Balsam Fir Essential Oil
Balsam fir (Abies balsamea) is a species of fir native to eastern North America. It is an evergreen and is commonly identified as the classic ‘Christmas tree’.1 It is the source of Canada balsam, a type of turpentine that acts as an effective varnish. It is also considered an ideal medium for mounting scientific samples on laboratory slides.2 The species is a member of the pine family and is commonly used in the pulp and paper industry.3
The essential oil of balsam fir is collected through a process of steam distillation.4 The sap and tree itself have a long history of medical use amongst several North American Indigenous peoples. In traditional First Nation medical practice, it has been used as an antiseptic, a skin ointment for itches and infections, a laxative, a treatment for heart disease, and as a cold remedy.5
Balsam Fir Essential Oil Uses
The invigorating scent of balsam fir essential oil can be a great addition to many self-care regimes. Whether it’s used in massage or aromatherapy, balsam fir essential oil has been reported to have a particularly calming aroma.
Add 2-3 drops of balsam fir essential oil to 1 Tbsp. of a carrier oil such as jojoba or grapeseed oil. Its fresh and uplifting fragrance will provide a relaxing massage with a scent reminiscent of the outdoors. Balsam fir essential oil also blends very well with lemon, orange, and rosemary essential oil.
For a soothing bath, add 3-5 drops of balsam fir essential oil to warm, running bathwater. To leave skin feeling soft, add 1 cup of Epsom salt to the bath.
Bring the aroma of balsam fir indoors with aromatherapy, add 2-4 drops of balsam fir essential oil to a diffuser filled with water. Let diffuse in an indoor space for up to 30 minutes.
Natural Household Cleaner
Recent studies have shown that balsam fir essential oil has excellent antibacterial properties. For a natural household cleaner, add 1 cup each of vinegar and water to a large spray bottle. Add 10-15 drops of balsam essential oil. Shake gently to mix the ingredients. Spray on household surfaces, then wipe clean.
Alternatively, add 5-10 drops to an unscented dish soap to enhance its natural cleaning properties and fragrance.
With natural antibacterial properties, create a natural oil cleanser by adding 1-2 drops of balsam fir essential oil to 1 Tbsp. of a carrier oil, such as sunflower. Massage into your face while avoiding your eyes, inner nose and mouth. Remove with a warm, damp cloth.
With a comforting scent, balsam fir essential oil can be used as a natural air freshener. Reminiscent of Christmas trees, use during the holiday seasons to keep your house smelling fresh.
Add ½ a cup of water and 10-15 drops of balsam fir essential oil into a spray bottle. Mist the spray throughout your house to eliminate stale air. Avoid spraying on to furniture and use cautiously if you have cats, as certain oils can be toxic to animals.
Benefits of Balsam Fir Essential Oil
Essential oils are commonly associated with just the aroma they produce, however many of these volatile oils have a diverse range of beneficial properties. While preliminary research on balsam fir essential oil has just begun, scientists have discovered several natural health benefits, as reflected in the recent scientific studies below.
The anti-tumor properties of balsam fir essential oil were documented in a 2003 study. Balsam fir essential oil contains alpha-humulene, a compound that has been observed to be active against tumor cells.7 This anti-tumor activity was noted in an isolated lab setting and requires further research before essential oils can be used as a complementary therapeutic method.
In a 2006 study, balsam fir essential oil was tested against a variety of bacteria and was found to significantly inhibit growth of Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium often found in incidents of food poisoning as well as infections acquired during hospitalization.8,9
In a recent study, Canadian scientists found similar antibacterial properties in balsam fir essential oil when testing the oil against a variety of pathogenic bacteria and fungi.10 These antibacterial properties demonstrate the potential to be used as an ingredient in antibacterial agents.
In a 2014 study, balsam fir essential oil was among several plant oils tested for insect repellency rates. Balsam fir, along with tea tree, peppermint and lavender essential oils were each mixed with a base of organic sunflower oil and applied to barn-housed cows for periods of 24 hours, with the number of flies on each cow was counted at specific intervals.
Balsam fir essential oil showed an excellent rate of repellency for up to 8 hours. Due to the low toxicity rate, topical application of essential oils mixed with carrier oils may be preferential to synthetic repellants on mammals.6
Side Effects of Balsam Fir Essential Oil
Balsam fir essential oil is generally considered safe for inhalation and topical use. Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil before topical application.
If you are allergic to balsam fir or trees of the pine family, be cautious when using balsam fir essential oil. Discontinue use if any sensitivity develops.
Commercially available essential oils are highly concentrated, and can be toxic if ingested. Do not consume balsam fir essential oil unless under the supervision of a health care professional. Do not use balsam fir essential oil on children, pregnant or nursing women unless you have consulted a medical professional.
Where to Buy Balsam Fir Essential Oil
Previously, high quality essential oils could only be bought at specialty health stores, or through expensive multi-level marketing companies. Now, due to advancements in technology, extremely high grade essential oils can be purchased over the internet at very reasonable prices.
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- Fir. (2017). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://library.eb.com/levels/referencecenter/article/fir/34319 – View reference
- Canada balsam. (2016). Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, 1. Retrieved from EBSCOhost database.
- Plant Database. (2016). Abies balsamea. Lady Bird Johnson Widlflower Center: The University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved from http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=ABBA – View reference
- Burdock, G. A. (2016). Fenaroli’s handbook of flavor ingredients. Boca Raton; London; New York: CRC Press. Retrieved from https://books.google.ca/books?id=pUEqBgAAQBAJ&lpg=PA697&dq=steam%20distillation%20fir%20oil&pg=PA697#v=onepage&q&f=false
- North American Ethnobotany Database. (2003). Abies balsamea search string. Retrieved from http://naeb.brit.org/uses/search/?string=Abies+balsamea
- LaChance, S., & Grange, G. (2014). Repellent effectiveness of seven plant essential oils, sunflower oil and natural insecticides against horn flies on pastured dairy cows and heifers. Medical & Veterinary Entomology, 28(2), 193-200. doi:1111/mve.12044
- Legault, J., Dahl, W., Debiton, E., Pichette, A., & Madelmont, J. C. (2003). Antitumor activity of balsam fir oil: production of reactive oxygen species induced by alpha-humulene as possible mechanism of action. Planta Medica. 69(5), 402-407. doi:1055/s-2003-39695
- Pichette, A., Larouche, P.-L., Lebrun, M., & Legault, J. (2006). Composition and antibacterial activity of Abies balsameaessential oil. Phytotherapy Research. 20(5), 371-373. doi:1002/ptr.1863
- Medline Plus. (2015). Staph infections – hospital. A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000449.htm
- Poaty, B., Lahlah, J., Porqueres, F. et al. (2015). Composition, antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of seven essential oils from the North American boreal forest. World Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology. 31(6), 907-919. doi:1007/s11274-015-1845-y