ABIES, J. Fir or Spruce Trees. Tall Evergreens, wrongly united to Pines by L. The tallest trees of North America, some reaching 300 feet. A dozen species are spread from Canada to Alaska and Carolina, all equally useful, ornamental, and medical. They are: 1. A. balsamea, L. or Balsam Fir. 2. A. canadensis, L. Hemlock Spruce. 3. A. nigra. 4. A. alba. 5. A. rubra, or black, white, and red Spruce trees, all united to the second by L. besides 6 species of the Oregon country called by me, 6. A. trigona. 7. A. heterophylla. 8. A. aromatica. 9. A. microphylla. 10. A. obliquata. 11. A. falcata, Raf. Those which have a balsamic smell, produce in small bladders on the branches the Canada Balsam, (wrongly called Balm of Gilead) which is healing, useful for internal and external sores. It is injurious in recent wounds, but good after they begin to heal. It may be taken internally on loaf sugar. It is equivalent to turpentine and storax.
Spruce beer is an American beverage, made by the Indians with twigs and cones of spruces, boiled in maple syrup. Now it is chiefly made with molasses and yeast, when no spruce is put in, it is only molasses beer. The proper spruce beer is a palatable and healthy drink, powerfully antiscorbutic. The first discoverers of Canada were cured of the scurvy by it, since which, it has become in common use in Canada, the Northern States, and even in Europe. If the use was still more general, it might destroy the bad effects of the scorbutic habit or land scurvy, so prevalent among those chiefly feeding on salt meat. The essence or extract of spruce, is an article of exportation, used as naval stores: spruce beer may be made by it in a short time, and any where.
The bark of Spruce trees is sudorific, and in extensive use for tanning leather, also to die of a brick red color. The inner bark is used by empirics in powder and tea for bowel and stomach complaints, rheumatism, and gravel. The timber is valuable for masts, spars, rafters, and boards. The resin exuding from the trees is nearly like frankincense. Josselyn says that it is very good in powder over wounds, to re-produce the flesh; but as the resin of the European fir is used in plaster to produce itching, rubefaction, and blistering, the resin of all the firs must be heating and irritating.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, Vol. 2, 1830, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.