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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

EUROPEAN SILVER FIR: INCREDIBLY USEFUL TREE: HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF THE EUROPEAN SILVER FIR


EUROPEAN SILVER FIR, ALBIES ALBA   
The European Silver fir is native to Central and Southern Europe and has been introduced into Britain where it has naturalized in some parts, particularly in Scotland where it grows well. It is a member of the Pinaceae family of plants and so is a relative of the Western Hemlock tree (Tsuga heterophylla), the trees which produce pine nuts and chilgoza nuts, the Deodar tree (Cedrus deodara), the West Himalayan Fir (Abies pindrow Royle) and the Biblical cedars of Lebanon.

  It is an evergreen tree which typically flowers between April and May, with its seeds ripening between September and October. It can grow to around 45 metres high and to 15 metres wide at a fast rate. It was the original Christmas tree, although today the Norway spruce is more generally used.                                                                       
  Timber from the European silver fir is prized as it is lightweight and durable. It is used in construction for furniture and boxes and pulped.
  The inner bark is edible and used dried and powdered to thicken soups and sauces, and can also be mixed with cereals such as oats and rye, to make bread.
  Different parts of the tree have been used in traditional medicine for generations. In summer the bark gets “blisters” on it which are full of oleo-resin which is harvested and dried, used fresh, or distilled for oil. This resin is used in the cosmetics and perfume industries as well as in medicine and has also been used to caulk ships. The oil is known as Oil of Turpentine or Strasburg turpentine.

  Resin from older trees which have reached the age of between sixty and eighty years are tapped in spring in order to produce distilled oil from the resin. This is common in bath products for those with rheumatism and sore muscles or joints. It is also used n disinfectants and household cleaning products that smell of pine.
  The buds of the European silver fir have antibiotic and antiseptic properties; they are also balsamic which means that they have warming, soothing properties. The bark is astringent and antiseptic, and may be harvested at any time of the year. As the bark contains tannin, it can be used in decoctions or infusions for dysentery or diarrhoea.
  The leaves have expectorant properties and should be gathered in spring and dried for later use for coughs, bronchitis and other chest and lung disorder. They can be made into a tisane (infusion). They act on the smooth membranes of the bronchial tubes to reduce spasms and to soothe these. The leaves and or the resin may be used for cystitis and other urinary tract infections. Externally these may be found in rubbing oils and ointments and can be used to relieve the pain of rheumatism and other inflammatory diseases. These have also been used for flatulence which may also cause colic, and the resin is a vasoconstrictor which narrows the blood vessels, thus raising blood pressure. It is also said to be a good wound healer and an antiseptic.                                                                                                              

  One study has shown that the essential oil of the European Silver fir has excellent free-radical scavenging activities; “Radical scavenging activity of the essential oil of Albies alba” Seun-Ah Yang et al. Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition 2009 May, Vol. 44 (3). However it did not, in this study show pronounced antibacterial actions. 

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