Herb: She Balsam


Latin name: Abies fraseri


Synonyms: Pinus fraseri


Family: Pinaceae (Pine Family)



Medicinal use of She Balsam:

The following uses are for the closely related A. balsamea. Since this species also has blisters of resin in the bark, the uses quite probably also apply here. The resin obtained from the balsam fir (see "Uses notes" below) has been used throughout the world and is a very effective antiseptic and healing agent. It is used as a healing and analgesic protective covering for burns, bruises, wounds and sores. It is also used to treat sore nipples and is said to be one of the best curatives for a sore throat. The buds, resin, and/or sap are used in folk remedies for treating cancers, corns, and warts. The resin is also antiscorbutic, diaphoretic, diuretic, stimulant and tonic. It is used internally in propriety mixtures to treat coughs and diarrhoea, though taken in excess it is purgative. A warm liquid of the gummy sap was drunk as a treatment for gonorrhoea. A tea made from the leaves is antiscorbutic. It is used in the treatment of coughs, colds and fevers. The leaves and young shoots are best harvested in the spring and dried for later use. This plant was widely used medicinally by various North American Indian tribes. The resin was used as an antiseptic healing agent applied externally to wounds, sores, bites etc., it was used as an inhalant to treat headaches and was also taken internally to treat colds, sore throats and various other complaints.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Evergreen
Tree

Height:
15 m
(49 feet)

Flovering:
May

Habitat of the herb:

Mountains, often forming forests of considerable extent at elevations of 1200 - 1800 metres.

Edible parts of She Balsam:

The following uses are for the closely related A. balsamea. Since this species also has blisters of resin in the bark, the uses quite probably also apply here. Inner bark - cooked. It is usually dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickening in soups etc or mixed with cereals when making bread. An emergency food, it is only used when all else fails. An aromatic resinous pitch is found in blisters in the bark. When eaten raw it is delicious and chewy. An oleoresin from the pitch is used as a flavouring in sweets, baked goods, ice cream and drinks. Tips of young shoots are used as a tea substitute.

Other uses of the herb:

Wood - light, soft, coarse grained, not strong. It is occasionally manufactured into lumber. The following uses are for the closely related A. balsamea. Since this species also has blisters of resin in the bark, the uses quite probably also apply here. The balsamic resin "Balm of Gilead" or "Canada Balsam" according to other reports is obtained during July and August from blisters in the bark or by cutting pockets in the wood. Another report says that it is a turpentine. It is used medicinally, also in the manufacture of glues, candles and as a cement for microscopes and slides - it has a high refractive index resembling that of glass. The average yield is about 8 - 10 oz per tree. The resin is also a fixative in soaps and perfumery. Leaves are a stuffing material for pillows etc - they impart a pleasant scent and also repel moths

Propagation of She Balsam:

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. Trees often self-layer in the wild, so this might be a means of increasing named varieties in cultivation.

Cultivation of the herb:

Mountains, often forming forests of considerable extent at elevations of 1200 - 1800 metres.

Known hazards of Abies fraseri:

The oleoresin (Canada balsam) can cause dermatitis in some people.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.