Thursday, May 13, 2010

White Pine Bark

The study of medicinal herbs is a fascinating science. Recently, I've been reading about them and experimenting to see what symptoms certain kinds of herbs and other natural substances can cure. My latest discovery is white pine bark. I had this one recommended to me in a health food store once as a cure for allergies/intolerances.

According to many websites describing the health benefits of white pine bark, the bark (when boiled and drunk as tea) helps clear congestion from colds, increase circulation, improve concentration, and fight blood clots. When I read this, something struck me. Interestingly, all of the symptoms that this pine bark supposedly cures are primary symptoms of low adrenal function/low natural cortisol*. This led me to the obvious conclusion that, although I can't prove it, white pine bark increases the production of the adrenal glands.

Testimonial: I tried it. I boiled up the bark into tea and drank one cup before bed (bad idea by the way). I couldn't sleep. I had so much energy and mental stamina that I stayed up and read a book. My allergies were completely gone for the evening and into the night. I felt warm all over like blood was coursing to all of my limbs, and since I'm usually cold, it felt really good.

There are a couple of problems with the results of my experiment.

Similarities to Caffeine: For one, caffeine also produces similar short-lived relief of symptoms for many people, me included. You've heard the advice: don't drink caffeine if you get migraines or asthma attacks on a regular basis, BUT if you start to get a migraine or an asthma attack and you don't have medication or an inhaler with you, quick drink some coffee or a soda to stem the attack and then go seek medical help. Caffeine gives you energy because it taps into your natural adrenaline, cortisol, norepinephrine, and epinephrine supplies. Caffeine stops working for people after a while if their bodies are unable to keep restocking the adrenal glands with hormones as fast as they tap into that stock with caffeine, making your body unable to prevent allergic reactions like migraines and asthma on its own. Ultimately, caffeine causes more problems than it fixes. I'm not sure yet if this is true for white pine bark.

Short-lived experiment: The other problem with my experiment is that the results are extremely short-lived. I have to drink a lot more bark tea to verify only my inconclusive results. It's possible that white pine bark helps to replenish the hormones in the adrenal glands in addition to tapping into them for immediate results. I'll find out and let you know.

For the short term, I'd like to encourage all those with allergies to try white pine bark if you eat something you're allergic or intolerant to. It might help decrease the severity of the reaction.

Tea: Place 1 tsp or so of the bark inside a cloth bag or a mesh tea paper and let steep in 8-10 ounces of hot water for 5-7 minutes. I've found that it is best if drunk with food.

*My favorite book on Adrenal dysfunction is Adrenal Fatigue by James L. Wilson.