- Family Pinaceae
- Abies balsamea
- Canadian Balsam, Canada Balsam
- None listed
Native to North America, the Balsam Fir is a conical evergreen tree growing to 180 feet, producing aromatic needle-like leaves and purple fir cones. In the eastern US, it is used mainly as a “Christmas tree”, and has long been commercially exploited for its timber. It is the source of the liquid resin called Canada balsam, which is tapped from sixty to eighty-year-old trees in the spring.
Dr. Wooster Beech (1794-1868), founder of the Eclectic healing movement, regarded balsam fir as a stimulant and laxative when taken internally and as an emollient and coolant when used externally.
It has an extensive history of medicinal use in North America and Europe for congestion and other infections, but not used much today. It was used mainly by Native Americans and early settlers for a wide variety of conditions.
- liquid oleo-resin
- Needles, resin, roots, branches, bark
The resin was used in a variety of ways by Native Americans. The Penobscots put it on burns, cuts, and sores. Ointments and plasters were also applied to the chest and back for colds and chest problems. It not only makes an effective treatment, but also is a protective coating, especially for cuts and burns.
Many tribes including the Algonquin, Woodlands Cree, Iroquois, Menominee, Micmac, Ojibwa, and Potawatomi treated colds with a tea made from the sap or bark.
The Pillagers and Ojibwa used the aromatic needles in their sweat lodges, inhaling the smoke from burning leaves to cure such respiratory problems as bronchitis.
The Chippewa inhaled steam created by melting the gum to relieve headaches.
The Iroquois used the steam created from a decoction of the branches to relieve rheumatism and as an aid in childbirth.
Infusions of the leaves were used to treat urinary tract infections including cystitis.
It is still commonly used in potpourri.