GRAND FIR Introduction ~ Abies grandis, the Grand Fir or Christmas fir,
is often confused with other trees, such as the Douglas-fir.
This fir has a lovely citrus odor and is excellent
for fragrant wreaths and as the tree at Christmas.
Abies grandis – Grand Fir
By Jeanne Rose July 2023
COMMON NAME/LATIN BINOMIAL ~ Abies grandis (Douglas ex D. Don) Lindl., the Grand Fir or Christmas fir is often confused with other trees such as the Douglas-fir.
A true Fir is always of the genus Abies, while a Douglas-fir (Oregon-pine) is falsely named tree with a hyphen between the words to show that the person who is writing about the plant knows that it is not a Fir or a Pine but something else. In fact, Douglas-fir is >Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco, aka P. douglasii<, is a separate genus from the Fir or the Pine and more closely related to a Hemlock.
•OTHER COMMON NAMES of Grand Fir ~ giant fir, lowland white fir, great silver fir, western white fir, Vancouver fir.
•Family ~ Pinaceae (Includes the Firs, Pines, Spruce, Hemlocks, Larch, and Cedars
COUNTRIES OF ORIGINS ~ Grand Fir is native to the Pacific Northwest of the United States and is now grown elsewhere.
ENDANGERED OR NOT ~ Conservation status of Least Concern (Population stable) The population is stable, and there is little concern with this tree in California. Abundant resin ducts throughout the trunk and branches of healthy trees are vital to survive freezing winters and to retard the invasion of bark beetle larvae. During prolonged summer droughts, stressed trees produce less resin and are more vulnerable to bark beetles.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF PLANT HABITAT AND GROWTHof the Grand Fir ~ Abies grandis is a large evergreen CONIFER, identified by the needle-like leaves, flattened, 1-2 inches long and narrow, with glossy dark green above, and two green-white bands of stomata below, and slightly notched at the tip.
On the lower leaf surface, two green-white bands of stomata are prominent. The base of each leaf is twisted a variable amount so that the leaves are nearly lying on the same plane (coplanar). Different-length leaves, all lined up in a flat plane, are a valuable way to quickly distinguish this species. The crushed needles have a citrus scent and are reminiscent of Christmas and thus are called ‘Christmas Fir.’
“When young, Grand Fir grows in a near perfect pyramidal, Christmas tree shape and is much fuller than its cousin, the Noble Fir, Abies procera. Its attractive shape and lustrous green leaves make it a glorious addition to any landscape. Like most firs, it has a strong, balsamy, “Christmas tree” scent.”2. •
Often Fir trees are confused with the Spruce tree, but there is an easy way to tell the difference. This is my own way of deciding which tree is of which genera.
The Difference between Firs and Spruces
FIRS = Think about Abies the genus, and then A is for Amiable (soft feel) or
Abies, and the common name is Fir is for Friendly touch [Abies has needles that are soft to touch and don’t feel prickly].
The needles, when pulled off, leave a Flat scar. Flat scars make them suitable as Christmas trees because they don’t drop their needles everywhere.
Amiable name – Friendly touch – Flat scar
SPRUCE = Picea is the genus, and then P is for Prickly feel when you touch the branch, and
Picea and the common name is Spruce is for Spiky touch, and
the needles, when pulled, leave a Peg-like Scar.
Prickly name – Spiky touch – Peg Scar
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.
This work is sponsored and supported by Prima Fleur Botanicals.
ORGANOLEPTIC CHARACTERISTICS of Grand Fir ~
• SCENT ASSESSMENT OF GRAND FIR ~ Grand Fir has that delicious holiday Christmas tree odor. It is green and citrus, almost fruity, with an herbaceous green heart note and a vegetative back note.
________Aroma Assessment: Green, herbaceous, and citrus.
PROPERTIES AND USAGE OF GRAND FIR
_______PROPERTIES AND USES GRAND FIR ESSENTIAL OIL ~ is antiseptic and indicated for respiratory infections, and the scent of the oil or branches sweetens the home. It can be used as a local disinfectant. This is one of the most lemon-scented of the ‘Firs,’ along with Douglas-Fir. Grand Fir has a powerful sweet, fresh, citrus, and refreshing odor but more citrus and less herbaceous than Douglas-Fir, well-liked as a room refresher or scent in soap blends.
•PHYSICAL USES & HOW USED (IG OR AP) ~ I have used this in an application form in a massage blend for sore muscles and a ‘sore’ psyche and for my ongoing respiratory issues, and just to inhale to make me ‘feel good.’
Medicinal Usage: The essential oil of this tree is used as a respiratory inhalant to ease breathing, as a home-diffused odor to purify the air, and in products for a great uplifting aroma. This scent is cheerful, pleasing, and excellent in the home to clear bad energy.
APPLICATION to SKIN AND HAIR CARE OF GRAND FIR
•BODY – All of the Fir oils are excellent to be used in all manner of skin care in amounts up to 15% of the total blend to condition the skin, add a forest scent, and refresh the body in a lotion. However, Grand Fir is beneficial because it has a great citrus note and is pleasing to the senses.
•APPLICATION/ SKINCARE. It can be used as a local disinfectant in lotions for the skin. 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. Jeanne loves this oil in soaps and prefers it to many others. •HAIRCARE – I rarely use the Fir oils and balsams in my hair care, although I have occasionally added a drop of Grand Fir EO to my shampoo along with Rosemary CT. verbenone to assist in hair health.
INGESTION ~ I personally have taken this oil with Sandalwood oil to ease a urinary tract infection. Only 2 drops of each 2-3 times per day, taken in a teaspoon of oil. And yes, it worked over the course of 3-days while I was teaching a conifer course at the San Francisco Botanical Gardens.
INHALATION ~ For all respiratory problems and all mental ‘pain’ problems. It is really a wonderful inhalant, just as an everyday scent. I truly love this EO for its fragrant air scent and slight citrus odor. I use it in “Progressive Inhalation” as well as to ‘clean’ the air of one’s home and to remove ‘negative energy’.
•DIFFUSE/DIFFUSION/ENERGETIC USES OF Grand Fir ~ The essential oil is used as a respiratory inhalant to ease breathing; in a home diffused odor 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! It is a wonInhalation to wake up to at that particular time of year.
•Emotional Use: Refreshing and even slightly stimulating by inhalation.
PERFUMERY & BLENDING OF GRAND FIR ~ The EO can be blended with any other conifer oil, any of the citrus scents, seeds, and spices, as well as the Mediterranean plants such as Spearmint and rich deep oils such as Spikenard.
_____•Perfume ~ There are few ingredients in a perfume that perform so well to make a scent both soft and attracting as well as masculine as the sweet, citrus, green, conifer scent of the Grand Fir. All you need to do if you want this comforting scent of the forest is to add it to your basic blend. I would suggest it in the blend up to 25%, although my favorites have always been about 15%. There is something deeply relaxing and compelling about this wonderful odor.
_____•Perfumery and Cosmetics: Grand fir can be added as a fresh note to many different types of perfume blends. When one is traveling and comes across those nasty-smelling motel/hotel amenities that smell of Bitter Almonds, it is only Grand Fir essential oil that can be added to the shampoo or hand lotion samples that will negate the bitter almond smell and add its own delicious, sweet conifer note. Grand Fir essential oil mixed with other essential oils can act either as scent or therapy to all kinds of custom skin care products. Grand Fir can also be used as an inhalant with other conifers for all types of respiratory problems and conditions.
Abies grandis in the San Francisco Arboretum – Golden Gate Park.
HYDROSOL: The Grand 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. This is one of my favorite of all times hydrosols. Bathing in the soul of this tree is a very special and most delicious fragrant event. It leaves my mind refreshed, my body relaxed, and my skin smelling like a sweet conifer forest.
•FORMULA FOR GRAND FIR HYDROSOL OR EO ~ Use a mixture of 10% Grand fir EO to 90% water or a conifer hydrosol to spray the room and scent the air or use 50•50 Grand Fir to Rosemary or mint hydrosol water solution for refreshing the sick room. When using at holiday time, and this includes any time during the season between All-Hallows and Valentine’s Day, spray the tree, spray your rooms, spray the wreaths, spray the bathrooms, spritz the decorations or the furniture, to keep everything fresh and smell good.
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.
HERBAL USES OF GRAND FIR BRANCHES ~ Besides the Native American uses of the bark, needles/plant.
This is a beautiful potpourri when made with fresh-picked cuttings of conifers and Bay and some Nutmeg. It is a wonderfully fresh-scented room deodorizer. After a few days, make an infusion of the contents and throw into the bathtub for a soothing skin bath.
GRAND FIR PERFUME or Relaxation First, you will need to dilute any Absolute to about 50%.
Shake it. Let it rest.
Then take equal quantities of essential oils of Piñon Pine, Black Spruce, and Atlas Cedar,
About 30 drops total, and add 15 drops of the diluted Absolute. Add 10 drops of the Grand Fir.
Add or redInhalationoils as you wish.
Shake it up by succussion. Let it rest, and use it with a carrier oil for
Muscle relaxation or Inhalation for the mind.
Or add 100 drops of neutral spirits to make a Perfume.
KEY USE ~ Jeanne Rose calls this the “Oil of Clean Forest Air” in her course for its refreshing, healthful qualities. Air freshener and breathing tonic.
CONTRAINDICATIONS for Grand Fir oil: nontoxic.
HISTORICAL USES ofABIES GRANDIS ~ GRAND FIR, AN AMERICAN NATIVE TREE ~ This large, grand tree, Abies grandis, the Grand Fir, lives in the coniferous forests of the Northwest as well as is used as a landscape tree in many places of the world. Here in San Francisco, Grand Fir is used throughout the city for its shapely beauty and scent. In Strybing Arboretum, in the Redwood Forest (which 100 years ago was a lake on the edge of the Sunset District), the Grand Fir has a prominent place. When walking in the Redwood Forest, I take along a 5-foot-long hooked cane so that you can pull down a branch of this handsome tree and smell the needles. There is a conifer and citrus note to the needles that is particularly appealing.
History – Kwakwakawaku shamans wove their branches into headdresses and costumes and used the branches for scrubbing individuals in purification rites. The Hesquiat tribes used its branches as incense and decorative clothing for wolf dancers. Grand Fir bark was sometimes mixed with Stinging Nettles and boiled, and the resulting decoction is used for bathing and as a general tonic. The Lushoot tribe boiled needles to make medicinal tea for colds (it contains vitamin C). The Hesquait mixed the pitch of young trees with animal oil and rubbed it on the scalp as a deodorant and to prevent baldness.
• Many NW Indian tribes used the needles, bark, and gum of Grand Fir as medicine. The compound of gum drawn on a hair across sore eyes. Infusion of bark taken for stomach ailments. Liquid pitch mixed with mountain goat tallow and taken for sore throat. Infusion of bark taken for tuberculosis. Tree branches and bark are used as medicine. Decoction of needles taken for colds. Liquid pitch mixed with mountain goat tallow and used for infected eyes.
USES OF GRAND FIR by Native Peoples2.
Abies grandis (Dougl. ex D. Don) Lindl. Grand Fir; Pinaceae Thompson Fiber (Mats, Rugs & Bedding); Boughs used as bedding and temporary floor coverings and changed every two to three days. Turner, Nancy J., Laurence C. Thompson, and M. Terry Thompson et al. 1990 Thompson Ethnobotany: Knowledge and Usage of Plants by the Thompson Indians of British Columbia. Victoria. Royal British Columbia Museum (p. 97)
Abies grandis (Dougl. ex D. Don) Lindl. Grand Fir; Pinaceae Thompson Fiber (Mats, Rugs & Bedding); Branches used for bedding. Steedman, E.V. 1928 The Ethnobotany of the Thompson Indians of British Columbia. SI-BAE Annual Report #45:441-522 (p. 496)
Abies grandis (Dougl. ex D. Don) Lindl. Grand Fir; Pinaceae Chehalis Other (Fuel); Wood used for fuel. Gunther, Erna 1973 Ethnobotany of Western Washington. Seattle. University of Washington Press. Revised (p. 19)
Abies grandis (Dougl. ex D. Don) Lindl. Grand Fir; Pinaceae Hesquiat Other (Incense & Fragrance) Fragrant boughs placed under bedding as an incense. Turner, Nancy J., and Barbara S. Efrat 1982 Ethnobotany of the Hesquiat Indians of Vancouver Island. Victoria. British Columbia Provincial Museum (p. 41)
Abies grandis (Dougl. ex D. Don) Lindl. Grand Fir; Pinaceae Nitinaht Other (Hunting & Fishing Item) Long, hard knots used to make halibut hooks. Turner, Nancy J., John Thomas, Barry F. Carlson, and Robert T. Ogilvie 1983 Ethnobotany of the Nitinaht Indians of Vancouver Island. Victoria. British Columbia Provincial Museum (p. 71)
Abies grandis (Dougl. ex D. Don) Lindl. Grand Fir; Pinaceae Nitinaht Other (Incense & Fragrance) Boughs bundled up and used as home air fresheners. Turner, Nancy J., John Thomas, Barry F. Carlson, and Robert T. Ogilvie 1983. Ethnobotany of the Nitinaht Indians of Vancouver Island. Victoria. British Columbia Provincial Museum (p. 71)
•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 on 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.
1.[fall 2001 issue of the Aromatic News]
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
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 healthcare 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©