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Vitamin C in Pine Needle Tea?


Hello.  I have a question about whether pine needle tea contains vitamin C.  This claim is all over the internet, and there are stories of early explorers to the US being saved from scurvy when the native Americans directed these men to steep and consume tea made from needles of an unknown type of pine.

Our family has conducted our own tests for the presence of vitamin C using 'DCPIP' following the instructions in home-school chemistry lab.  We use a dropper to add the tea one drop at a time until we reach 50 drops.  We have tried several different types of pine, and varying temperatures and steep times with uniformly negative results.  When we do the same procedure with orange juice and pineapple juice, the solution steadily changes to clear as expected, indicating the presence of vitamin C.

Could there be something wrong with our procedure?  Should we use another indicator?  Would tincture of iodine be better?

We are clueless on how to resolve this.  Can someone help me determine how to correctly test for vitamin C?


I believe you should be also able to "test the test" with vitaminum C sold OTC.

If the test is negative it is almost sure there is no ascorbic acid present. Positive result is probably more ambiguous, as there is always a chance there are other antioxidants that can reduce DCPIP.

Are you sure your sampling method is correct? Perhaps the pine needles have to be prepared in some way before brewing... i.e., drying the leaves, muddling them, or treating them chemically in some other way. Just by way of a completely unrelated example, native americans treated maize with lime (the mineral, not the fruit) to liberate the vitamin niacin, a process called nixtamalization. It is still used commercially today to produce hominy and many corn-based products derived therefrom (tortillas, pozole, grits). As pine needles are (by design) quite tough, waxy, and resistant to water, perhaps if there is truth to these stories, the pine-needles were similarly treated to enhance the concentration of extractables in the brewed product. Just speculation.

Thank you so much for the answers.  If there is a special way to prepare the needles before steeping, I've never seen it documented.

In any case, I tend to believe the anecdotal evidence, so I'll keep looking.  There was a study done by the US Dept of Forestry in the the 1960s.  I'll contact them and see if they can point me in the right direction.

Again, thanks for helping out a chemically-challenged newbie.

I can't offer any personal expertise regarding your query but I came across this pharmacy research  journal article which might be of interest to you:


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