and wild foods. It’s a lot of just immersive time for people to get “dirt time.” If you’re familiar with the Tracker School lingo, it’s just really getting your hands into the plants and into everything.

That’s one of the things I’m the most excited about because it’s just this cool collaboration. I’m like, “Great! This is happening!” At this little point of, “Would you like to do this? It should be really fun,” then everyone—the response has been really—you know when your community is just like, “Yes!” That’s been the response. It’s been so soul feeding to be able to get into that and do that.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

That’s lovely. Where exactly is that going to be?

Kat Mackinnon:

It’s in Hotchkiss, Colorado. It’s the western slope of Colorado at a place called “Big B’s Delicious Orchards.” I like how it sounds. It’s this organic orchard that’s been there for a number of years. We’re going to have music there as well. They’re an orchard and then they have a music venue as well, so we’ll be able to incorporate that as well. Ayla Nereo is coming. I’m like, “Oh, my God!”

Rosalee de la Forêt:


Kat Mackinnon:

Yeah! This is so much. That’s the only reason I’m doing this is I’m going to meet all these cool people!

Rosalee de la Forêt:

What are the dates on that, Kat?

Kat Mackinnon:

It’s the September 8, 9 and 10, 2023. It’s coming up.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Lovely. It’s over my birthday weekend so what a great way to celebrate.

Kat Mackinnon:

Are you going to come? I’ll see you there. That would be fabulous. Wait. When is your birthday?

Rosalee de la Forêt:

September 8th.

Kat Mackinnon:

That’s my dad’s birthday. That’s so interesting. That’s part of why we chose the date of the event. I was like, “Okay, where can we put it?” I’m like, “Somewhere in September. We’re doing September 8th.” That’s bringing in all the good medicine I can for the first year and to make it just good. That’s so fun! That and I am teaching at the AHG conference in the fall. One of my other loves is low dose botanicals. I don’t know if you’ve seen, the symposium focus this year is going to be on—one of the intensive focuses is going to be on low dose botanicals. It’s me and a couple of other clinicians. We’re going to talk about working with low dose herbs.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Fabulous. Much needed information.

Kat Mackinnon:

Totally. I know it’s such a—that’s such the world. I feel like when I first—which is as it should be. Start out low and slow as it were, but I’ve seen in my own students in the past 10 years, there’s this like, “I don’t know,” this sort of fearful, mythological like, “Lobelia. It’s so toxic.” That’s what I’m excited about--breaking that open and just being like, “Okay, yes, it’s toxic. Also, it’s so useful and here’s how to do it.” That’s another piece that I’m really excited about getting into. It will be my project over this summer--is deep, nerdy dive into the realm of toxic herbs.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Wonderful. Any other projects before I ask the final question? 

Kat Mackinnon:

Let’s see. I had to think about this before coming on. Let’s see. We have plant camps which we’ve been doing. I’ve been doing with Briana for the past—since 2020, that was our first year. It’s like a mini version of what I described with Forest to Field. We do ancestral skills. Again, immerse it into the landscape but it’s this intensive. It’s always just so fun because people are just—it’s so exciting to meet other people that are into this because most of the time, I’m the weirdo in the situation. I’m like, “This is great! We can totally all be weirdos together.” We dive into the botany and the plant ID with herbalism, medicine making, and then getting into the ancestral skills and nature connection.

It’s all nature, again, but really into whatever the landscape it is that we go to. We’re doing one in Connecticut next week and then another one in Colorado in the—somewhere around August 12th. I think it’s the second weekend in August. I just love doing that the past couple of years. It’s just really good medicine. It’s a break from my clinical world where I’m just reviewing cases and doing student mentorship and talking in more of a heady space and getting into more of that hands on embodied place.

And then what else? We have our—we’ve been working on an online course in the past couple of years trying to—we’ve had our students who are in our plant camps. They’re like, “How can we learn more? What can we do?” We’ve been piecemealing resources together. I think it was last year we launched a course that is basically a connecting point with lots of medicine making and just herbalism skills, actions and energetics, basically, a furtherance of diving into the herbalism portion of what we teach during our plant camp in-person classes. We’re in the middle of our spring course right now, our spring summer course and then we’re—that’s just been so fun. That’s a bunch of 20 people we get to check in with every month and be like, “What did you do? How did it go?” with the tasting herbs and trying recipes.

And then writing! I’m going to go on a bit of a sabbatical year this next year. It starts in—I guess it really starts after the AHG conference. I’m switching up my work a good bit so that I have more time for writing. I’ve been wanting to do more work with writing about trees and tree medicine for a long time so I’m really excited to have just time for that too.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Wonderful. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes from that as well.

Kat Mackinnon:

Me too. Okay, I’m ready for your next question.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

You’re ready for the final question. Alright, I realize this could be a big question--something that strikes you as particularly helpful and useful that’s in your herbal first aid kit.

Kat Mackinnon:

Well, I’ve been thinking about this question. I was just on a camping trip for about seven days where we take all of our advanced students into retreat. We go to a place called, “Poudre Canyon,” here in Colorado and then we go out to the Pawnee Buttes, so it’s kind of mountains to grasslands. You’re out with a bunch of humans for a long period of time, a distance from many support, so I always beef up my first aid kit. I think the biggest thing is just the formulas that I use on the regular for me and my community tend to be for pain and sleep, for digestive what have you, and for immune support/wound support. I feel like it’s a bunch of things but that tends to be the kind of pieces that tend to happen to need the most. I get respiratory stuff and digestive stuff and menstrual pain and I have trouble sleeping, basically for me. Fortunately, there’s a lot of other people that are unwell in the similar way to me.

I think those formulae are one of the basis for my fist aid kit. The immune and the digestive formulas, one of the herbs in there is pine, but immune formula—speaking of low dose herbs, poke and pine and Asclepias a lot of item to get respiratory sick that supports— along with some berberine containing herbs I teach in herb school and it is predominantly folks who identify as cis women. It’s like the UTI piece is always a recurring theme. That was something that came up on this trip recently. Those herbs that are respiratory support as well as urinary tract support, as well as just a general immune support. There’s the old standby. There’s Echinacea in there as well and boneset.

The pain and sleep formula that’s always present. It’s one of my constants and it’s something that just seems so—that’s so useful. It’s one of those whether somebody has just—we had a gal who’s on a program and she somehow put her hand on a door and it caught her thumb and tore it from the whole seam—not tore the whole thumb, sorry. That sounds way more traumatic, but a big, old cut. For those moments, I just have monkey mind. I feel like that’s pain sleep formulas, just a constant.

I have lots of things in my first aid kit. I can keep going, but I think as far as formulas, those three and then lobelia. Always lobelia. When you have somebody who’s having an asthma attack or who’s just in a lot of pain, like musculoskeletal-wise, you feel like internal or external use, it’s so—even though it’s basically just a relaxant and antiemetic, but it’s such a good one. I end up leaning on that quite a bit just in general, everything from “I need to vomit. I ate something really weird” to someone with menstrual pain, to someone with back pain, to someone who’s just having a respiratory distress and stuckness. That’s the only one that I keep pretty much as a simple other than Echinacea capsules--concentrated Echinacea capsule. Those are the big players. There’s more, but [crosstalk].

Rosalee de la Forêt:

The season opener, which is the episode that publishes right at the beginning, I did what’s in mine for herbal first aid kit. I said I choose them for three main topics, which is anxiety sleep, digestion and respiratory stuff, so I love that we have those same things going on.

Kat Mackinnon:

I’d be so curious to see your formulas. Let’s share notes because I’m always so curious. Everybody’s got there standbys for what works for them and what they’ve seen work for everybody.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Just hearing you talk about camping, I would bring an entirely different kit for first aid kit for camping versus—in my mind, I was thinking about this year I’m going to Red Rocks in Colorado to see Tori Amos and I’m also going to Mexico so I have that on my mind – the different needs for those airplane trips. It really is so contextual in terms of where you’re going, why you’re going, all of that.

Kat Mackinnon:

For travel, actually, these things like berberine-containing—that’s part of why I keep berberine-containing herbs in my new formula. It’s for the digestive creatures and infection and also for nausea, that side of things. Activated charcoal and [crosstalk] pine resin salve and muscle rub salve, liniment with pine resin and camphor and menthol and cayenne, and all the other first aid products. I’ve travelled to so many places and I always end up like—it’s the only other herbal thing that’s in there. Probably an adaptogenic formula which also has pine and eleuthero and rhodiola in it for the expanding of the lungs, the ability to feel movement in the lungs – I feel like it’s so important for that.

I’d love to look at other people’s first aid kits because this is when I get sick. These are the things that tend to happen to me so I tend to bring that mostly along. Surely, other people—most other people will get sick in a similar way. It’s just so totally different from person to person. I love it.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Kat, this has been so fabulous. I loved learning about pine. Your pine elixir looks so fabulous and folks can download that above this transcript. Thank you so much for sharing your first aid kit stuff, as well as all the projects you’re working on. I’m really excited for those.

Kat Mackinnon:

Thanks so much for having me, Rosalee. This is really fun.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Good. Fabulous. Thank you. 

Thanks for being here. Don’t forget to download your beautifully illustrated recipe card above this transcript. And sign up for my weekly newsletter below, which is the best way to stay in touch. You can also visit Kat directly on Instagram @kat_the_herbalist.

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Also, a big round of thanks to the people all over the world who make this podcast happen week to week. Nicole Paull is the Project Manager who oversees the whole operation from guest outreach, to writing show notes, to actually uploading each episode and so many other things I don’t even know. She really holds this whole thing together.

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One of the best ways to retain and fully understand something you’ve just learned is to share it in your own words. With that in mind, I invite you to share your takeaways with me and the entire Herbs with Rosalee Community. You can leave comments below or simply hit “Reply” to my Wednesday email. I read every comment that comes in and I’m excited to hear your herbal thoughts about pine. 

Okay, you’ve lasted to the very end of the show which means you get a gold star and this herbal tidbit:

For this herbal tidbit, I’m sharing one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems. It’s titled, When I am Among the Trees:

When I am among the trees,

especially the willows and the honey locust,

equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,

they give off such hints of gladness.

I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,

in which I have goodness, and discernment,

and never hurry through the world

but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves

and call out, “Stay awhile.”

The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,

“and you too have come

into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled

with light, and to shine.”

Rosalee is an herbalist and author of the bestselling book Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients Into Foods & Remedies That Healand co-author of the bestselling book Wild Remedies: How to Forage Healing Foods and Craft Your Own Herbal Medicine. She's a registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild and has taught thousands of students through her online courses. Read about how Rosalee went from having a terminal illness to being a bestselling author in her full story here.  

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