Balsam Fir (fir needle) is one tree you have likely heard of, especially around Christmas time. It is commonly used to place gifts under during the most wonderful time of the year. Balsam Fir has been used throughout the ages for its medicinal benefits and was mentioned in the bible many times for its many uses.
Abies balsamea or balsam fir is a North American fir, native to most of eastern and central Canada (Newfoundland west to central British Columbia) and the northeastern United States (Minnesota east to Maine, and south in Appalachian Mountains to West Virginia).
Balsam fir is a small to medium-size evergreen tree typically 14–20 metres (46–66 ft) tall, rarely to 27 metres (89 ft) tall, with a narrow conic crown. The bark on young trees is smooth, grey, and withresin blisters (which tend to spray when ruptured), becoming rough and fissured or scaly on old trees. The leaves are flat needle-like, 15 to 30 millimetres (½–1 in) long, dark green above often with a small patch of stomata near the tip, and two white stomatal bands below, and a slightly notched tip. They are arranged spirally on the shoot, but with the leaf bases twisted to appear in two more-or-less horizontal rows. The cones are erect, 40 to 80 millimetres (1½–3 in) long, dark purple, ripening brown and disintegrating to release the winged seeds in September.
There are two varieties:
- Abies balsamea var. balsamea (balsam fir) – bracts subtending seed scales short, not visible on the closed cones. Most of the species’ range.
- Abies balsamea var. phanerolepis (bracted balsam fir or Canaan fir) – bracts subtending seed scales longer, visible on the closed cone. The southeast of the species’ range, from southernmost Quebec to West Virginia. The name ‘Canaan Fir’ derives from one of its native localities, the Canaan Valley in West Virginia. Some botanists regard this variety as a natural hybrid between balsam fir and Fraser fir (Abies fraseri), which occurs further south in the Appalachian mountains.
This tree provides food for moose, American red squirrels, crossbills and chickadees, as well as shelter for moose, snowshoe hares,white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse and other small mammals and songbirds. The needles are eaten by lepidopteran caterpillars, for example the Io moth (Automeris io).
Did you know that the best time to harvest balsam fir is in the winter months? Gary Young, who harvests Balsam Fir Essential Oil in Idaho a few miles south of the Canadian Border, has found that the balsam fir contains the highest amount of essential oil during this time of the year!
What is Balsam Fir Essential Oil?
Like so many popular essential oils, balsam fir essential oil is extracted through a process of steam distillation from balsam fir, primarily from the species Abies balsamea. The needles are the most important part of this plant, as that is where the active ingredients and powerful chemical compounds are located. Once the essential oil is extracted, it can be used for a wide variety of applications, notably in the form of topical ointments or additives to other carrier oils that have other health properties. The combination of tricyclene, a-pinene, borneol, limonene, acetate, and myrcene all combine for these impressive health effects.
The largest producing companies of balsam fir essential oil are France, Germany, and Bulgaria, perhaps due to their large forested areas and an accessible market of health-conscious Europeans who use essential oils regularly. The scent of balsam fir essential oil is not overpowering, and is considered more of a middle note essential oil. In terms of aromatherapy or topical application, balsam fir essential oil blends well with lemon, pine, orange, and rosemary. If you feel like benefitting from the healthy side effects of this essential oil and enjoying the smell of fresh fir trees, then you should definitely keep reading!
Balsam Fir essential oil is grounding and balancing, while stimulating to the mind and relaxing to the body. It can support many body systems including the respiratory system (particularly supportive to the lungs, sinuses and throat). It can help to support the immune system, and has an ORAC score of 20,500 µTE/100 g, which can help protect against free radical damage. It is also supportive to the urinary system and hematologic (blood) system. Idaho Balsam Fir can be used to ease sore muscles and joints related to daily living activities.
Uses and Benefits of Balsam Fir Essential Oil
Balsam fir needles have the real power to purify the air and the soul with its disinfecting and calming properties. And it is for these great reasons; balsam fir needles were burnt in the past after childbirth, to impart good health for the mother and the newborn. The pitch of the tree was used to treat woman problems like menstrual irregularities. Various parts of the fir trees when mixed with other medicinal herbs were used to treat cancer, tuberculosis and rheumatism.
Poultices made with balsam fir were used in folklore medicine for relieving arthritis, rheumatism and muscular pain. The gums of fir trees were used to prepare ointments to treat itches, sores, wounds, insect bites, boils and infections. The decoction extracted with the bark was used for curing kidney problems and the roots were used in the treatment of heart diseases and rheumatism.
Native Americans widely used balsam fir needles for padding the pillows for peaceful sleep and they also used it as a sudatory for women after childbirth. Fir Needle essential oil is utilized in the manufacture of cosmetic products, perfumes, bath oils, air fresheners, aerosol inhalants and incense. Ancient Egyptians used balsam fir essential oil to prepare hair growth formula that would elevate and energize the root of the hair when massaged onto the scalp.
When it comes to preventing infection, essential oils have been turned to for thousands of years, and balsam fir essential oil is no exception. Thanks to its high concentration of antiseptic organic compounds that stimulate the immune system and prevent dangerous infections, balsam fir essential oil can be a powerful tool that keeps your body healthy inside and out.
The soothing nature of balsam fir essential oil makes it ideal for soothing pain and relaxing aching muscles. The stimulating nature of the oil can bring blood to the surface of the skin, flushing out toxins and increasing the rate of healing and recovery so your pain fades away and your body gets even stronger in the process.
Detoxify the Body
Some of the organic compounds and active oils within balsam fir essential oil actually stimulate the body to flush itself clean. This tonic quality of this popular oil makes it great for people on health cleanses or who are simply looking to eliminate a few extra toxins from their system. It can induce sweating, which can push additional toxins from the body, but it also kicks the liver into higher gear, cleansing numerous systems of the body.
Although some essential oils can be dangerous when inhaled, the aromatherapeutic qualities of balsam fir essential oil are well known. This powerful essential oil is used in aromatherapy for the improvement of respiratory conditions. It can induce coughing to loosen and release mucous from your membranes, and can also act as an anti-inflammatory agent in the throat and bronchial tubes. Do not ingest the oil. The exquisite antiseptic property of this oil helps in maintaining the sanitation of the surrounding by preventing the spread of harmful microorganisms, which are among the primary reasons for respiratory infections. Balsam fir oil has antitussive properties that acts as an effective cough suppressant. As a refreshing expectorant, this oil loosens the mucous and the phlegm deposits in the lungs and respiratory tract, thus cleansing the respiratory passages and speeding up the recovery process.Adding 2 drops of balsam fir oil in steam inhalation and inhaling the pine-forest aroma assists in clearing blocked nasal passages, preventing the inflammation of the respiratory organs, alleviating breathing difficulties, treating bronchitis and it helps in maintaining clear sinuses. Mix 2 drops of balsam fir essential oil with 1 ml coconut oil and rub it gently on your chest, back and throat for helping with nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, cough and flu. Add 3 to 4 drops of balsam fir essential oil in warm bathing water for feeling light and re-energized as respiratory infections generally make the body feel heavier and drowsy.
There are many factors that affect our metabolism, but balsam fir essential oil can act as a general body stimulant, kicking our body into overdrive and increasing everything from our digestive rate to our heart rate. It gives us a boost of energy when we need it and can carry us into a more active lifestyle simply by cranking our internal engine up a few notches. Being a diuretic, balsam fir oil is helps in eliminating the toxic remains, uric acid, fat deposits and salts in the body through urine by stimulating the frequency and quantity of urine. Massaging your body with 10 drops of balsam fir oil mixed with 10ml of coconut oil can improve the health of the kidneys, treat kidney stones or renal calculi, urinary infections, food poisoning by enhancing the functions of the excretory system and boosting the metabolic functions naturally.
The naturally pleasant smell of balsam fir essential oil makes it a wonderful candidate for people suffering from body odor. You know what the fresh smell of a beautiful pine forest smells like; isn’t that better than suffering from offensive body odor? Balsam fir essential oil can actually decrease the amount of bacteria in your body that creates that foul odor and leave you smelling fresh as the forest!
Skin Care Treatment
Balsam fir essential oil has been in use since the primordial times to protect the skin and retain its natural glow. The astringent properties of this oil is effective in treating acne, injuries, infections, sores, wounds, cuts, mild allergies, insect bites etc. The anti oxidant properties of balsam fir essential oil fights against the free radicals and prevents premature aging. Mix 2 drops of balsam fir essential oil with 1 ml jojoba oil or to your regular skin care cream and apply it on the affected areas in circular movements. This stimulating application to the skin results in mild coagulation of the skin proteins, thus elevating it natural beauty and retaining its youthfulness. Balsam fir essential oil is often recommended by dermatologists and Alternative medicine experts in the treatment of psoriasis, itching, pimples, eczema, skin diseases, poor skin, scabies and sores. This is mainly due to the presence of antiviral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and antiseptic properties of this oil. A 2006 study on ‘Composition and antibacterial activity of Abies balsamea essential oil’ published in PubMed states that the three constituents in balsam fir oil namely alpha-pinene, beta-caryophyllene and alpha-humulene were effective against the gram negative and gram positive bacteria including Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli, where Staphylococcus aureus is mainly responsible for wounds and other skin infections to turn septic and worsen.
Your success depends upon your mental strength and amidst the stress and tension of this contemporary world, nothing better than the natural remedies like essential oils can grant us the real peace and serenity. Balsam fir oil is a boon to mankind with its rich invigorating, stimulating and energizing properties contributing to a potential uplift of the emotional strength. 2 to 3 drops of Fir oil added to your diffuser or burner can act as a mood elevator that aids in revitalizing your mind, refreshing your soul, weakening the element of depression, lack of self-confidence, agony, fear and emotional stress.
Precaution for Balsam Fir Essential Oil
Despite the versatility of this particular essential oil, it is important to never consume essential oils internally. Inhalation in the form of aromatherapy is safe in certain situations, but it is always better to speak with an herbalist or an aromatherapist before embarking on this sort of alternative treatment. Also, due to the high concentration of chemicals in these oils, undiluted oils can be very powerful and dangerous when your skin is directly exposed to it.