Pine resin is the sticky substance secreted by pine trees when they get damaged. This response protects the tree in many ways. Firstly the resin has antiseptic, astringent, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. These properties prevent the tree from becoming infected and encourage healing. The stickiness allows the resin to act as a natural adhesive staying put on the wound site. It also serves as a sealant preventing both moisture loss and damage from burrowing insects.
Each of these qualities has led to a long history of use by man for everything from medicine to construction. And it is still harvested commercially in many parts of the world. There are many different evergreen trees that you can collect resin from, with Pines, Spruce and Firs all being good candidates. As with all foraging, it is essential to ensure that you have correctly identified the tree before collecting. Please note that some of our native evergreen trees here in the UK are toxic (Yew for example).
Collecting pine resin is a sticky process. I would advise wearing old clothes and using a container that you keep for the purpose. Pine resin is oil rather than water soluble, so rubbing some oil into your hands before washing should help with removal.
How to Make Pine Resin Salve
Add an equal amount of oil to the resin you have collected. We used Almond, but Olive Oil works just as well. We ended up with roughly half a cup each of resin and oil.
Pine resin is extremely flammable so it should be melted into the oil gently using a double boiler. Our double boiler consisted of glass bowl and saucepan containing barely simmering water. Please note the glass bowl should sit above the water and be heated by the resulting steam not touch the water itself.
Simmer very gently until the resin melts. Ours took a good hour to dissolve.
Strain through a fine mesh strainer or piece of muslin and return to the double boiler.
For every cup of resin/oil mixture, add 1/4 cup of grated beeswax. Gently heat while stirring until the wax has melted, then pour the melted balm into small containers and allow to cool.
Although I have titled this as pine resin salve, we did collect our resin from many trees and used a mix of both pine and fir. Our resulting ointment has a lovely fragrance and should make a fab addition to our bushcraft first aid kit for use on sore and irritated skin.
As a bonus, it could also be used as a fire starter smeared on cotton wool, or as an emergency candle with a makeshift wick due to it's flammable properties.