ISSN 2330-717X

Can Pine Trees Help Treat COVID-19? – OpEd


World scientists are racing against time to look for a cure against Covid-19 as thousands die everyday.

One unusual source of  cure worth looking into maybe the pine trees.

In a study conducted at the St Olga Municipal Paediatric Hospital, St Petersburg, the extract was found to promote quicker recovery from recurrent viral infections, with less severity.

Those who took the extract were also found to be less susceptible to intra-hospital infections, i.e. infections acquired while at hospital.

In a separate study done on healthcare workers in contact with tuberculosis (TB) patients, the extract helped enhance defence against the TB mycobacterium, thereby protecting these healthcare workers from infection.

As the world struggles with various opportunistic viral and bacterial infections, coupled with increasing resistance to antibiotics, the extract may just be that natural weapon needed in the arsenal of human resistance against microbes.

In the 1930s, Russian scientists Professor Fjodor Solodky and Dr Asney Agranat who worked together at the St Petersburg Forest Technical Academy observed pine trees for their ability to thrive and remain evergreen, even through severe weather conditions.

They discovered that certain “live elements” were found in pine conifer needles that enabled them to keep healthy.

When these scientists successfully extracted these “live elements”, they were amazed to find that those same elements keeping pine trees strong and disease-free were almost identical to health-supporting elements found in human blood.

Not only is it easily absorbed and utilised by humans, it is also very safe to consume.

This original extract from pine conifer needles was later patented.

Ancient Medicine

Pine trees have long played a part in traditional medicine throughout the world.

Long before mankind took to decorating pine trees in preparation for Christmas, it was usual for pine trees to be set up in the middle of homes during winter.

It was believed that the volatile extracts from these trees served as natural disinfectants to clean the air and prevent the spread of colds and flu during the long European winters.

Although different parts of the pine tree are usable, it is the green pine needles that have been used therapeutically in various different cultures.
Found amongst the archives of traditional Chinese medicines from some 4,600 years ago, were formulas using pine needles as an ingredient for bronchitis and influenza.

There is a Taoist practice of surviving only on pine needles to gain supernatural powers that has its roots in the pine tree’s symbolism of integrity and honour.

Some Native American tribes use pine needles to treat stomach aches.

On the other hand, the Scandinavians used pine branches in saunas, and many cultures stuff mattresses with pine needles to repel lice, fleas and other insects. In fact, pine needle mattresses are still used today in the Swiss Alps as a remedy for rheumatism.

Today, the research on pine needles as a therapeutic modality continues to inspire medical progress.

As Bread Additive

It was not long before Prof Solodky’s and Dr Agranat’s work produced valuable results. During World War II, in the 900 days that Leningrad (now called St Petersburg) lay under siege from the German army, the population of the city survived on a daily ration of 75g of bread.

The bread was made primarily from sawdust enriched with special food-grade cellulose and the pine green needle extract.

The people’s daily ration also included one glass of water infused with the same bioactive extract.

The survival of the city and hundreds of thousands of its citizens was due largely to this pine needle extract.

After the war, successful trials lead to the extract being embraced in Russia as a wide- spectrum natural anti-microbial and anti-fungal preparation with powerful healing properties.

Although both Prof Solodky and Dr Agranat are no longer alive, the research programme they initiated has continued uninterrupted till today.
Who would have thought that pine needles, normally considered forestry waste, would hold such tremendous therapeutic potential?

Yet, over the last 80 years, the clinical evidence has shown that this natural substance has the potential to revolutionise the way we treat various different diseases today.

Pine Needles Against Acid Reflux

Acid reflux disease has risen by nearly 50% over the last decade, according to one of the largest studies ever conducted in Norway.

The study also highlighted the link between reflux, smoking and obesity.

With Malaysia being ranked the fattest country in South-East Asia and the sixth in the Asia-Pacific region, it is not surprising that the incidence of acid reflux here is up to 16% amongst Malaysians.

Acid reflux, gastritis and stomach ulcers are but some of the ways our digestive system signals distress.

In our fast-paced world demanding quick relief, we often resort to a gulp of antacids or popping an acid-blocking pill to deal with the immediate problem.

Unfortunately, such short-term measures only mask the pain, but do not go to the root of tummy troubles.

Professor Vladimir Bespalov, Chief of Cancer Chemoprevention at the N.N. Petrov Institute of Oncology in St Petersburg led a study that looked at treatments to improve pre-cancerous conditions of the stomach (atrophic gastritis).

In this research, patients with atrophic gastritis (stomach pre-cancer) and H. pylori were recruited. These patients were then treated with the pine needle extract and compared to a control group.

Those in the group treated with pine needle extract experienced the following:

  • Regression of dyspeptic symptoms (GERD) such as gastritis, acid reflux, gas and bowel disorders, in 92% of patients, along with a reduction in the endoscopic symptoms of gastritis.
  • Improved stomach functionality in 58% of patients.
  • Reduction in pre-cancerous lesions in 46% of patients.
  • H. pylori eradication in 57% of patients.

Liver disease and hepatitis

Chronic liver disease is a significant global problem. In a study carried out at the Kazan Republican Infectious Diseases Hospital, Tatarstan, Russia, the addition of pine needle extract to treatment helped chronic hepatitis patients to recover faster and reduce the side effects experienced from liver drug therapy.

With such an extraordinary therapeutic profile, pine needle extract was almost a “forever secret” kept from the world’s knowledge.

Although it has been part of the Russian pharmacopoeia since the 1950s, this research was a closely guarded secret within the shrouds of the tightly regulated former Soviet Union.

It was only through an inter-government scientific exchange programme with Australia and the fall of the Soviet Union that the pine needle extract was brought into the world’s knowledge.

But before one rushes to pick up a fresh pine tree to devour its precious pine needle content, it has to be said that a special patented technology is employed to extract the delicate “live elements” contained in pine needles so as not to destroy its intrinsic activity.

Pine Needle Extracts Effective Against Animal Diseases

Pine needle extracts have been used for preventing and treating animal disease caused by viruses.  The extract of pine needle of the present invention showed anti- viral effect of influenza A viruses, Newcastle disease virus, infectious bronchitis virus, avian pneumovirus, porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus, Coxsakie virus, reticuloendotheliosis virus, Aujeszky s disease virus, adeno virus and coxsakie virus in vivo and in vitro.

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Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan

Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan wrote for the British Panos News and Features and GEMINI News Service, the Brunei Times, and US Environment News Service. In the Philippines, he wrote for DEPTHNews of the Press Foundation of Asia, Today, the Philippine Post, and Vera Files. A practicing environmentalist, he holds postgraduate degrees in environment resource management and development studies as a European Union (EU) Fellow at University College, Dublin, Ireland. He is currently a Fellow of Echoing Green Foundation of New York City. He now writes for Business Mirror and Eurasia Review.

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