Arthritis a term used to describe a group of diseases affecting millions throughout the globe, characterized mainly due to pain and inflammation of the joints.

Most common types of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disease) and osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease) [1].

Other types of arthritis include gout, lupus, juvenile arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, etc.

Arthritis irrespective of its type is mostly characterized by inflammation and pain in joints in conjunction with stiffness, swelling, and redness.

The conventional treatments to manage these symptoms include painkillers along with lifestyle modifications like diet and physiotherapy.

Although, conventional medical treatments (CAM) are most effective many patients are adapting complementary and alternative treatments to aid the CAM.

Pine oil has been studied for its many therapeutic benefits that may benefit the symptoms of arthritis. Before we discuss the benefits let us find out more about this oil.

What is Pine oil?

Pine tree commonly known as Christmas tree is not only a decorative piece but is used for many therapeutic and recreational purposes.

A native to Russia and Austria is now cultivated and grown in many countries owing to its diverse and worldwide usage. Each and every part of the pine tree is utilized.

Pine oil is extracted from its leaves that look like needles, the process of extraction is a simple distillation method and produces two by-products namely turpentine and rosin.

Turpentine is used as a solvent in paints and rosin is a resin used mostly in the adhesive.

There is a mention of pine oil usage for the treatment of respiratory and lung problems by Hippocrates and Pliny (the two ancient physicians) [2].

Scientists have only recently started studying the properties and benefits of pine essential oil with respect to its many medicinal attributes like an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, astringent, diuretic, disinfectant, hypotensive, Stress reliever, and a sedative.

1. Analgesic and Anti-Inflammatory: Rubefacient

There are several species of pine trees depending on its geographical presence and chemical constituents.

Each species has a variation in the concentration of chemical compositions present, scientists have studied most of their species and have concluded that the chief compound in pine oil is alpha-pinene followed by β-pinene, camphene, longifolene, ∆3-carene, limonene, and β-caryophyllene [3] [4].

Many ethnic groups consider pine as a cure for all ailments. People from Northern India and Pakistan have been using a hot decoction of pine needles as a cure for sprains and headache [5].

Millions of people suffer from arthritis, many resorts to alternative medicine for pain and inflammation management.

Since arthritis mainly affects the cartilage, tissue, and joints massaging the affected area with pine oil can provide fast relief.

The pine oil has both analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it effective in eliminating pain and inflammation simultaneously.

In a study conducted on albino rats showed that oil extract from pine tree showed a significant analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties as opposed to two NSAIDs namely, diclofenac sodium and indomethacin [6].

Another study done using rat models showed that oral administration (300 mg/kg) of oil extract from Pinus sibirica showed anti-inflammatory activity against chemically induced edema (swelling of soft tissue) as well as analgesic properties using a hot-plate test (testing the effectiveness of analgesics by observing the reaction to pain caused by heat) [7].

What does it Mean? Pine oil has an excellent anti-inflammatory property that can help fight the swelling of the affected areas as well as reducing the pain. Hence, it is a two-in-one remedy thus avoiding the use of two or more medications just for a single health problem.

2. Anti-Oxidant Properties of Pine Oil

Antioxidants play a vital role in preventing free radicals from damaging the cells present in tissues, muscles, and cartilage in the joints, etc.

Autoimmune arthritis is caused when the immune cells of the body start attacking and killing the healthy cells present in joints and connective tissues.

Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common example along with Ankylosing Spondylitis, Still’s Disease, Sjogren’s Syndrome, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus to name the few.

Most of these autoimmune arthritides (the plural form of arthritis) are due to faulty genes and/or combination of diet and lifestyle choices.

In the 1940s a French scientist discovered that French coastal pine trees (Pinus maritima) is loaded with antioxidants and Vitamin C.  He extracted the compounds with hot water and patented his discovery as “Pycnogenol”.

Since then many species of the Pinus family have been studied for its antioxidant properties in their leaves/needles and barks extract. “Pycnogenol” is well studied for its antioxidant activities against melanoma cells and other skin diseases [8].

Nakayama S. et.al. studied the antioxidant activity of pine bark extract oil that is rich in polyphenols both in vitro in human cells as well on 10 healthy male volunteers.

The data suggested that pine oil enhances the free radicle scavenging activity along with inhibiting the oxidation of the low-density lipoprotein [9].

What does it mean? There are several studies including distinct species of pine trees around the world showing a significant efficacy of pine oil as a potent antioxidant. More clinical trials are needed to study the dosage capacity in human administration with respect to arthritis.

3. Anti-Bacterial and Anti-Fungal Activity of Pine Oil

“Infectious Arthritis” characterized by joint pain, soreness, stiffness, and swelling caused by an infectious agent such as bacteria, viruses or fungi.

These infections can enter the joints in many ways; through a nearby wound, spread through the bloodstream after contracting infectious diseases like pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhea, etc.

Reactive or Reiter’s arthritis, Lyme disease arthritis, Psoriatic arthritis, etc.

Reactive arthritis also known as Reiter’s arthritis, develops in response to an infection in another part of the body (cross-reactivity), encountering bacteria and developing an infection can trigger the disease.

Lyme disease is caused by a bacterial infection due to the tick bite when the infection goes unchecked for a longer duration, many patients’ complaint about knee joint pain and inflammation this is termed as Lyme arthritis.

Pinus family has many bioactive molecules namely, terpenes, terpenoids, and some other polyphenolic compounds.

Many of these compounds have been studied individually as well as in combinations for its antimicrobial, insecticidal, and phytotoxic properties [10].

In a study conducted in 2001 comparing the antimicrobial properties essential oil from the five Moroccan Pinus species suggested that the essential oils of Pinus pinaster and Pinus pinea demonstrated significant activity against all types of organisms tested also possess a remarkable antiseptic activity [11].

What does it Mean? Applying pine oil directly at the site of infection or inflammation can help curb the spread of infection to bones and thus prevent infectious arthritis.

4. Reduces Stress and Anxiety

There are several epidemiological studies that suggest with worsening symptoms of arthritis, increase in stress levels.

There are many observational studies that indicate stress management interventions both in the form of non-pharmacological and behavioral interventions can show positive clinical effects on patients with arthritis.

Hence many patients are advised for massages and aromatherapy as an alternative intervention for arthritis.

Pine essential oil has been profoundly known for sweet and musky aroma as well as its applications in perfume/fragrance and skin care products.

Pine oil acts as a soothing and warming the affected area. Which makes it a perfect remedy for the aches, sore joints associated with gout. Pine comforts pacify and cleanse with its unique antiseptic qualities.

The aromatic molecules in pine oil reach your limbic system (part of the human brain responsible for emotions and feelings).

This makes Pine essential oil as an excellent mood enhancer and makes it a powerful remedy for alleviating mental strain, stiffness, stress, fatigue, nervous tension, and fear [12].

In a Japanese study, the researcher asked 498 healthy volunteers to 30-minutes stroll in the ancient Japanese pine forest.

After which the volunteers were asked to rate their moods it was deduced that more stressed-out the volunteers were before the walk, the greater the relaxation they experienced [13].

What does it Mean? Using pine oil in your bath water or as a massage oil can give you a certain level of mental clarity, and it also helps get rid of anxiety and nervous tension. Further research needs to be done in this area, but it has been traditionally used in aromatherapy for centuries.

5. Pine oil Help Boost Metabolism

Researchers have been studying the correlation between food and arthritis since 1930’s [14]. There are many studies that show being overweight is linked to increased incidence of arthritis and its symptoms including pain and inflammation.

Many studies have shown that making necessary dietary changes and losing weight has proven to lower many of the symptoms associated with arthritis.

Losing weight although cannot repair the damage already done by arthritis, it can surely help ease the pain and inflammation.

Pine nut oil is known to induce increased metabolic rates naturally especially Korean pine nut oil. It is the only species with edible pine oil extracted from its seed/nuts [15].

In a study conducted on mice fed on a high-fat diet showed that consumption of pine nut oil decreased the weight gain in mice fed with a high-fat diet [16].

Various studies have been conducted on pine nut oil to study the exact mechanism of its effect on metabolism.

Scientists have narrowed down two chief components antioxidants and pinolenic acid (a triple-unsaturated fatty acid).

This pinolenic acid is said to stimulate the release of an enzyme, cholecystokinin (a critical catalyst for proper digestion of food in the intestinal tract).

Thus, ensuring a proper breakdown of macromolecules into smaller molecules that are readily absorbed by our body [17].

What does it Mean? Pine nut oil the only edible component from Pinus species not only help boost your metabolism but also the heals the gastrointestinal lining, and optimize the digestion and nutrient assimilation thus, ensuring less weight gain and aid in weight loss.

6. The Diuretic effect of Pine Oil

Gout is a kind of arthritis where particles of uric acid get trapped and build up around the joints which causes inflammation along with extreme pain.

When the body produces too much of the uric acid and the kidneys are unable to filter it out from the blood, uric acid starts to circulate through the blood and accumulates and get trapped in joint tissue.

Pine oil was used as a diuretic and to facilitate perspiration to break-down the fever in the 19th century by North Americans.

It is the turpentine obtained from the resin of the tree said to have diuretic property along with antiseptic, rubefacient (a substance that causes capillaries dilation and increases the blood circulation) and vermifuge (expels worms) [18].

What does it Mean? Although there are no scientific studies to prove its efficacy it has been used in folklore medicines as diuretics along with its other therapeutic uses.

Safety Guidelines and Dosage for Pine Oil

Apart from pine nut oil, there are no clinical trials in humans that applied oral administration of pine essential oil extracted from needles or bark of the tree.

And although pine essential oil has low toxicity in human cell culture, there are reports of acute poisoning due to large consumption of pine essential oil extracted from needles and /or bark [19] [20].

Only high-brands with 100% authentic and pure therapeutic graded oil is recommended for internal usage.

It has also been reported that high dosage consumption of pine essential oil can lead to depressed mentation, respiratory failure, and GI dysfunction [21].

Although it is generally safe to use pine essential oil topically, there are few rare cases of mild irritation to sensitive skin. Therefore, it is advised not to use pine essential oil in small children and elderly people.

As a safety precaution always do a patch test and wait 24-48 hours to check for any irritation or rashes.

Always mix pine oil with a carrier oil like lavender oil, almond oil, coconut oil, etc., and never use them undiluted directly on your skin.

Conclusion

In the last few decades, considerable interest has been given to natural plant extracts that have great therapeutic use without the need for harsh chemicals, pine oil and extracts from pine trees have been well-researched for its abilities.

Pine essential oil has been used for centuries as a “cure-all ailments” remedy.  The effectiveness of its therapeutic purposes lies in its rich phytochemical and bioactive compounds.

Since pine trees are available throughout the year and globally the demand for its essential oil is quite high. It is both cost-effective and readily available natural remedy.

Arthritis being a complex disease with many symptoms and limiting factors needs constant care and caution to help check its symptoms under control.

The inclusion of pine essential oil, as well as pine nut oil in arthritis care and treatment, brings a great deal of comfort and convenience.

Apart from its aid in arthritis pine oil has many diverse and nutraceutical benefits that help impact the overall health of the body. Thus, it is imperative to include pine oil in dealing with arthritis and its symptoms.

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