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  • Why We Have a Penchant for Pine in Winter

    grove of conifers with trail


    A Little About Pine and The Winter Season

    These days, pine is heavily associated with the Christmas season. It should, however, more rightly be associated with the winter season. You know, those cold months when you’re sequestered inside with,  while trying to avoid, everybody else’s germs.

    You see, evergreen trees like the pine were brought inside long before Christmas was a thing. Like waaayyy before Jesus was so much as a glimmer in Mary’s eye. Now, I doubt we have definitive proof for why they did this because many of the cultures (like the Celts) that brought evergreen boughs into their homes around the winter solstice (Dec 21 or 22 depending on the year) preferred passing information in an oral tradition, rather than by writing it down. (And yes, many of them had written language.) But, it’s generally agreed that, at least in part, they were brought inside as a reminder that things will green up again. Given that the solstice marks the end of the days getting shorter, there’s a lot to be said for that theory and the symbolism involved.

    Given that the ancients weren’t the bumbling numbskulls that many people take them for (see Stonehenge, see Newgrange, etc.), I also think that the waning or waxing sunlight wasn’t the only reason. But maybe that’s just me. You see, back in the day, they also knew a lot more about the local plants and their healing properties than most of us do today. They had to. After all, plants were medicine and medicines were plants.

    To that end, I’m pretty sure they knew about Pine’s antiseptic properties, although I doubt they used that term. Who can say who, how, or when it was first noted, but I’ll bet it didn’t take long to notice a correlation between the health of those who had fresh pine boughs in their homes and those who didn’t. Ditto for those who had more boughs than others.

    What is Pine Essential Oil Good For?

    Pine has a solid set of properties which lend themselves particularly well to the winter months. Try it for any of these purposes:

    • Antiseptic – use a few drops of pine together with a few drops of lemon or lemon eucalyptus in your cleaning bucket and you’re good to go for cleaning pretty much any surface.
    • Antifungal – clean showers, saunas, etc. with the cleaning solution above to prevent the spread of things like athlete’s foot.
    • Restorative – restore energy to body and mind by diffusing pine or wearing it in/on a piece of aromatherapy jewelry.
    • Coughs and colds – diffuse pine, eucalyptus, and lavender as an expectorant to get the mucous out and breathe easier. It works well for sinus, lung, and bronchial congestion. You could also use the above mix for steam inhalation, just make sure to use the oils sparingly as once you put your face over the steam and cover your head with a towel, too much EO will irritate (as in sting like a m*f*)  your eyes and nose.

    What Should I Blend with Pine EO?

    Some of the best oils to blend with Pine are:

    • Eucalyptus
    • Lavender
    • Lemon
    • Lemon eucalyptus
    • Cedarwood
    • Cinnamon
    • Clove
    • Cypress
    • Myrtle
    • Niaouli
    • Rosemary
    • Thyme
    • Tea Tree

    Precautions for Working With Pine Essential Oil

    Pine can be a skin irritant, so it’s best to not use it on the skin.

    Pining for Answers

    Normally I end these posts with some trivia about the plant or oil, but I pretty much covered that in the intro. So… I’m going to dive a little deeper (but not too deep) into one theory as to why the ancients brought evergreen boughs like pine inside for the winter solstice. And why I hate it.

    Almost every search result for historical or pre-Christian uses of pine yielded some version of this theory: As the days got shorter, the ancients were afraid that the sun (or Sun God) was dying. They noticed that some trees, like the pines, didn’t “die” like the leafy deciduous ones, but instead stayed green all year long. They used these evergreens in an attempt to keep the sun or Sun God alive. The days started getting longer, so they thought they prevented the end of the world, and a tradition was born.

    I have a hard time believing that people who lived, by necessity, in close connection with nature were such idiots that no one realized that nature had light and dark cycles, warm and cold cycles. Some of these cultures brought us Newgrange (ca 3200 BCE) and Stonehenge (ca 3100 BCE) which are some of the most impressive and precise bits of stonework in the world. Each has significance at the winter solstice.

    Newgrange is constructed so precisely that each year, at 4 minutes past sunrise on the winter solstice, the sun’s rays shine through the roof box and illuminate the innermost chamber. It’s been calculated that at the time of its construction, the sun’s rays would have entered at exactly sunrise. Wow! Pretty sophisticated for people who supposedly had no idea that the hours of sunlight waxed and waned throughout the year, dontcha think?

    At Stonehenge, the heel stone is perfectly aligned with the sun’s rays at sunrise on the summer solstice so that the heart of the monument is illuminated. At the winter solstice, the sun would have set between the gap of the tallest trilithon (2 standing stones topped with a horizontal stone) which is no longer standing. Boy, if these people only understood how light and dark cycled throughout the year, think of all the impressive stuff they could have done.

    So, there’s my rant about assumptions as they relate to ancient uses of pine and ancient cultures. I hope I didn’t get you too wet with the dripping sarcasm in a few places.

    Anyway, now you know why pine essential oil shouldn’t be relegated to December; it should be used during the entire winter. Heck, you can use it all year long if you want.

    Don’t let one, albeit popular, tradition dictate when you use this fine oil for a clean and healthy indoor environment!