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Canada balsam (Abies balsamea)
Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph, Copyright © 2011 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.
Abies balsam, Abies balsamea, Abies balsamea L. Mill., Abies balsamea var. phanerolepi, alpha-canadinolic resin, alpha-humulene, alpha-pinene, American silver firm, balm of Gilead, balm of Gilead fir, balm of Gilead tree, balsam, Balsam Canada, balsam fir, balsam fir Canada, balsam fir oil, balsam of fir, beta-canadinolic resin, beta-caryophyllene, beta-phellandrene, beta-pinene, blister, blister fir, blister pine, bracketed baksan fir, Canaan fir, Canada turpentine, Canadian balsam, canadinic resin, canadolic resin, caryophyllene oxide, caryophyllene oxide gamma, delta-3-carene, Eastern fir, firm balsam, gamma-caryophyllene, monoterpenes, Kloroperka®, piaric acid, Pinaceae (family), Pinus balsamea, Pinus balsamea L., sapin baumler, sesquiterpenes.
Note: Canada balsam is sometimes mistaken for balm of Gilead, a tree in the Populus genus.
Canada balsam is a small-to-medium-sized fir tree native to North America and Canada. Its needles are shiny and dark green on the outside and matte, silvery blue-green on the underside. Canada balsam is sometimes mistaken for balm of Gilead, a tree in the Poplar genus.
Historically, Native Americans have applied Canada balsam to the skin as a poultice to treat burns and wounds. During the Civil War, balm of balsam fir was reportedly used to treat combat injuries. The essential oil of Canada balsam has been used for coughs and colds.
Canada balsam resin is a clear, transparent, and adhesive liquid, with a consistency similar to honey. Purified Canada balsam resin is used as an optical glue, a microscopic prepping agent, and as a fixative and glossing agent in oil painting. Canada balsam resin is also used in combination with other substances in dental procedures. Oils extracted from the resin have been studied experimentally for their antitumor and antibacterial activities. The trunk of Canada balsam also yields oil used for making glassware.
Currently, high-quality trials investigating the use of Canada balsam for any medical condition are lacking.
Canada balsam is listed on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
No available studies qualify for inclusion in the evidence table.
*Key to grades:
A: Strong scientific evidence for this use;
B: Good scientific evidence for this use;
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use;
D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work);
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.
- Abortifacient, angina (chest pain), antibacterial, arthritis, asthma, boils, burns, cancer, colds, colic, congestion, conjunctivitis (pinkeye), constipation, corns, cough, cystitis, dental procedures (endodontic sealant, root canal sealer, dentifrices), diarrhea, diuretic, dysmenorrhea, dysentery, earache, enuresis (bedwetting), fever, gastrointestinal inflammation, gonorrhea, headache, heart disease, hemorrhoids, inflammation, influenza, insect bites, mouth sores, nausea, pain relief, psoriasis, rheumatic diseases, salivary stimulant, scabies, sleep aid, smoking cessation, sore throat, sweating, toothache, ulcer, urogenitary disorders, urinary tract infections, warts, wound healing (burns, sores, cuts).
The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.
Adults (18 years and older)
Canada balsam has been taken by mouth as a tea or decoction by boiling three shoots or boiling 5 grams of the inner bark in 250 milliliters of water.
For the treatment of stomach inflammation, three cups of Canada balsam tea has been taken by mouth once daily before meals.
For the treatment of stomach ulcers, Canada balsam capsules have been taken by mouth for 15 days.
For the treatment of urinary tract infections, three cups of Canada balsam tea has been taken by mouth once daily before meals.
Canada balsam decoction and essential oil has been used for a bath.
Canada balsam oil has been applied to the skin for the treatment of bacterial infections, hemorrhoids, and muscle pain.
Canada balsam essential oil may be inhaled or used in a diffuser.
Children (under 18 years old)
There is no proven safe or effective dose for Canada balsam in children.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
Avoid in individuals with known allergy or sensitivity to Canada balsam. Canada balsam may cause an allergic skin reaction (called contact dermatitis) when used as a perfume.
Side Effects and Warnings
There is currently a lack of information regarding side effects of Canada balsam.
Canada balsam may cause an allergic skin reaction (contact dermatitis) when used as a perfume.
Canada balsam may act as a laxative and may cause nausea when taken in large doses.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Avoid in individuals who are pregnant or breastfeeding due to lack of sufficient data. Historically, Canada balsam was used to cause abortion.
Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.
Interactions with Drugs
Canada balsam may add to the effects of antibiotics and anticancer drugs.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Canada balsam may add to the effects of antibacterials and anticancer herbs or supplements.
This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
- Gugliotta, P, Pacchioni, D, and Bussolati, G. Staining reaction for beta-galactosidase in immunocytochemistry and in situ hybridization. Eur J Histochem 1992;36(2):143-148. View Abstract
- Humphrey, CD and Pittman, FE. Influence of mounting media on the fading of basic aniline dyes in epoxy embedded tissues. Stain Technol 1977;52(3):159-164. View Abstract
- Keen, CE, Buk, SJ, Brady, K, et al. Fat necrosis presenting as obscure abdominal mass: birefringent saponified fatty acid crystalloids as a clue to diagnosis. J Clin Pathol 1994;47(11):1028-1031. View Abstract
- Legault, J, Dahl, W, Debiton, E, et al. Antitumor activity of balsam fir oil: production of reactive oxygen species induced by alpha-humulene as possible mechanism of action. Planta Med 2003;69(5):402-407. View Abstract
- Orstavik, D. Endodontic materials. Adv Dent Res 1988;2(1):12-24.
- Padilha-Goncalves, A. A single method to stain Malassezia furfur and Corynebacterium minutissimum in scales. Rev.Inst.Med Trop.Sao Paulo 1996;38(4):299-302. View Abstract
- Pichette, A, Larouche, PL, Lebrun, M, et al. Composition and antibacterial activity of Abies balsamea essential oil. Phytother Res 2006;20(5):371-373. View Abstract
- Shivapathasundharam, B and Berti, AE. Transparent tooth model system. An aid in the study of root canal anatomy. Indian J Dent.Res 2000;11(3):89-94. View Abstract
- Tveit, AB and Hals, E. Inhibitory effect of a fluoride-containing amalgam on development of cavity wall lesions in vitro. Acta Odontol Scand 1980;38(1):29-39. View Abstract
- Zmener, O, Goldberg, F, and Cabrini, RL. Effects of two gutta-percha formulations and one zinc oxide-eugenol and Canada balsam mixture on human blood monocytes and lymphocytes. Endod Dent Traumatol 1989;5(2):73-77. View Abstract
Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.