I want to start off by saying that winter is not the best time to be collecting pine pitch, but it is the best time to learn knew things you can try when spring comes back around. During this time of physical rest I believe is the best time to mentally workout.
FUN FACT: Amber is petrified tree resin.
You can find pine pitch online with the help of a simple web search, but if you are surrounded by Pine trees as I am, why not get out and enjoy nature? If you are buying pine sap or resin, make sure it is real. There are synthetic resins and the like out there, which you do not want.
You can scrape off the pitch from knotholes and damaged places on the tree, or cut notches in the tree and come back after the sap has had time to seep out. Pitch is sap that has had the turpentine and water content reduced by evaporation. Hard resin has even less of the two.
The warmer the weather, the better tree sap flows. Sap rises at the full moon as well, so a warm day around the full moon would be the most productive time.
Don’t ever cut around the entire circumference of the tree, or you will kill it.
~No one likes tree murderers.~
In all actuality, it is best to collect pitch that has pooled naturally, rather than resorting to intentionally hurting the tree to get the pitch. Survival situations call for extreme measures though, so I want you to know there is something you can do if you had to get pitch, which of course is useful for more than just making candles.
In dire situations, cut a V shape into the side of the tree, not too wide though. Longer, thinner cuts will work just like wider, shorter cuts. Place a piece of metal or something that will allow the sap to flow into your collection container at the bottom of the cut, and attach a metal bucket, or even a plastic bag under it to allow the sap to run into.
Never take more than half the pitch from the tree. You want to leave some behind so the tree still has the protection it has spent energy making for itself. Don’t be a jerk.
Pine pitch protects the tree from disease and heals wounds on the tree, which in turn is what it can do for you. It is antimicrobial/fungal/bacterial, making it great in salves/balms for things like minor cuts, skin ailments, and more. When you cut a tree, it basically bleeds sap. If left alone, the sap dries to a sticky pitch then to a hard resin, creating a hard protective layer in place of the bark as the tree heals itself. Never take more than half from a tree. If you take too much, you could be leaving that tree vulnerable to pests and disease.
Plant/Tree diseases can spread like human diseases, and after this past year I think we can all get a picture of what that looks like without me having to explain further.
Don’t knowingly weaken a tree to the point of putting the trees at risk. Never take more than you need and if there isn’t enough for what you want, don’t force it. Waiting may take longer, but if you ultimately kill the tree, you will never have it as a source again.
Gather your pitch in a plastic bag which you can pop in the fridge, and then peel the bag away from your pitch. You will need an old butter knife or something similar to pry it off the tree in some cases. It isn’t always the easiest thing to get off. Since the pitch is healing the tree, only take the top layer.
Pitch is really sticky, so use olive oil, or similar, to dissolve the sticky residue on your hands and tools, then wash oil off with soap and hot water. You can wear disposable gloves when collecting pitch to keep from getting sticky. You can use alcohol to remove from clothing, but some scrubbing will be required. It’s best to wear old clothes when collecting or working with pitch to prevent the need for all that scrubbing.
After you have collected your pine pitch, you can put it directly into oil, and apply low heat for a good while, so it infuses into the oil, which can then be used for balms and salves. A warm window during the summer, or a seed heating pad during the winter will work just fine, but you could also do this on a stove top in a double boiler if you do not want to wait weeks. Just be careful when putting heat to pitch. It is flammable because of the turpentine in it, and you do not want it catching fire.
Pine pitch is antimicrobial, antifungal, and antibacterial, and helps the healing process of minor wounds, draws out splinters, and soothes skin ailments.
Pine pitch can also be used for:
-treating skin rashes/sunburn
-feet protection/improvised sandals
-draw out splinters
To make pitch from liquid pine sap you need to evaporate the water/turpentine out of it in a double boiler, but be careful. Pine sap is extremely flammable, as is pitch. Resin is not as flammable but care would still need to be used when heating it. You can dip a stick in your sap, run under water, and touch to your fingernail. You want it to be firm, but with a little give.
While still warm/hot and liquid, you can smear pitch on backpacks, tents, clothing, etc. to waterproof them. Once cooled off to a bearable heat, you can smear it on the bottom of your feet it you do not have shoes for whatever reason to make improvised sandals. Place directly on minor wounds once cooled to help prevent infection, and even draw out splinters!
I hope that through this series you are realizing how amazing nature is. In our current modern age, many people are out of touch with nature, and have no clue that we do not need the modern stuff we have now. They may make life easier, yes, but they are not necessary, and are not sustainable in a SHTF scenario.
Like, subscribe, or follow me on social media to stay up to date when I post. You can also join my Facebook group for extra fun!
Subscribe to get full blog access.
Your subscription helps fund my self-publishing venture!
This post is part of a series on Pine Trees. The other posts can be found below:
Pine Needle Tea & Medicine
Pining For You
Pine Tar Salve DIY
Pine Pitch Candles
Pine Needle Oxymel
Infused Cleaning Vinegar
Identifying Pine Trees
All About That Pine Bark