The balsam fir, a native of northern Europe, is our well-known Christmas tree. To the Irish Celts it was a tree of birth and thus it signified the birth of the new year, and so the original Yule logs were probably fir. For centuries, boughs were scattered over floors of churches and houses during winter, providing a clean, scented covering.
Perhaps long ago, people realized the aromatherapy benefits: the uplifting fragrance helped overcome winter blues and encouraged feelings of contentment and joy. This use of fir is reflected in Greek myth. When the god Attis was about to die from a wound, Cybele turned him into a fir so that he would remain evergreen.
Fir essential oil is distilled from the twigs or needles of many different conifers, including spruces and pines, yielding a rich variety of fragrances. The Canadian Balsam (A. balsamea) and Siberian Fir (A. siberica) have an especially pleasant, forestlike scent.
In comparison, the scent of pine essential oil is sharper. The harsher turpentine oil also comes from members of the pine family and is used in varnishes and paints, preservatives, and lamp oil. For general purposes, all of these essential oils have highly antiseptic properties.
Principal constituents of fir: Santene, pinene, limonene, bornyl acetate, lauraldehyde
Scent of fir: Similar to that of Christmas trees, it is fresh, softly balsamic, invigorating, and forestlike.
Therapeutic properties of fir: Antibacterial, deodorant; relieves pain and coughing, clears mucous from the lungs, kills mold
Uses for fir: Fir and pine essential oils soothe muscle and rheumatism pain and increase poor circulation when used in a massage oil or when added to a liniment or bath. They also help prevent bronchial and urinary infections and reduce coughing, including that caused by bronchitis and asthma. The best ways to utilize the essential oil are either through inhalation or via a chest rub.
It is occasionally added to a salve or other skin preparation as an antiseptic for skin infections. Pine and fir stimulate energy, according to research from International Flavors and Fragrances, Inc., in New Jersey. An aromatherapy alarm clock from Japan uses the forest scent of pine or fir along with eucalyptus for its wake-up call.