Baume De Canada

BAUME DE CANADA/Canada Balsam(Abies balsameae – Pinaceae)

All the silver, or true, firs smell aromatic and yield resin to a greater or lesser degree. For this reason, the fir trees in North America have been called balsams for many years. Firs are evergreen conifers with single needles and flowers of both sexes on the same tree. The topmost branches bear the solid cylindrical cones. The balsam fir of Canada and the Lake States grows to a medium height, reaching a maximum of 18 m (60 ft), although in gardens it usually reaches about 7.5 m (25 ft).
The first mention of the therapeutic properties of the oil was in the 1606 journal of Marc Lescarbot after he had visited Canada. He related how the Indians used the oil for medicinal as well as domestic purposes: as a very strong antiseptic on wounds and ulcers, in the form of liniment; in veterinary practice on animals; and on their bows to lubricate the wood. It was only much later, in the eighteenth century, that the oil appeared in the European pharmacopoeiae.


Description: The resin is collected by tapping the trees in July and August, when the resin is at its peak. It is then steam distilled. The essential oil is very similar to that of the pine trees which yield oil of turpentine. It is very aromatic with a pleasant scent, reminiscent of a mixture of caraway and juniper. It has a bitter taste.
The principal constituents: Camphene, pinene and resinic acid. Dangers: The oil should, preferably, be prescribed only by reputable prac¬titioners and should not be used for self treatment.


In illness
The properties of baume de Canada are antirheumatic, expectorant, and antiseptic. It is a valuable remedy in diseases of the reproductive organs and urinary systems, and of the mucous and respiratory systems. (See also coughing, pneumonia and sinusitis.)

Other uses
A considerable North American industry has grown up around the Canada balsam tree and other firs. The needles are used to give their inimitable fragrance to soaps and other cosmetics. If you are lucky enough to find some resin, you could use it to buff old furniture, so lubricating it and helping protect it against woodworm.

A to Z of Plants