Balsam fir (Abies balsamea) has been used medicinally as a traditional folk remedy and as an ingredient in cold medicines, creams and ointments. It is a very popular choice for use as a Christmas tree in eastern Canada and United States.
Balsam Fir can be identified by the twigs, which are light-coloured and are covered with shiny green needles which are arranged in flattened sprays. The needles can be 1-1/2 inch long are rounded at the base but spread out and become flatter.
The trunk is smooth rather than scaly, and is greyish in colour. Some may be reddish in colour. Along the trunk, raised blisters occur that contain resin from the tree.
To make the tea, add a small handful of twigs (an ounce for those who prefer to measure) to a pint of boiling water. Once added, reduce heat and allow to steep for ten minutes. The tea has a pleasant flavour and aroma. I use this tea as a method of treating colds and coughs. In folk medicine it is recommended to drink this tea two to three times a day for this purpose.
Warning: This should not be used by anyone who is allergic to balsam fir or any other similar tree. Use may also cause dermatitis. Use of natural remedies should be used with caution and should never replace those recommended by a health care professional.
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Sam Wentzell is an avid outdoor enthusiast and the owner operator of Sam's Woodland Tours.