Herb: Silver Fir

Latin name: Abies alba

Synonyms: Abies pectinata

Family: Pinaceae (Pine Family)

Medicinal use of Silver Fir:

The buds are antibiotic, antiseptic and balsamic. The bark is antiseptic and astringent. It can be harvested as required throughout the year. The leaves are expectorant and a bronchial sedative. They are best harvested in the spring and can be dried for later use. The resin is antiseptic, balsamic, diuretic, eupeptic, expectorant, vasoconstrictor and vulnerary. Both the leaves and the resin are common ingredients in remedies for colds and coughs, either taken internally or used as an inhalant. The leaves and/or the resin are used in folk medicine to treat bronchitis, cystitis, leucorrhoea, ulcers and flatulent colic. The resin is also used externally in bath extracts, rubbing oils etc for treating rheumatic pains and neuralgia. Oil of Turpentine, which is obtained from the trunk of the tree, is occasionally used instead of the leaves or the resin. The oil is also rubefacient and can be applied externally in the treatment of neuralgia.

Description of the plant:


45 m
(148 feet)

to May


Habitat of the herb:

Forests in mountains, 1000 - 1600 metres.

Edible parts of Silver Fir:

Inner bark - cooked. It is dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickening in soups etc or mixed with cereals when making bread.

Other uses of the herb:

An oleo-resin is obtained from blister-like swellings in the bark. It is harvested in the summer and used fresh, dried or distilled for oil. The resin extracted from it is used in perfumery, medicine and for caulking ships. It is called "Strasburg Turpentine". Oil of turpentine is an important solvent in the paint industry. The residue, known as "rosin oil", is used in making varnishes, lacquers and carbon black (for pigments and ink). Resin is tapped from trees about 60 - 80 years old in the spring and used for the distillation of oil. An essential oil obtained from the leaves is used as a disinfectant and also in medicine and perfumery. It is a common ingredient in many bath products, giving them their familiar pine scent. The bark is a source of tannin. Wood - light, soft, durable, elastic. The timber of this tree is especially sought after for its lightness, it is used for construction, furniture, boxes, pulp etc.

Propagation of Silver Fir:

Seed - sow early February in a greenhouse or outdoors in March. Germination is often poor, usually taking about 6 - 8 weeks. Stratification is said to produce a more even germination so it is probably best to sow the seed in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe in the autumn. The seed remains viable for up to 5 years if it is well stored. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on for at least their first winter in pots. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Alternatively, if you have sufficient seed, it is possible to sow in an outdoor seedbed. One report says that it is best to grow the seedlings on in the shade at a density of about 550 plants per square metre whilst another report says that they are best grown on in a sunny position.

Cultivation of the herb:

Forests in mountains, 1000 - 1600 metres.

Known hazards of Abies alba:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.