Abies Alba (Silver Fir)

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Abies Alba (Silver Fir) is rarely used medicinal plant, which is used for antiseptic, antibiotic, eupeptic, expectorant and astringent properties. In folk medicine, it is used to treat joint pains especially due to rheumatic arthritis and muscle pains or cramps. It appears to have mild analgesic and anti-inflammatory characteristics.

The extracts from Abies Alba are widely used in numerous medicinal products along with cosmetic merchandises like bath oils, perfumes and air fresheners. Turpentine and varnishes production uses Silver Fir leaves extracts. Being very sensitive to the changes caused because of pollution levels or climate, the tree is also considered as a dependable environment indicator by the locals.

BOTANICAL DESCRIPTION

Abies Alba, also popularly known as Silver Fir, is an evergreen tree that grows at higher altitudes between 300 to 1700 meters. This large tree vegetation is best found in European mountains where rainfall is over 1,000 millimeters. This coniferous tree belongs to Pinaceae family. Its scaly cones vary from 9 to 17cm in size, disintegrate on getting mature and releasing the seeds. Silver fir was dominantly used as the Christmas tree until it was replaced by another economically cultivated species.

Synonyms & Vernacular Names

Botanical NameAbies Alba
English NameSilver Fir

Botanical Classification (Plant Taxonomy)

KingdomPlantae
Sub-KingdomViridiplantae
Infra KingdomStreptophyta (Land Plants)
Super DivisionEmbryophyta
DivisionTracheophyta (Tracheophytes – Vascular Plants)
Sub DivisionSpermatophytina (Spermatophytes – Seed Plants)
ClassPinopsida (Conifers)
SubclassPinidae
OrderPinales (Pines)
FamilyPinaceae (Pines)
GenusAbies Mill (Fir)
SpeciesAbies Alba Mill. (Silver Fir)

MEDICINAL PARTS

The following parts of Abies Alba (Silver Fir) are used in folk medicine.

  1. Buds
  2. Leaves
  3. Bark
  4. Resin
  5. Fir Needle Essential Oil

PHYTOCHEMISTRY (Chemical Composition)

All parts of Abies Alba (Silver Fir) contain volatile essential oil. The oil contains terpenes (C15H24) and mainly monoterpene hydrocarbons are identified. Its seed hydrolates contain oxygenated sesquiterpenes derivatives. There are about 174 compounds are found in oil and hydrolates from which 95.6 to 99.9% are volatiles. (Reference)

The following components are found with UV–vis absorption spectroscopy and mass spectrometry. (Reference)

Six Phenolic Acids
  • GALLIC ACID
  • HOMOVANILLIC ACID
  • P-COUMARIC ACID
  • P-HYDROXYBENZOIC ACID
  • PROTOCATEHUIC ACID
  • VANILLIC ACID
Three Flavonoids
  • CATECHIN
  • CATECHIN TETRAMETHYL ETER
  • EPICATECHIN
Four Lignans
  • 7-(2-METHYL-3,4-DIHYDROXYTETRAHYDROPYRAN-5-YLOXY)-TAXIRESINOL
  • LARICINRESINOL
  • SECOISOLARICIRESINOL
  • TAXIRESINOL

PHARMACOLOGICAL ACTIONS

All parts of Abies Alba induce warmth in the body, so it is considered to have a hot potency, according to traditional medicine. The second most action of it is it increases blood circulation to different parts of the body. When it is applied on the skin, it produces sensation of warmth, and increases blood circulation to the area on which it is applied, which helps to reduce pain. It may also cause redness and irritation in sensitive skin.

In respiratory system, Abies Alba (Silver Fir) acts as mucolytic, expectorant, and antibacterial, so it modulates the mucus production and kills the microbes.

The different parts of Abies Alba (Silver Fir) are known with different pharmacological actions as listed below:

Buds Medicinal Actions

  • Antibiotic
  • Antimicrobial
  • Antiseptic
  • Balsamic

Bark Medicinal Actions

  • Antiseptic
  • Astringent

Leaves Medicinal Actions

  • Expectorant
  • Bronchial Sedative
  • Mucolytic
  • Eupeptic
  • Diuretic
  • Appetizer
  • Immuno stimulant

Resin Medicinal Actions

  • Eupeptic
  • Expectorant
  • Diuretic
  • Vasoconstrictor
  • Antiseptic
  • Vulnerary
  • Balsamic

Fir Needle Essential Oil Medicinal Actions

  • Decongestant
  • Antiviral

Therapeutic Indications

Abies Alba (Silver Fir) Leaves and Bark are used in following diseases:

  • Productive Cough
  • Bronchitis with productive cough (but only when it is not streaked with blood)

Abies Alba resin is beneficial in:

  • Leucorrhoea (with itching)
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Joint Pains
  • Muscular Pains
  • Fatigue

Fir Needle Essential Oil is used in aromatherapy for conditions in vaporized form:

  • Common cold
  • Seasonal flu
  • Sinusitis
  • Stuffy nose
  • Fatigue
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis (added in massage oil)
  • Muscular aches (added in massage oil)

According to aromatherapy, its oil increases positivity in emotions and brings down stress, sadness and nervous exhaustion.

Benefits & Medicinal Uses

Abies Alba’s leaves, barks, buds are harvested all the year round. While the buds are used to make antiseptic lotions and antibiotic medicines, its bark is used in astringents. It boosts the immune system, stimulates the liver and aid digestion. Nevertheless, it also helps in curing respiratory disorders as well.

Because of the analgesic characteristics imposed by the Silver Fir, it turns out to be ideal oil for massage. It has the ability to stop deterioration of the cartilage and connective tissues.  People suffering from muscular aches, rheumatism, and arthritis pain are benefitted most with such massages. It soothes the inflamed or swelled synovial membrane. The muscle relaxant action present in Silver Fir helps to alleviate the muscle pains.

The essential oils extracted from Silver Fir are beneficial in aromatherapy. The oils, because of its antiseptic qualities, are very helpful in preventing common cold, and seasonal flu. The oils if used in vaporized form can provide a great relief from stuffy nose.

The soothing fragrance of the oil boosts positive emotions, pacifies stress and nervous exhaustion, reduce sadness and negativity whilst rejuvenating and refreshing the mind and body. It creates a feel of empowerment hence stimulating the mind yet relaxing the body at the same time.

Dosage & Administration

The dosage according to different parts of Abies Alba and derivative is as follows:

Leaves and Bark Decoction

Leaves and Bark are used to prepared decoction. The decoction should be prepared using 3 grams of leaf or bark coarse powder and 240 ml water, which should be reduced to 60 ml liquid. The decoction prepared from this method should be used in following dosage.

Children10 to 20 ml *
Adults30 to 60 ml *
* Twice daily
Best Time to Take: After Meal

Bud Extract Dosage

Bud water extract prepared in ratio 1:200 can be given in following dosage.

Adults5 mg *
* Once  or Twice daily
Best Time to Take: After Meal

Resin Dosage

Adults50 to 250 mg *
* Twice daily
Best Time to Take: After Meal

Fir Needle Essential Oil

The internal use of Fir Needle Essential Oil is restricted. It should not be used orally because it can be severely sedative in action and produces excess heat sensation in the body. Fatal allergic reaction to it may also be possible even with smallest doses.

It is used in hot water and advised to inhale its vapors, which reduces symptoms of common cold and seasonal flues.

Tolerability of Dosage

The tolerability of the Abies Alba parts can be different case to case. There are no established dosages for Abies Alba parts. Therefore, it should be used with care and dosage should be started with minimal as possible. Then the dosage should be gradually increased as per tolerability.

Safety Profile

Abies Alba based medicine and products though do not impose any potential side effect. Anyhow, it is always suggested to use them as per the prescription by an experienced practitioner. The herb is likely to be safe for both children and adults.

Side Effects

The high dose may cause stomach irritation. If it is taken in asthma, it may worsen the condition.

Pregnancy & Lactation

However, there are not evident side effects of the herb on pregnant women and lactating mothers, but it is always advisable to consult a doctor before using them.

Contraindications

A few absolute contraindications of Abies Alba and its preparations are as follows:

  1. Asthma: Its preparations reported to worsen the asthmatic condition of patients, so it should be avoided in asthma.
  2. Whooping Cough (Pertussis): It may also make cough attack worse in whooping cough.
  3. Skin Injuries & Acute Skin Diseases: The topical use of Abies Alba based products should be seized if the person is suffering from any extensive skin injury or an acute skin disease.
  4. Cardiac Insufficiency
  5. Hypertonia (Extreme Muscle Tightening)

It is extremely important to take the dose as per prescription, which may vary depending upon person’s health, age and other states. Natural products are indeed beneficial, but only when taken appropriately.

General Usage

The Silver Fir is naturally gifted with eye-pleasing looks for which it is highly used as ornamental vegetation in gardens and parks. As the tree is evergreen, it is highly cultivated for reforestation purposes. The wood of the tree is soft and hence is widely used in paper industry. The branches of the tree are put to use in producing spruce beer. The wood of the tree is harvested for general construction and timber utilities. Ship building industry and telephone poles manufacturers are the dominant buyers for Silver Fir wood. The tree owing to its numerous utilities is a prominent participant in Native American Indian’s religious ceremonies.



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