The pinyon pine is probably not one of the most familiar pine trees of the Pinaceae botanical family – unless you live in the southwestern United States. This native tree is harvested for its essential oil and hydrosol, in addition to a natural resin. Although it dots my local landscape, its oil and hydrosol were a bit of a mystery to me until I decided to investigate further – both online and with local distiller Clare Licher of Phibee Aromatics. Here’s a little bit of information about this little known seasonal holiday aroma!
Pinyon Pine: The Tree
Pinyon pine (Pinus edulis) is a member of the Pinaceae family, a relative of Douglas fir and ponderosa pine. It’s sometimes known by the alternative spellings, pinon pine or pinion pine. Pinyon pine grows to a height of between twenty and thirty feet.1 You can usually find it growing at altitudes of 5,200 – 7,900 feet. The needles are long and green and grow in pairs. Like many pine trees, the pinyon pine produces cones. Once the seeds have opened, the pinyon jay (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus) helps to disperse the seeds, which stores many seeds for later use, and often they develop into trees.
Pinyon pine is indigenous to the states of northern Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, eastern and central Utah, parts of Texas, and southern Wyoming.
Pinyon Pine: The Essential Oil
Pinyon pine actually produces two essential oils – one from the needles and one from the cones. It also produces resin; the resin is wild harvested from the tree and it is used in herbal medicine.2
The essential oil distilled from the needles of the tree is steam or hydro distilled. It is mainly composed of monoterpenes, making it an excellent essential oil for respiratory issues. It has a resinous soft, buttery aroma with hints of tropical notes (such as pineapple).3 Like many Pinaceae family members, it is a top to middle note essential oil.
The essential oil distilled from the cones is a rarer commodity. However, the oil, when available, is green and woody, and can be used for similar purposes as the needle oil.
Use pinyon pine essential oil for coughs, colds, skin healing, and even stress blends (and to strengthen the immune system during such times).
Pinyon Pine: the Hydrosol
As with many hydrosols, the hydrosol is often the “softer” version of the essential oil, also not necessarily the exact same aroma. Pinaceae family hydrosols are often good for “clearing” a space and dispelling negativity. They can also be used to clear the air/body of congestion.
Aromatic Blends with Pinyon Pine
Blend pinyon pine essential oil with citrus oils such as grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi) and lemon (Citrus x limon), Lamiaceae plant family members such as rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), and sage (Salvia officinalis) – and to “ground” the blend, use an essential oil such as cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica). Members of the Myrtaceae plant family – myrtle, eucalyptus, and niaouli – also blend well with pinyon pine.
Use the hydrosol on its own, or with some of the suggested plant family members above, depending upon your purpose.
Learn More About Aromatherapy with Sedona Aromatherapie
If you would like to learn more about essential oils and hydrosols, consider the Sedona Aromatherapie Linguistics of AromaticsTM program!
Colorado State University website, Water-thrifty Pinyon Pine, accessed December 12, 2016
The School for Aromatic Studies website, Pinon Pine: Pinus edulis essential oil, accessed December 12, 2016
Phibee Aromatics website, Essential Oils: Pines, accessed December 12, 2016; also personal meeting with Clare Licher of Phibee Aromatics.
Author is a 20 year veteran in the health care and aromatherapy industry, a UK-certified aromatherapist, published author in aromatherapy, an approved education provider for the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), an aromatherapy business owner, a consultant, and Chief Editor for the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal.