Balsam Canadian Pine Abies balsamea

- By: Aimee Regur

(Canadian Pine with White Sage Body Wash, Bar Soap and Hand Soap)

Balsam Pine is native to various parts of Canada, Maine, and mountainous regions of the United States.

Balsam Pine wood is used primarily for pulp and light frame construction, while the resin creates a by-product of oil and turpentine. Due to it’s classic conical shape and aroma it is one of the most popular Christmas tree varieties. Wildlife rely extensively on this tree for food provided by the cones and for shelter though long winters.

Balsam refers to substances such as saps and resins that exude from the bark of the tree when cut or punctured. The resin is very high in essential oil, which is a secondary metabolite, meaning, not needed for growth or reproduction. The essential oils are essentially anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal, while the sticky and hard nature of the resins create a protective barrier. Since the wood of the Balsam Pine is very soft, without the resin and essential oil, it would be susceptible to insect invasion, funguses and other types of rot that could lead to death.

Medicinally the resins and the needles of Canadian Balsam can be used internally and externally. The needles are a refreshing stimulant, high in vitamin C, and are a diuretic. Historically a tea of the needles was used to treat colds and asthma. The resin is an anthelmintic (gets rid of parasitic worms), and in large doses can induce vomiting (purgative). The principle activity is on the mucus membranes, with prolonged and large does it can be irritating, especially the urinary organs (kidney, bladder and urethra). In large doses it can act as a laxative. It has been used internally for gonorrhea, leucorrhea, hemorrhoids, chronic urinary difficulties, chronic inflammations and ulcerations of the bowels.

Externally and cosmetically, Canadian Balsam acts as a rubefacient, meaning it draws blood to the surface of the skin try causing minor irritation which, in diluted doses can stimulate healing of the tissue. Another well known constituent is salicylic acid, a key component in aspirin, being anti-inflammatory and pain reliever topically and internally.

In aromatherapy, the essential oil inhalation is uplifting and comforting to the mind, helps ease stress and promotes relaxation.

Native Americans used the resin to seal the seams of their birch-bark canoes, and early scientists used it to mount specimens on microscope slides. Needle-stuffed souvenir pillows of the North Woods once proclaimed, “For you I pine; for you I balsam.”

“I can tell balsam trees by their grayish bluish silverish look of smoke. Pine trees fringe out. Hemlocks loom like Christmas. The spruce tree is feathered and rough like the legs of the red chickens in our yard… I shall make a new geography of my own. I shall have a hillside of spruce and hemlock like a separate country, and I shall mark a walk of spires on my map, a secret road of balsam trees with blue buds. Trees fat smell like a wind out of fairy-land where little people live, who need no geography but trees.”

Poems by a Little Girl

- Hilda Conkling