How to Forage & Use Pine Resin

Learn how to forage and harvest pine resin, then use it to make a first aid salve, a decongestant balm, and a pine resin sore muscle rub!

pine resin, soap, and salve
Learn how to harvest resin from pine trees and use it to make salves and more!

Resin is a substance that oozes or exudes from pine trees, and some other plants, to help heal wounds or seal off insect damage. Depending on what time of year you forage, and the age of the resin, it may be soft and sticky, or it may be in hard chunks.

Pine resin has benefits for humans too! It’s antimicrobial and increases circulation, making it useful in products such as:

  • first aid salves for minor scrapes and nicks
  • drawing salves for splinters and boils
  • rubs for aches & pains
  • soap for various skin conditions
  • balms for chapped or dry skin

It has a fresh piney scent that smells pleasant to most people, dependent upon the type of tree you harvest it from. Some species of trees produce more resin than others.

closeup view of pine resin on a fallen tree
Clumps of resin on a fallen Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana) tree.

Types of Pine to Harvest Resin From

You can forage resin from all types of pines. Around our area, we mainly have eastern white pine (Pinus strobis), Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana), and loblolly pine (Pinus taeda), so that’s what we use. Other pines to collect resin from include pinyon (Pinus edulis) and Ponderosa (Pinus ponderosa). The resin from spruce or some firs is also useful.

One evergreen you don’t want to accidentally confuse with pine is Yew (Taxus spp). Please read Green Deane’s article on Yew, over at Eat the Weeds to learn more about its toxicity.

The Arbor Day Foundation has an awesome interactive “What Tree Is This?” feature on their site. It should help you get started recognizing the types of pine that grow around you.

You can also check your local or state resources – they have tons of helpful information available! We found the Virginia Department of Forestry’s Common Native Trees of Virginia Guide (which you can freely download on their site) really helpful when starting to learn our trees.

pine tree fallen on the ground
This pine tree barely missed falling on our chicken coop during a winter storm! When we went to clean it up, we noticed the treasure trove of resin clumps all along one of the main trunk branches.

How to Sustainably Harvest Pine Resin

We strictly gather from trees that have fallen during storms – winter is a perfect time, since yearly snow and ice storms always bring down a few pine trees. Sometimes the tree will have a supply of resin from previous wounds, other times we cut the tree into smaller sections for moving it out of our yard, or from the chicken/goat area, and resin will ooze from those branch cuttings.

scraping pine resin from white pine tree
Harvesting resin from a storm-fallen white pine (Pinus strobis), which fell and crushed one of our plum trees. Resin oozed out where the branches were cut with a chain saw to make cleaning it up easier. (Don’t harvest from cuts like this, if a tree is still standing/living.)

If you must gather from living trees do so carefully. Remember that resin is like a bandage over a tree wound. Since it’s an important part of tree healing, you don’t want to just rip or dig it off of a living tree. It’s best to harvest the resin when chunks of it have fallen to the ground, or if you find some dripping further down the trunk, past the wounded area.

An old butter knife is perfect for popping off cold chunks, or scraping the softer bits from a fallen tree. Since the resin is sticky, collect it in a paper cup, piece of parchment paper, or a jar dedicated to resin collecting.

resin oozing from a cut pine branch
resin oozing from the top section of a young pine tree that was nicked off

When to Harvest

You can harvest pine resin year ’round. The colder weather of winter is an especially good time to forage for storm-fallen trees and branches. The resin is also hardened by cold temperatures, making it easier to collect.

Using Pine Resin in Salves, Soaps & More!

When it comes to pine resin, a pretty common problem occurs when someone tries to directly melt resin, then add it to a salve or soap. This is messy and can cause recipe complications. It works much better to infuse the resin into oil, strain out any tree bark and remaining debris, and then incorporate the resin infused oil into your recipe.

We’ll tell you exactly how to do that below!

First though, you’ll want to crush or break any bigger pine resin chunks into smaller pieces or powder if possible. This gives more surface area for the resin to more fully dissolve into the oil.

crushed pine resin with hammer
Crush frozen resin chunks into smaller pieces and powder, using freezer paper and a hammer.

How to Crush Pine Resin

You’ll need:

  • large chunks of resin
  • parchment paper or freezer paper
  • a freezer
  • a hammer

Place the chunks of resin on a sheet of parchment or freezer paper, and freeze them for several hours, until hardened. Fold the freezer/parchment paper around the pieces, then use a hammer to carefully break them up into smaller pieces or powder. (We always do this task outside on our porch, or sidewalk.)

Be aware that if you use a coffee grinder to grind up resins, or sticky-tending things like propolis, it will leave behind a sticky residue that’s difficult to clean out.

Using Pine Resin

Now that you’ve collected pine resin, it’s time to put it to use!

In this section, you’ll learn to make pine resin oil and three kinds of pine resin salve, plus how to incorporate the infused oil into other kinds of products, such as soap, too.

two jars of infused oil - ponderosa and virginia pine
Two jars of freshly infused oil: The one on the left is made with ponderosa pine resin and a ratio of 1 part resin to 3 parts oil. The jar on the right is made with 1 part Virginia pine resin and 8 parts of oil. Both have a wonderful woodsy resinous scent!

Infused Oil

Pine resin infused oil can be used to make natural products such as salve, body butter, lotion, and soap!

To make the oil, you’ll need:

  • pine resin that has been crushed or powdered (see above for how)
  • oil of your choice (see more on that below)
  • a glass canning or mason jar, to use for infusing
  • small saucepan with several inches of water, to create a double boiler effect
  • a stainless steel or heatproof strainer
  • a little extra oil to use when cleaning up (coconut oil works really well for this)

Resin to Oil Ratio:

How much resin and oil you use, will depend on how much resin you’ve collected, and how strong you want your oil to be.

  • For most skincare applications, you can use roughly 3 to 4 times as much oil as crushed resin. So if you collect 1/4 cup of resin, then use about 3/4 cup to 1 cup of oil.
  • If you don’t have a lot of resin to work with, you can use a higher ratio instead – such as 1 part resin to 8 parts oil. An example would be 1 tablespoon resin to 1/2 cup of oil. (There are 8 tablespoons in 1/2 cup of oil.)
  • If using in soap, use 2 to 3 tablespoons resin for a pint jar of oil. (Which equates to about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups of oil.)
row of resins: ponderosa, white pine, virginia pine
Row of resins: Ponderosa pine (left), Eastern white pine (middle), and Virginia pine (right).

Types of Oil to Use:

Olive oil is a classic choice for salves and balms, and is usually used for soapmaking infusions. Sunflower oil is another good choice, especially for those prone to eczema or sensitive skin. However, both olive and sunflower are slower to absorb into your skin and may feel a bit greasy because of that trait.

To create a slightly faster absorbing product, try using rice bran oil, apricot kernel oil, safflower oil, or jojoba oil for your infusion instead.

Instructions to make the oil:

  1. Place the pine resin is a canning jar, or other heatproof container.
  2. Add the oil and stir a few times.
  3. Cover the jar loosely with a flat metal canning lid.
  4. Set the jar down into a saucepan filled with several inches of water.
  5. You want the water to come up the sides of the jar, but not so much that the jar floats.
  6. Place the pan over a medium-low burner and heat for 2 to 4 hours.
  7. Stir every so often, scraping along the bottom of the jar, to help keep the pine resin from settling in a single clump.
  8. Keep a close eye during infusing time and don’t let the water in the pan dry out.
  9. After the resin has had time to infuse into the oil, remove from heat and strain the oil through a fine mesh sieve into a jar, while it’s still hot.
  10. After straining, immediately wipe out the remaining debris/resin with an old rag or paper towel, then clean the strainer with hot water and dish soap, so the residue from the remaining resin doesn’t stick to it.
  11. The infused oil should have a shelf life of at least 12 months.
  12. You’ll eventually notice some sediment at the bottom of the infusing jar – that’s fine and normal. Just carefully pour out your oil when using for recipes, leaving the sediment behind in the jar.

Tip: If your original infusing jar still has a bunch of resin stuck to the bottom and you can’t clean it out, add more plain oil, cap the jar, and tuck it away in a warm place – like the top of your fridge, or a warm room – to infuse the slower way for a month or two.

tin of salve on resin coated pine branch
Tin of pine salve on the resin-covered tree it’s made from.

Pine Resin Salve (3 recipes)

While basic pine salve is wonderful on its own, it can also be tweaked for specific purposes – such as making a balm for painful joints/arthritis, or a chest rub for coughs – simply by switching up the essential oils used.

You could also mix and match with herbal infused oils, such as using mullein or bee balm infused oil as a sub for part of the resin infused oil in the decongestant balm, or by adding cayenne and/or ginger to your infusion if making a sore muscle rub.

1. Basic Pine Resin Salve

This basic salve recipe is useful for general first aid purposes, such as minor scrapes and scratches, or on chapped, dry skin spots. It’s can also be helpful as a drawing salve, for when you have a stuck splinter, or a painful boil. (Apply and cover with a band-aid overnight.)

Ingredients for the basic salve:
  • 1.55 oz (44 g) pine resin infused oil
  • 0.25 oz (7 g) grated beeswax or pastilles

2. Decongestant Resin Balm

The phlegm moving properties of pine are enhanced with eucalyptus, peppermint, and white camphor essential oils, to help break up congestion and open up your sinuses. You may alternatively choose to use part resin infused oil and part bee balm or mullein oil. (Example: 1 oz resin oil + 0.6 oz bee balm oil.) If you don’t have white camphor essential oil, try using rosemary EO in its place. This balm is not intended for young children.

Ingredients for the decongestant balm:
  • 1.55 oz (44 g) pine resin infused oil
  • 0.25 oz (7 g) grated beeswax or pastilles
  • 16 drops eucalyptus essential oil
  • 5 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 2 drops white camphor essential oil

3. Pine Resin Sore Muscle Rub

Pine resin helps increase circulation, relieving aches, pains, and tired muscles. Here it’s combined with cypress and clove essential oil, to help boost the warming pain relief effect. If you don’t have cypress EO, try using cedarwood Himalayan or juniper berry essential oil instead. This rub is helpful for achy joints and other muscle and joint issues that feel better when you apply heat (such as heating pad, hot water bottle, or warm bath) to them.

Ingredients for the sore muscle rub:
  • 1.55 oz (44 g) pine resin infused oil
  • 0.25 oz (7 g) grated beeswax or pastilles
  • 24 drops cypress essential oil (or juniper berry, or cedarwood Himalayan)
  • 1 drop clove essential oil

Directions to make the salve, balm, and rub:

  1. Weigh the infused oil into a heatproof container, such as a half-pint canning jar.
  2. Weigh the beeswax and add it to the jar.
  3. Place the jar down into a small saucepan filled with several inches of water, forming a makeshift double boiler.
  4. Place the pan over medium to medium-low heat.
  5. Heat until the wax melts, then remove the pan from the burner.
  6. Add the desired drops of essential oils to the melted beeswax and oil mixture.
  7. Pour into a two ounce tin or glass jar.
  8. Label and store your salve/balm/rub out of direct heat and light.
  9. Shelf life of salves, balms, and rubs is usually at least one year, or as long as the product smells good.
oval bar of soap surrounded by pine cones and pine needles
bar of homemade cold process soap surrounded by fresh pine needles and pine cones

Pine Resin Soap

You can also use your infused oil to make soap! If you’re making cold process soap, it’s suggested to have a more diluted oil (such as a ratio of 2 to 3 tbsp crushed resin per pint jar of oil.) Resin will speed up the soapmaking process and a high amount can cause your soap to seize up.

We have a whole tutorial with two recipe variations (one with tallow or lard, or one with vegan butters) over at our sister site, The Nerdy Farm Wife:

How to Make Pine Resin Soap {+2 recipes}

woman's hand holding chunks of freshly foraged pine resin
You can collect your own pine resin and use it to create salves, soap, balms, rubs, and more!

More Uses for Pine Resin Infused Oil

Try using your infused oil to make body butter, creams, or other products for your skin!

Simply replace plain oil in a skin care recipe, with part or all infused oil in its place. For example – if your favorite body butter recipe calls for 2 ounces of oil, you may wish to use 1 ounce plain oil + 1 ounce pine resin infused oil, to create your own pine resin body butter.

Pine resin can also be used to make homemade beeswax wraps (a tutorial that will eventually make its way to this site), and can be chewed as a natural chewing gum. It’s an acquired taste… and some pines, such as ponderosa, should be avoided internally during pregnancy, but it’s fun to try old-fashioned resin gum at least once in your life!

Our articles are for information and idea-sharing only. While we aim for 100% accuracy, it is solely up to the reader to provide proper identification. Be sure to seek out local foraging classes and plant walks, and invest in mushroom and foraging guides suitable for the area you live in, since some wild foods are poisonous, or may have adverse effect.

tin of salve on resin coated pine branch

Pine Resin Salve (3 Recipes)

Learn how to make pine resin oil and use it to create: a first aid salve, a decongestant balm, and a sore muscle rub!
5 from 1 vote
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Keyword: balm, pine resin, salve, sore muscle rub
Prep Time: 4 hours
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 2 ounces

Equipment

  • a half pint canning jar, for infusing
  • a flat metal canning lid, to cover the infusing jar
  • small saucepan with several inches of water, to create a double boiler effect
  • a stainless steel or heatproof strainer
  • a half pint canning jar, for making the salve
  • a 2 ounce tin or jar, to store your salve

Ingredients

For the Infused Oil

  • 1+ TBSP crushed pine resin
  • 1/4+ cup oil of your choice

For the Basic Salve

  • 1.55 oz pine resin infused oil
  • 0.25 oz grated beeswax or pastilles

For the Decongestant Balm

  • 1.55 oz pine resin infused oil (can use half of this as mullein or bee balm infused oil instead)
  • 0.25 oz grated beeswax or pastilles
  • Essential Oil: 16 drops eucalyptus, 5 drops peppermint, 2 drops white camphor (or rosemary)

For the Sore Muscle Rub

  • 1.55 oz pine resin infused oil (can add a pinch of ground cayenne and/or ginger to the infusion, if you'd like a boosted effect)
  • 0.25 oz grated beeswax or pastilles
  • Essential Oil: 24 drops cypress (or juniper berry, or cedarwood Himalayan), 1 drop clove

Instructions

To Make the Infused Oil

  • Place the pine resin is a canning jar, or other heatproof container.
  • Add the oil and stir a few times.
  • Cover the jar loosely with a flat metal canning lid.
  • Set the jar down into a saucepan filled with several inches of water.
  • You want the water to come up the sides of the jar, but not so much that the jar floats.
  • Place the pan over a medium-low burner and heat for 2 to 4 hours.
  • Stir every so often, scraping along the bottom of the jar, to help keep the pine resin from settling in a single clump.
  • Keep a close eye during infusing time and don’t let the water in the pan dry out.
  • After the resin has had time to infuse into the oil, remove from heat and strain the oil through a fine mesh sieve into a jar, while it’s still hot.

To Make the Basic Salve, Decongestant Balm, and Sore Muscle Rub

  • Weigh the infused oil into a heatproof container, such as a half-pint canning jar.
  • Weigh the beeswax and add it to the jar.
  • Place the jar down into a small saucepan filled with several inches of water, forming a makeshift double boiler.
  • Place the pan over medium to medium-low heat.
  • Heat until the wax melts, then remove the pan from the burner.
  • Add the desired drops of essential oils to the melted beeswax and oil mixture.
  • Pour into a two ounce tin or glass jar.

Notes

Resin to Oil Ratio for the Infused Oil: How much resin and oil you use, will depend on how much resin you’ve collected, and how strong you want your oil to be. For most skincare applications, you can use roughly 3 to 4 times as much oil as crushed resin. That would equate to 1 tablespoon resin for about 1/4 cup of oil. (If you don’t have enough resin, use a higher ratio, such as 1/2 tablespoon resin for 1/4 cup of oil.)

Our articles are for information and idea-sharing only. While we aim for 100% accuracy, it is solely up to the reader to provide proper identification. Be sure to seek out local foraging classes and plant walks, and invest in mushroom and foraging guides suitable for the area you live in, since some wild foods are poisonous, or may have adverse effect.

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2 Comments

  1. Last summer I had gelatinous blobs all over my picnic table, which sits under a large evergreen. I wasn’t sure what it was, but later, some of them got harder. I’ll have to collect it if I find them again this year!

    1. Hi Jenny, That’s so nice to have a good source of resin handy! (Though probably not so fun to clean off of your picnic table!) ❤

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