did you know

Better known as a "Christmas tree”, the balsam fir is called "Annedda" in Amerindian. Jacques Cartier called it the "tree of life". Here is why:

The terrible winter of 1536

"In April of 1536, out of a crew of 110 men, 25 died and 40 others were headed towards certain death. The bodies were covered in bloody sores, the gums rotted, teeth fell out and weakness was such that it deprived men of the strength to bury the dead. Desperate, Cartier put up an image of the Virgin, organized a mass, ordered an autopsy and promised to make a pilgrimage if his men recovered from the sickness.

Jacques Cartier met by chance Domagaya, the son of the Amerindian leader of Stadaconé (Québec City), who was in good health while Cartier was suffering from the same sickness as his men had a week earlier. Cartier inquired about Domagaya’s remedy. The Amerindian responded to Cartier’s questions by telling him about annedda, a tree whose branches, when pounded and mixed with water, allowed for a rapid cure. He then sent two women to accompany Jacques Cartier in collecting branches and bark from the tree and to show him how to boil them. In six days, Amerindian know-how completely cured the members of the crew, even those afflicted for several years with French Pox.“

Excerpt from the book "L'Annedda, l'arbre de vie" by Jacques Mathieu, Author and Historian.

Fir tree resin is a non-timber forest product (NTFP). Non-timber forest products can be divided into four categories:

  1. Food products: wild fruits, mushrooms, fiddleheads and maple products
  2. Ornamental products: wreaths and Christmas trees
  3. Pharmaceutical and nutraceutical products : Canada yew extract, ginseng and balsam fir resin
  4. Manufactured products and materials: essential oils, resins, alcohols, etc.

Over the centuries, fir tree gum has retained interest for its therapeutic capacity, as demonstrated by Canadian patents issued in the 1800s.

1883/12/19, Elie Racicot, composition of matters (pill) for cough, cold, bronchitis and dyspepsia.

1885/06/08, Desiré Langis, composition of matters for the cure of internal and external diseases.

1888/05/02, Joseph E.P. Racicot, composition of matters (pill) for the cure of jaundice, constipation, diseases of the kidneys, heartburn, migraines and scrofula.

Rich in vitamin C and bioflavonoids, its main constituents are: monoterpene active ingredients (beta-pinene, delta-carene, alpha-pinene, limonene, camphene and myrcene), terpenic esters with bornyl acetate and sesquiterpenes with beta-phellandrene

Discovered and used by the First Nations, it was and remains to this day known for its potential as an antiseptic and its use as a poultice. 

Until the end of the 19th century, fir tree resin remained an essential element of French Canadian popular medicine.

Looking back through the ages, this almost innocuous resin has all of the aspects of a "miracle" product: It was used to treat cuts, burns, bullet wounds and sores. It was also attributed anti-inflammatory, laxative, vermifugal and expectorant properties.

In treatments it is used: to help quit smoking, to fortify the adrenal glands, to clean the lungs, for inflammation of the lungs, to eliminate warts, as a muscle relaxant, for asthma relief, for inflammation of the bladder, for inflammation of the kidneys, for coughs, for bronchitis and for colds.

In the last few years, nearly 500 years after the scurvy episode with Jacques Cartier’s crew, balsam fir resin has been approved by Health Canada as a traditional remedy to relieve respiratory tract infections and inflammation.

According to Alain Cuerrier, botanist at the Jardin botanique de Montréal and professor with the Department of Biological Sciences at the Université de Montréal:

"Fir tree gum has antiseptic, antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties that prevent infections." ( Le Devoir 19 Décember 2015)

Professors/researchers Dr. Jean Legault and Dr. André Pichette from the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (UQAC) have analyzed fir tree resin and have confirmed the antibacterial activity of the resin and discovered that some of its compounds showed anticancer activities:

"We have isolated tetraterpenoids, which are chemical compounds that have 40 carbons that are extremely rare in nature. In the laboratory, we were able to show that these compounds are toxic to cancerous cells. Even if they do not behave like an atomic bomb, they present interesting activity. However, they are in very low levels in the resin and are very difficult to extract."            (Le Devoir 19 Décembre 2015 )

Antitumour and anticancer properties are attributable to alpha-humulene.   

Balsam fir  resin can obviously be found in pharmaceuticals, homeopathy and herbalism but also in cosmetics, perfumery and even in food.

But in addition to its therapeutic virtues, it also has glazing properties. It can be used to make varnish, microscope slides, glue for optical lenses and is also used in dentistry. In addition, fir tree resin is used in paints, dyes and cleaning products. It is exported to several countries.

Who wouldn’t agree that it is a natural wealth unique in the world!

It is present from east-central Canada to the Maritimes and the northeastern United States. The constraint is that all of this potential is left untapped on our land. By harvesting it, you are contributing to the wealth of your province or state, you contribute to your own wealth and help others who cannot go into the forest to benefit from the virtues of this golden liquid from the woods.

 Now you know......

                                    TO THE FIRS, CITIZENS!


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