She Balsam (Abies fraseri)

Tree
Pinus fraseri.
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
She Balsam
Abies fraseri
Pinaceae

Wood – light, soft, coarse grained, not strong[82]. It is occasionally manufactured into lumber[82].

The following uses are for the closely related A. balsamea. Since this species also has blisters of resin in the bark[81], the uses quite probably also apply here.

The balsamic resin ‘Balm of Gilead'[11, 46] or ‘Canada Balsam’ according to other reports[64, 226] is obtained during July and August from blisters in the bark or by cutting pockets in the wood[222].. Another report says that it is a turpentine[171]. 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[11, 46, 64, 82, 222, 226]. The average yield is about 8 – 10 oz per tree[171]. The resin is also a fixative in soaps and perfumery[171].

Leaves are a stuffing material for pillows etc – they impart a pleasant scent[46, 61] and also repel moths[169]

  • Medicinal Use

    The following uses are for the closely related A. balsamea. Since this species also has blisters of resin in the bark[81], 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[213, 222, 226]. It is also used to treat sore nipples[213] and is said to be one of the best curatives for a sore throat[245]. The buds, resin, and/or sap are used in folk remedies for treating cancers, corns, and warts[269].

    The resin is also antiscorbutic, diaphoretic, diuretic, stimulant and tonic[4, 171, 222]. It is used internally in propriety mixtures to treat coughs and diarrhoea, though taken in excess it is purgative[238].

    A warm liquid of the gummy sap was drunk as a treatment for gonorrhoea[212].

    A tea made from the leaves is antiscorbutic[4, 171]. It is used in the treatment of coughs, colds and fevers[222]. The leaves and young shoots are best harvested in the spring and dried for later use[238].

    This plant was widely used medicinally by various North American Indian tribes[257]. 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[257].

  • Edible Use

    The following uses are for the closely related A. balsamea. Since this species also has blisters of resin in the bark[81], 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[105, 177]. An emergency food, it is only used when all else fails[183].

    An aromatic resinous pitch is found in blisters in the bark[64]. When eaten raw it is delicious and chewy[101, 183]. An oleoresin from the pitch is used as a flavouring in sweets, baked goods, ice cream and drinks[183].

    Tips of young shoots are used as a tea substitute[177, 183].

  • Cautionary Notes

    The oleoresin (Canada balsam) can cause dermatitis in some people[222].

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – sow early February in a greenhouse or outdoors in March[78]. Germination is often poor, usually taking about 6 – 8 weeks[78]. 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[80, 113]. The seed remains viable for up to 5 years if it is well stored[113]. 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[78] whilst another report says that they are best grown on in a sunny position[80]. Trees often self-layer in the wild[226], so this might be a means of increasing named varieties in cultivation[K].
Prefers a good moist but not water-logged soil[1]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Very shade tolerant, especially when young[81, 126], but growth is slower in dense shade[81]. Intolerant of atmospheric pollution[1]. Prefers slightly acid conditions down to a pH of about5[200]. Prefers growing on a north-facing slope[200]. A shallow-rooted plant, making it vulnerable to high winds[229]. A fast-growing but short-lived species[200]. Trees are very cold hardy but are often excited into premature growth in mild winters and this new growth is susceptible to damage by late frosts[11]. No other member of this genus has proved to be of as little value, or so short-lived as this species; there is scarcely a good tree in the country, though it is attractive when young[11]. Usually short-lived in cultivation, though bearing its interesting cones whilst still young[81]. Young trees can be handsome and vigorous, one grew 120cm in two years, but growth soon slows[185]. Trees are known to have lived more than 60 years[185]. Trees should be planted into their permanent positions when they are quite small, between 30 and 90cm in height. Larger trees will check badly and hardly put on any growth for several years. This also badly affects root development and wind resistance[200]. Trees have a thin bark and are therefore susceptible to forest fires[229]. This species is closely related to A. balsamea[11, 229]. There are some named forms selected for their ornamental value[200]. Trees can produce cones when only 2 metres tall[200]. Plants are strongly outbreeding, self-fertilized seed usually grows poorly[200]. They hybridize freely with other members of this genus[200]. The cones break up on the tree and if seed is required it should be harvested before the cones break up in early autumn[80].
South-eastern N. America – Virginia and West Virginia to North Carolina and Tennessee.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.