Silver fir: modern science versus Ayurveda
A month ago I was harvesting resin from the Silver fir (Abies alba) in California. Like humans, plants and trees bleed too. The resin can be considered the blood of trees. Besides its refreshing pine-forest fragrance and sweet taste, it has many healing properties. In ancient wisdom, observation is the starting point when classifying plants, herbs and even food. Which properties does the substance have? And what is its function? I have been looking to resin of Silver fir (several versions) from an Ayurvedic perspective as well as a modern perspective.
An Ayurvedic perspective on resin
Plants and trees secrete resins in order to protect themselves in response to injury. It acts as a gatekeeper to keep insects and pathogens out. It heals the wounds of the tree and stops infections. Besides, it is lubricating the tree and provides cohesion. The resin carries nutrients up and down the tree. In Ayurveda we look to the qualities, or Guna’s in Sanskrit, of the substance in order to draw any conclusion. For example is the substance: liquid, dense, cool, dry, sticky, heavy? What is its smell, and taste? In this case, the resin of Silver fir is sticky and a bit fluid, once it cooled down it is dense. The energies of the Himalayan version are: Rasa = pungent, the Virya = heating (Bhavaprakasha, p.222). In short, the resin of Silver fir has a Kapha like function but contains mostly opposite qualities of Kapha. This combination enables the substance to reach into deeper tissues.
If we compare resins to powders and tinctures it has the capacity to reach into deeper tissues, Dhatu's in Sanskrit. This means that it can treat ailments that are rooted deeper in the body. According to Ayurveda it can even reach the fifth layer of the tissues which is bone tissue, Asthi Dhatu. Whereas, powders and tinctures reach mainly into the first 2 tissues: Rasa (plasma) and Rakta (blood). That’s why resins are used in Ayurveda for treating more serious conditions like tumors.
Health benefits Silver fir according to Ayurveda
What does this specific resin treat? In folk medicine it is used in gut and respiratory disorders. More specifically, in the Ayurvedic classics (Bhavaprakasa) it is written that Himalayan Silver Fir has anti-inflammatory properties. Also, the potential for abdominal tumors is acknowledged. Furthermore, it pacifies Vata and Kapha, mitigates dyspnoea, cough, loss of taste and helps digestion. It works on Pranavahasrota and Annavahasrota.
Health benefits Silver fir according to modern science
Nowadays it is common that essential oils contain resin because of its terpenes, an organic compound with a strong odour. However, it has curative properties and is beneficial for several ailments. Extracts of Abies alba has been effective in cases of mastitis (Grzesiak, 2018). Topical application of the resin in cases of psoriasis resulted in reduction of the disease in 40% of the respondents however no significant results were reported (Zorko, 2018). Another study showed some anti-bacterial quality for one specific bacteria; S. aureus. More clearly was its strong anti-radical activity against DPPH and ABTS radicals (Yang, 2008). The Chinese / Russian version Abies holophylla has shown significant anti-inflammatory properties in brain cells, meaning it could contribute to treatments for Alzheimer’s diseases (Bushra, 2018). Himalayan Silver Fir (Abies webbiana) showed qualities like anti-spasmodic, bronchodilator (aiding in respiratory problems) and potential in thrombo-embolic conditions.
Rasa = pungent
Book: Dravyaguna for Westerners, by Atreya Smith Book: Bhavaprakasa, by Bhavmisra translated by Prof. K.R. Srikantha Murthy