DOUGLAS-FIR – Tree and Essential oil

The Douglas-Fir misnamed for all its life as it is more like a spruce than a fir; it is a Christmas tree, and the needles and bark used for life and healing, and an important lumber tree; and the essential oil, refreshing and uplifting and slightly lemon-scented is used for the respiratory system and as a disinfectant.

By Jeanne Rose

photo showing Douglas-fir branch and the essential oil
photo by JeanneRose 2021

Douglas-Fir. Common Name/Latin Binomial ~ Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco aka P. douglasii

Other Common Name/Naming Information ~ Douglas-fir is in a separate genus from either the fir or the pine and more closely related to a Spruce. A Fir is of the genus Abies while a Douglas-fir or Oregon-pine is a falsely named tree. In botany, the dash shows that the person who is writing about the plant knows that it is not a Fir or a Pine or a ‘false Hemlock’  and in fact, Douglas-fir is more closely related to a Spruce.

Family ~  Pinaceae

Countries of Origins ~  It is native to the West Coast of the United States and is now grown elsewhere such as France.

Endangered or Not: The population is stable and there is little concern with this tree in California.

Historical Uses ~ Native Americans made much use of Douglas-fir leaves and twigs in medicine.

General description of Plant habitat and growth ~  In Douglas-fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii, the leaves are spirally arranged, but slightly twisted at the base to lie flattish on either side of the shoot, needle-like, 2–3.5 cm (0.79–1.38 in) long, green above with no stomata, and with two whitish stomata bands below. Unlike the Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir, coast Douglas-fir foliage has a noticeable sweet fruity-resinous scent, particularly if crushed.
            Abundant resin ducts throughout the trunk and branches of healthy trees is vital to survive freezing winters and to retard the invasion of bark beetle larvae. During prolonged summer drought conditions, stressed trees produce less resin and are more vulnerable to bark beetles. In fall of 2003, this drought stress was especially evident throughout mountainous areas of San Diego County where thousands of pines were dying.


Portion of plant used in distillation, how distilled, extraction methods and yields ~ Wild-grown and certified organic, the leaves and twigs are distilled, usually from fallen or logged trees.
           Yield was 1-gallon EO per ton for oven-dried branches in one study.

Douglas-Fir – Organoleptic Characteristics of Essential Oil

 Taste:Bitter, aromatic, umami
 Intensity of Odor: Scale is 1-10 with  1= lowest5

Odor Description/Aroma Assessment of Douglas-Fir ~ Green, herbaceous and citrus.



Douglas Fir essential oil is strongly antiseptic and indicated for respiratory infections. It can be used as a local disinfectant. This is one of the most lemon-scented of the ‘Firs’, with a powerful sweet, fresh, refreshing odor, well-liked as a room refresher or scent in soap blends.

Physical Uses & How used (IG or AP):    Douglas Fir essential oil is strongly antiseptic and indicated for respiratory infections as an inhalant. It can be used as a local disinfectant. It is a wonderful oil to wake up to at that particular time of year.

Application & Skincare ~  It can be used as a local disinfectant when used in lotions for the skin, in a massage for sore muscles and  Jeanne loves this oil in soaps and prefers it to many other types of conifers.

Inhalation ~ For all respiratory problems. This EO as a respiratory inhalant and I have ‘invented’ a process called, “Sequential Inhalation” for colds and flu. [email me directly for the article]

Diffuse/Diffusion ~ The essential oil is used as a respiratory inhalant to ease breathing; in the home to purify the air and in products for a great uplifting odor. If you diffuse this oil in late November and early December, you are sure to inspire the “Christmas spirit” in even the grouchiest of scrooges!

Blends Best ~ Blends Best with any other conifer oil as well as the Mediterranean plants such as Spearmint and rich deep oils such as Vetivert.

Emotional Use ~ Refreshing and even slightly stimulating by inhalation.

Ingestion ~ We do not recommend ingestion of EO; however, the leaves can be used as tea for the vitamin C. I use the needles in a tea to flavor other herbs and for colds.

HYDROSOL: The Douglas-fir hydrosol is organically grown from a USA source. It can be used in any skincare product for its refreshing quality, as a skin toner; and especially nice to be sprayed about a room to refresh the air.

PLEASE NOTE: A true hydrosol should be specifically distilled for the hydrosol, not as a co-product or even a by-product of essential oil distillation. The plant’s cellular water has many components most are lost under pressurized short steam runs for essential oil, or by using dried material. We recommend that the producers specifically distill for a product by using plant material that is fresh.

Key Use: Jeanne Rose calls this the “Oil of Clean Air” in her course for its refreshing healthful qualities. The key use as an Air freshener and breathing tonic.

Chemical Components: ~ The leaves are steam distilled to create the essential oil whose components vary considerably. The French oil contains large quantities of ß-Pinene and smaller amounts of Citronellyl acetate and b-Phellandrene. USA grown and distilled Douglas Fir is organically grown and contains terpenes and some limonene giving it a citrus note. “Chemistry of the hydrosol of one sample was mainly 30% monoterpenols, 12% esters, 10% borneol, other alcohols and a small amount of aldehydes and camphor ketones —Harman.”

Comparison of Main Components ~ The main compounds found in the Serbian EO were bornyl acetate (34.65 %), camphene (29.82 %), α-pinene (11.65 %) and santene (5.45 %).

Douglas Fir twigs – JeanneRose photo 2017

Interesting Information/Science Abstract: Dripping pitch from the trunk of a Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) can be collected. Conifers such as this ignite like a torch during a fire storm due to the combustible terpene oleoresins.  


Contradictions ~ Caution use of conifer oils on children under 5 years.
Safety Precautions ~ Dilute as needed. No known precautions.
Patch Test ~  If applying a new essential oil to your skin always perform a patch test to the inner arm (after you have diluted the EO in a vegetable carrier oil). —Wash an area of your forearm about the size of a quarter and dry carefully. Apply a diluted drop (1 drop EO + 1 drop carrier) to the area. Then apply a loose Band-Aid and wait 24 hours. If there is no reaction, then go ahead and use the oil in your formulas. —The Aromatherapy Book, Applications & Inhalations, p. 64.

Harman, Ann. Harvest to Hydrosol, 1st edition, 2015, IAG Botanics
Mabberley, D. J. Mabberley’s Plant-Book, 3rd edition, 2014 printing, Cambridge University Press.
Rose, Jeanne.  375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols.  Berkeley, California: Frog, Ltd., 1999
Rose, Jeanne.  The Aromatherapy Book: Applications & Inhalations.  North Atlantic Books. 2000:
Herbal Studies Course/ Jeanne Rose .2015 edition. San Francisco, California

This work was sponsored and supported by Prima Fleur Botanicals.

DISCLAIMER:  This work is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for accurate diagnosis and treatment by a qualified health care professional. Dosages are often not given, as that is a matter between you and your health care provider. The author is neither a chemist nor a medical doctor.  The content herein is the product of research and personal and practical experience. Institute of Aromatic & Herbal Studies – Jeanne Rose©

Douglas-Fir Essential Oil – photo by JeanneRose 20121


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