Does Natural Vegetable Pine Tar Contain Creosote?

Pine tar is distilled from the wood of pine trees.

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Pine tar contains some of the same particles of carbon that are found in creosote, but it does not contain creosote specifically. The distinction is best understood by knowing how pine tar and creosote are made. Pine tar is distilled by burning pine wood. Creosote collects in chimneys and flues as a residue of burning. Commercial creosote is most often extracted from coal tar.

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Pine wood secretes a large amount of a sticky, natural resin that has a distinctive “piney” odor. Pine tar is distilled, a process in which heat is used to separate physical components of a substance, which is wood in this case. Pine tar was traditionally distilled by putting pine roots and stumps in a kiln and covering them with turf and peat. The kiln was heated, causing the roots and wood to yield pine tar and charcoal. Distilling pine tar was a thriving industry in colonial America when the landscape was lush with pine trees. Making pine tar spread to the South and West regions in the 19th and 20th centuries. Its primary use was to seal the hulls of sailing vessels. Pine tar is now distilled by heating pine wood in a closed container.


Wood burning in a fireplace or stove releases gases that contain soot, which is incompletely burned particles of carbon. When the smoke cools to below 250 degrees F, the smoke liquefies and oozes down the interior of chimneys, flues and pipes. It forms a sticky, black substance that is creosote. In time this creosote hardens, forming a layer. Since creosote is combustible, a thick layer lining a chimney can be a fire hazard. Chimneys require regular cleaning for this reason. Creosote is made commercially both from burning wood, not necessarily pine wood, and from coal tar.

Components Compared

Pine tar is distilled by heating pine wood. It contains unburned particles of carbon, but not creosote. Creosote also contains unburned particles of carbon and has similar properties as pine tar, but it is made from cooling smoke of any burning wood, coal or petroleum.


Pine tar is used to treat wounds on tree limbs and is made into soaps, shampoos and to treat eczema and psoriasis. It continues to be used to caulk the wooden hulls of sailboats and other vessels. Creosote often has a distinctive odor gained from the smoke of a particular wood. Meats are smoked by creosote. Meat in barbecues is flavored by aromatic creosotes made by burning hickory, mesquite and other woods. Creosote made from wood is used to preserve meat and for medicines including expectorants, laxatives and antiseptics. Creosote made from coal tar is used to preserve wood; the Environmental Protection Agency, however, has determined that it is a possible human carcinogen. Pine Tar; History and Creosote from Wood Burning Causes and SolutionsEnvironmental Protection Agency: Creosote and Its Use as a Wood PreservativeBeyondpesticides: Petition for the Suspension and Cancellation of CreosotePhoto Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty ImagesRead Next:

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