Pine fresh: the cultural and medical context of pine scent in relation to health-from the forest to the home

Med Humanit. 2022 Mar;48(1):104-113. doi: 10.1136/medhum-2020-012126. Epub 2021 Aug 3.


Pine is a familiar scent in domestic cleaning products, but how often do we relate it to its origins as an odour emanating from a tree? This article takes a sensory history approach to trace the late 19th century and early 20th century use of the pine forest as a therapeutic space, via the tuberculosis sanatoria to the use of pine scent in domestic disinfectant. By focusing on pine as experienced in this period as a microhistorical subject, this methodology will in turn allow for a detailed consideration of how historical context, and in particular medical conceptions and health concerns, can influence the creation of cultural memory. By following the trajectory of pine from its place in the forest to a commercial product used in the home, this will allow for an investigation at the intersection of environmental and medical histories and provide a framework for the consideration of the relationship of place to senses associated with concepts of health and well-being. As interest grows in the development of more effective sensory settings, in particular within healthcare, it also highlights the importance of considering the roles both cultural and personal memory play in response to various sensory stimuli.

Keywords: arts in health/arts and health; cultural history; design; history; medical humanities.

MeSH terms

  • Forests*
  • Humans
  • Odorants*
  • Trees