You may have noticed that pine tar is kind of our thing here at Packer’s Pine. In fact, it’s been our “thing” for more than a century. While that would be an impressive feat for most products, Packer’s Pine is only a small part of pine tar’s history throughout the world. Strap into our mysterious machine here and allow us to take you on a journey through time.
The Age of Exploration
Wood tar has been produced in some quantity since people first began burning wood in pre-history. Since then, humanity has managed to find a few uses for it. In the ancient world, wood tar was known for its medical uses. It was used in ointments for common conditions, and it even gets a mention in the writings of physicians like Hippocrates and Galen.
Pine tar’s widespread use began with the shipbuilding industry. In the days of wooden ships, pine tar was used to seal and waterproof the hull of seafaring vessels. Countries with large pine forests, such as those in Scandinavia, built trade centers specializing in the production of pine tar for industrial uses. Over time, the shipwrights who used pine tar daily began to notice its potential uses beyond shipbuilding.
The evolution of pine tar’s uses likely rose organically. As shipwrights worked, they accumulated minor injuries, sunburns, and other skin conditions. They noticed that pine tar seemed to help their skin conditions heal, as well as soothe any inflammation. Eventually, pine tar was added to homemade soaps and salves, building its reputation as a natural, effective ingredient known for its healing properties.
Pine tar in the New World
As Europeans colonized North America, the availability of new, untapped forests led to widespread pine tar production, particularly in states like North Carolina, which is known as the “Tar Heel” state to this day. This pine tar was important for the development of the American navy, as well as a number of other industrial uses.
Pine tar also played a key role in the development of America’s favorite pastime. Pine tar’s stickiness made it popular among baseball players. Applying pine tar to the handle of a wooden bat allows baseball players to grip the bat more securely, which, in turn, allows them to transfer more force into the ball. This results in better hits, more runs, and a competitive advantage. To this day, sticks of pine tar are used by baseball players to add a little extra grip to bat handles.
The modern era and tar’s topical use
In the modern era, pine tar is still a popular ingredient in natural, healing soaps and hygiene products. Throughout the last century, Packer’s Pine has been a key producer of pine tar soap. You might even notice some of our work in the Smithsonian Museum.
Modern producers of pine tar products use a form of pine tar that’s purified and prepared for human use, removing potentially harmful impurities and leaving behind only the beneficial compounds. This pine tar is added to Packer’s Pine’s natural soap base and used by thousands of satisfied customers throughout the world.
Modern pine tar products are used to treat a variety of skin conditions. Doctors may recommend pine tar soap products for people with eczema, psoriasis, rashes, and more. While medieval shipbuilders only discovered pine tar’s benefits through trial and error, modern medical research allows us to have well-researched scientific literature on the benefits of pine tar for dermatological conditions.
Science shows that pine tar provides real relief for inflammatory skin conditions. It accomplishes this by suppressing the cellular activity of inflamed skin and returning it to its natural state. Additionally, resin acids contained within pine tar result in antibacterial properties, adding a layer of protection to inflamed skin. With modern science, we can fully investigate just how versatile pine tar is.
While only you can decide whether Packer’s Pine has a place in your hygiene routine, our company is doing what we can to ensure that pine tar products continue to exist in the future. With Packer’s Pine’s Giveback Program, we are safeguarding our natural resources for generations to come.
Packer’s Pine’s commitment to maintaining our forests shows in our natural products. Our biodegradable soap is safe for outdoor use, making it a perfect part of your pack while camping in the most remote areas.
Additionally, Packer’s Pine is a proud supporter of the National Forest Foundation, which uses donations from their small business partners to plant trees across the United States. By the end of 2025, the National Forest Foundation plans to plant a total of 50 million new trees. These reforestation efforts allow Packer’s Pine to create natural, soothing products out of renewable forest resources. Packer’s Pine also supports One Tree Planted, an organization which promotes reforestation and forest preservation across the globe.
As you can see, pine tar has been used to keep our skin healthy and clean throughout the millennia gone by. With a little luck, the bar of Packer’s Pine we sell today will be a part of a Smithsonian exhibit 100 years from now. Who knows, maybe it will be your bar on display?