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.
* 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 for this use (it may not work) F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)
Tradition / Theory
The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. 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 healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
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.
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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.