Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pine Resin for Wilderness First-Aid

Fresh pine resin is an often overlooked resource that has many uses in the wilderness.  One of these uses is to quickly seal wounds and stop bleeding.

The other day when I posted the contents of an EDC (every day carry) survival kit,  frequent commenter Dave Sears mentioned Super Glue as something he would include in such a kit.  As he says, Super Glue has many uses, including sealing a cut closed or re-installing a loosened crown on a tooth.

On another blog I frequent, Paul at the Urban Survivalist mentioned that he followed the advice in my book and went out and purchased himself a machete.  He promptly sliced open his finger with it, as happens all to often with this wickedly-dangerous tool if you are not 100% cognizant of where the edge is every moment you have one out of its sheath.  I felt bad that he got cut with something I recommended, but I've done it myself as well.  And I once took a fellow member of a survey crew to the emergency room after he nearly whacked off his index finger with one while trying to split the end of a stake he was holding upright with the other hand.

But back to the topic here.  If you spend enough time outdoors doing anything with machetes, axes, hatches, knives or even chainsaws, you're bound to get cut at some point.  Many years ago I learned an old woodsman's trick from a backwoods kinda gal who's father was a logger that had cut himself severely more than once while working alone deep in the woods with no proper first aid kit. 

I had scored a piece of glass with a glass cutter and placed it on the edge of my outdoor workbench to snap it off by pressing down with considerable force. It snapped alright, but when it did, my wrist went across the edge and the blood started pouring.  At first I thought I had hit an artery, but it wasn't nearly that bad - just a long, clean cut that let the blood flow freely and looked like it would require stitches to stop it.  But this person referred to above knew what to do, and ran away for a moment to a grove of pine trees nearby, quickly returning with a big gob of sticky, amber-colored resin which she pressed onto my wrist directly over the still pouring cut.  To my amazement, though the blood mixed with the messy pine sap, the bleeding stopped, as there was no way for it to get through this tenacious mess.  Anyone who has ever inadvertently put their hand in a patch of this stuff while passing a pine tree knows how hard it is to get off. 

I was worried that it might be harmful, but she assured me that it would not only stop the bleeding, but heal the wound.  She told me how her father had used in once after a deep cut with a chainsaw that went into his thigh almost to the bone.  I decided to experiment and test it out, leaving the resin on my wrist until it dried out enough to peel off.  When it did finally all come off, to my amazement, the cut was cleanly sealed without scabbing.  Eventually it healed with hardly a trace, much less conspicuous than another glass cut I had on a finger years before that I had sewn up with stitches in an emergency room.

I did a little searching around and found other references to pine sap's usefulness in sealing wounds.  Apparently it has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties, and is safe to use in this application, as well as for more obvious uses like making pitch glue.  Here is a discussion thread about it on the BushcraftUSA forums that you may find of interest.  The discussion gets more interesting on page 2:

You won't find fresh pine sap on every tree, even in a pine forest, but since that incident, whenever I make camp in the woods and there are pine trees around, I make a mental note of any particular trees in the area that are oozing sap - just in case.


  1. It wasn't bad enough for anyone to worry about. I just mentioned it as a warning. No stitches. It's already almost healed. I was actually going to try the tree sap but I'm never even thinking about it when I'm outside. I'll be taking note of where the pine trees are when I'm out in the woods, though.

  2. I agree with wicked sharp pointy object comment - damn near sliced my thigh taking a swing with a Condor golok - dang blade is heavy and cut clear through my target like melted butter, that would be mighty inconvenient if SHTF.

    Thanks for the tip on pine wood sap - we have very few evergreen pines down here, but I wonder if mesquite tree sap has similar properties? Stuff is really sticky as well.

    1. I kne that as well as other survial skills my step dad was from bush country and he taught us kids what to do if injured in the bush, I use the gum for wounds, in my bath water, tea, its one way I control my asthma at home,its great to see information like this beinging circulated,passed on,hopefully more people readup on these old ways specially our young people,thank you its been a real treat reading this along with other sites on similiar stuff,and survial while in the bush with lost or not.

  3. Mesquite tree uses for us desert rats:

  4. Urban, I'm glad it was nothing serious. It was good that you mentioned it in your post though because people need a reminder sometimes.

    Anon., thanks for the mesquite tree link.

  5. Pine trees are often overlooked.
    Sap can make pitch/tar.
    You can also make turpentine if you distill the gum properly.
    Pine needle tea is excellent for you.
    Pine nuts are a tasty addition to your food.
    Open and dry pine cones can be used as fuel for your fire
    You can even eat the bark (actually, the rich layer of inner bark)

  6. Dustin, absolutely right. I often make pine needle tea and have introduced it to lots of people who have never heard of it. I posted an article here awhile back on how to get to and eat the bark:

  7. Is it wrong of me to look forward to someone in my camping party getting cut so I can try this out? :o)

    I do have super glue in a couple of our bug out bags, but pine resin is all natural and is certainly more available out in the wilderness. Thanks for passing this along!

  8. I used a pine resin product called "Heal Quick" as a child. With my propensity to get dinged out there on the farm, I was very familiar with that sticky gooey super healer. Worked great but I have not found it in years. I believe it was made with Pinon pine sap. I would love to find something like that again.

    Ron in Texas

  9. That's interesting regarding the "Heal Quick." I wasn't aware that there was ever a commercial product made with a pine sap base. Maybe something like that will come back on the market with all the renewed interest in natural healing and herbal medicines.

  10. Another great use for Pine sap is bush soap, you mike Pine sap with fresh ash from the fire (this makes the soap slight abrasive for exfoliation) and animal fat from you fresh bush kill. You mix equal parts of rendered fat, with melted pine sap add in some ash from the fire pit (but not much) mix well and let cool. You can cut this into bars to use. Note pine sap is used in house hold cleaners can you guess which one ???? Pins Sol?

  11. Great point about using it to make soap. Nothing smells cleaner than pine scent. Crushing a handful of fresh pine needles between your palms and rubbing your hands with them is a good way to get rid of bad smells on your hands too, such as after cleaning game.

  12. anon Ron 7:50:

    Not sure if this is the same product, but I found this one the net - pine tar herbal salve. No connection to it, nor have I used it - just FYI info. Here is a link to it:

    Hope this helps.

  13. I've used SuperGlue (on myself for small cuts and in my boyfriend for a pretty large scalp cut right where the hairline meets the forehead and it truly works. I didn't realize one could use pine sap. Although we have SuperGlue and clotting granules in the GHBs and BOBs, (or as my boyfriend likes to call them, my "Crazy Bags" although we've used many items out of my GHB on several occasions), eventually I will run out. Would it make sense to make a cut in a Pine tree in you're going to be in the area for a few days JIC? I know that we have damaged trunks in the past and found sap oozing within a day or two in summer, winter being less likely to have free flow sap. I was going to ask about microbes in sap but was glad to see you touched on that. Good to know. And honestly, microbes are better than bleeding out ;)

  14. I was out chopping some bamboo the other night to use for some wood working projects when I gave myself a nasty straight cut on the knuckle of my left pointer finger. Now, I keep my machete ( parang style) very, very sharp so this cut was gushing. Then I saw a few discarded Christmas trees and started putting cuts on the side of the stump and removed some bark filet style with my buck knife . I has gotten enough resin to cover my wound . The bleeding stopped and when I was back inside, I applied some tea tree oil and it dissolved the pine resin for me to clean my cut ( tea tree oil is chemically similar to the constituents of pine resin )


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