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Pinyon Pine of the Southwest

Updated: Sep 18, 2020

We are located at the base of the stunningly beautiful Sangre de Cristo mountains, and on the edge of the 220,803 acres, Congress designated Sangre de Cristo Wilderness in 1993. The Great Sand Dunes Wilderness borders the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness to the west.

“ Unlike most of Colorado's mountains, the high and magnificently rugged Sangre's were uplifted suddenly in massive blocks, creating a range of dramatic vertical proportions. Four fourteeners are clumped together in the midsection of the wilderness, including Crestone Needle (14,197 feet). Many climbers, consider the Needle to be Colorado's most challenging 14,000-foot peak. Three more fourteeners stand together just south of the boundary. Melting snow feeds many creeks and small lakes, and nourishes a forest of oak, aspen, and spruce. Black bears and mountain lions live here, along with elk, deer, and bighorn sheep." (2)

"The mountain range was named in 1719 by the Spanish explorer Antonio Valverde y Cosio, who was so impressed at sunrise by the red-tinted, snowy peaks, supposedly uttered a fervent "Sangre de Cristo" (which means the "Blood of Christ")." (3)

There are several varieties of conifer trees located in the area including; ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), Rocky Mountain juniper (Juniperus scopulorum) and one of my favorite’s pinyon pine (Pinus edulis).

I've always had a connection and an affinity for these conifer trees, appreciating their stability, grounding, and beauty. One in particular that you may not be as familiar with is the Pinyon Pine (Pinus edulis), which is sourced for its resin, essential oil, and hydrosol. Pinyon pine trees grow at elevations between 3,000-10,000 feet and are native to the Four Corners area of the US; Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. It is a slow-growing, dense tree with rounded and spreading shape. The pinyon pine matures to 10-20 feet tall and wide in ten years, developing a flat, rounded crown. It is an evergreen tree, meaning its needles remain green all year long. The stiff, dark green needles are 3/4 -1-1/2 inches long. These trees have a long life, unless they are cut down or burned, 750 year old trees are reasonably common.

Interesting Facts:

• The second part of Pinyon Pine's botanical name, edulis, means "edible" in Latin. It refers to the tasty seeds produced in its 2-inch, roundish, light brown cones that grow in clusters on very mature trees. Commonly known as pine nuts, these seeds of the female catkins are sold in markets, and are an ingredient in making cakes, cookies, and pesto.

• Native Americans steeped the Pinyon Pine needles for tea. The inner bark was used to ward off starvation. The seeds/nuts were eaten raw, roasted, or ground into flour.

• Birds, black bears, chipmunks, mule deer, quail, and squirrels rely on the Pinyon seeds/nuts for food. (4)

Pinyon Pine Essential Oil

Common names: Pinyon Pine or Piñon Pine, the Colorado pinyon, or two-needle piñon.

Botanical name: Pinus edulis

Family: Pinaceae

Part of plant distilled: needles and twigs.

Main chemical components: Mainly monoterpene hydrocarbons and bornyl acetate with many other constituents in smaller amounts. The chemical composition and properties similar to Scotch Pine (Pinus sylvestris) essential oil, but seems closer to Fir (Abies alba) essential oil, particularly due to the sweetness of fruity esters that do not appear in most Pinus species.

Aroma: Fresh conifer and woody/resinous body notes with a peculiar butter-like back note and extremely fine, peach/floral top notes of delicate diffusiveness. Sweeter than most pine oils.

Precautions: Old or oxidized oil should be avoided as it may cause skin sensitization if oxidized. May cause skin irritation in the bath.

Pinyon pine purifies and connects the body and mind, grounding and soothing. Increases and tonifies the circulation, lymphatics, and lung energy. It is a fantastic expectorant and ideal for many respiratory issues; reduces sinus issues, clears lung congestion, allergies, colds, and flu.

Uses: nasal inhaler, diffusing, topical blends, room or shower spritzer, and salt shower scrubs.

Nasal inhaler Blend: Saturate the felt wick of a nasal inhaler with this blend of essential oils:

  • 5 drops Pinyon Pine (Pinus edulis)

  • 5 drops Fir (Abies alba)

  • 5 drops Spruce (Picea mariana)

Application: Inhale as needed to keep sinuses clear. Alternatively, for an Aroma Patch use one to two drops of each of the essential oils and apply underneath the clavicle.

Room or Shower Spritzer: In a 2oz. glass spray bottle, mix 15 drops of an essential oil blend into 1 tsp. of jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis), or Solubol, shake well, and then add the liquid component of water and/or hydrosol.

5 drops of each:

  • Pinyon Pine (Pinus edulis)

  • Spruce (Picea mariana)

  • Fir (Abies alba)

Application: Spray liberally into the upper corners of a room or shower before turning on the hot water.

Every moment we have the opportunity to embrace resiliency and enjoy the change with clarity and grounding!


(1) Pinyon Pine picture; purchased from Shutterstock;; Retrieved September 23, 2018.






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