The Healing Power Of The Pine Tree
Car Air Freshener, Toilet Cleaner and Medicine
We have all come across pine as a scent used in everything from those tree shaped car air-fresheners to toilet cleaner. When we smell the scent of pine, we instinctively know that it means ‘clean’. According to the advert for Ajax Pine Forest All Purpose Cleaner the ‘pleasant pine fragrance signals cleanliness’.
In 1872 and 1873 The Lancet devoted several columns to accounts of foreign spas and baths by Dr John Macpherson. He recorded a number of visits to different spas and as part of these accounts he talks about various ways in which pine products are used alongside immersion in the forest itself through pine baths and other inhalations. He said that,
'the balsam of the mountain pine, as prepared at Reicherhall, is said to be the most agreeable of all, and it is sufficient for purposes of inhalation to steep a piece of paper in it and hang it up in the room. It is a generator of ozone.’
Could this be the forerunner to the car air freshener??
It was Julius Sämann who combined the smell of pine with specialised blotter material and invented the first car air freshener and set up the company Little Trees making car fresheners. He gave it the shape of an abstract evergreen tree in honour of his years extracting aromatic oils in Canada’s pine forests.
Scent of The Pine
Our sense of smell has for more influence over us than we realise. It is of course highly subjective.
Cypress is described as smokey citrus with mint and sage, and a 'perfect combination'. The cypress is said to keep the grim reaper away. Its’ use dates back to ancient times and was used in mummies’ tombs in ancient Egypt because the wood’s high concentration of essential oils makes it resistant to rot. The caskets were carved from the wood, painted with a layer of gesso and then decorated.
Cypress has also traditionally been planted around cemeteries to cleanse the smell of decomposition.
The smells from other conifers such as cedar and juniper include spicy and sweet, freshly sharpened pencils, and gin. Cedar blocks and wood shavings repel moths in closets and drawers.
We cannot help but associate scents and smells with memory and meanings. Jonathan Reinarz argues, aromas in particular have ‘always been an integral part of peoples’ lives, possessing distinctive and often shared meanings’.
At Christmas the pine is one of those smells we naturally associate with the festive period.
So that wonderful scent you smell when you bring a tree indoors for Christmas is because your tree is one of the pine family. Balsam firs win first place as the most fragrant Christmas tree, with spruces and other pines also bringing the fresh scent of the woods indoors for the holidays.
Dr Qing Li, Pine Trees and Forest Therapy – What Makes The Scent Of The Pine So Special?
Japanese researcher Dr. Qing Li has studied what makes the smells of conifers so special. As it turns out, the aromas are the product of the trees’ phytoncides. Phytoncides are the substances that naturally occur in many types of plants that ward off insects, other plants, diseases and other threats. The trees are also surrounding us with antibacterial and antiviral protection.
Li experimented with diffusing the essential oil of his favourite conifer, the Japanese tree Honoki, in controlled indoor environments. He found that there was a significant increase in the study participants’ anti-cancer proteins and natural killer cells. These are types of white blood cells that attack and kill viruses and tumours. The participants also slept better and had decreased levels of stress hormones.
Kodama Tree Spirit In Japan
The Japanese have always had a special relationship with trees. Trees and nature are central to Shinto, a religion that originated in Japan, which holds that spirits inhabit trees that reach one hundred years of age. These tree spirits are known as Kodama, and according to Japanese folklore, the Kodama give the tree a personality. This ties in with the fact that old trees support so many more life forms than saplings. This is, of course, why it is so vitally important that we not just plant new trees but also protect the old trees, woods and forests we already have.
The Pine Trees’ Christmas Invitation
Whether you turn on a diffuser with a few drops of pine essential oil or take a break to sit under a pine tree, get in the habit of inviting phytoncides into your airstream. A little bit of nature’s air purifier goes a long way toward keeping our immune systems running strong.
At the Winter Solstice, the darkest time of the year and beyond, when all has died back and the world is dark and cold it is easy to see how and why the pine became a much loved tree central to ancient traditions at this time. Bringing greenery indoors is not just about ancient symbolism and upholding tradition, it is also about health, healing, our sense of wellbeing and most importantly our connection with the wild world of which we are a part.
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As the founder of Ancient and Sacred Trees, MA Archaeology student, land/forest guide & healer, I love Mother Nature, history and the healing power of Mother Nature.
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