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.
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Note: Canada balsam is sometimes mistaken for balm of Gilead, a tree in the Populus genus.
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.