With Christmas around the corner, what better time is there to discuss the fir essential oils! Fir trees differ from pine and spruce as their needles are flat and grow straight out of the branch, without a stem nor in bunches. The fir essential oils are produced through the steam-distillation of the cones, needles and twigs.
The tradition of Fir Essential Oil
Traditional cultures in Europe and North America where these trees come from have used their cones, needles and twigs in folk medicine. The oils contain chemicals such as bornyl acetate and many monoterpenes including camphene and α-pinene, all which are known decongestants and anti-inflammatories. No wonder there is the tradition to bring fir trees into the home over winter in the northern hemisphere when their aroma can help with colds and flus! These chemicals create energy flow in the mind and body, supporting circulation, opening the respiratory system and bringing invigoration.
The benefits of Fir Essential Oil
White fir (Abies alba), also known as silver fir grows in the forests of Europe and its scent is reminiscent of the forest. High in monoterpenes, this oil is quite energising and is great for lifting the spirits. Siberian fir (Abies sibirica) comes from Siberia, of course. The oil has a lower monoterpene content to the other fir oils, making it less stimulating and the most calming of the fir essential oils. The oil has a fresh yet mellow aroma. Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) is from a different genus to the other fir oils, so technically it is not a true fir tree. This is the essential oil is what comes to mind when I think 'Christmas tree'. It has a more complex aroma that the other fir oils, with citral and floral overtones to the piney scent. These oils blend well with each other and with herbaceous essential oils.
Fir Essential Oil and respiratory support
Although the fir oils are useful for respiratory support, the pinene levels in these oils can be counter-effective in those with asthma or similar breathing issues. A safe test could be to gently sniff the cap of the oil bottle and pause to feel into the chest – is it feeling opening or tighter? If contraction is felt, choose another oil, and if breathing is eased, use the fir oil at a low dilution. Try combining with sweet orange essential oil, and the d-limonene from the orange oil will complement the fir oil's chemical components in relieving inflammation and allergies.