Tree Resin: Photo credit, ISP
Tree Resin: Photo credit, ISP

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about different types of tree essential oils. Since then, people have asked me about other types of tree essential oils and – in the course of research – I realized that there are various types of balsam essential oils which may cause confusion. Although a couple of the species are related, others are not. Here’s a quick guide to three different types of balsam essential oils.

Canadian Balsam Essential Oil

Canadian balsam (Abies balsamea) is a tall, evergreen tree that grows up to 65 feet in height. It resembles the shape of “traditional” fir trees and synonyms for the tree include balsam fir and American silver fir (not to be confused with Abies alba). The Canadian balsam tree is native to North America and is a member of the Pinaceae botanical family (the same as Scotch Pine).

Canadian balsam essential oil is steam distilled from the oleoresin collected from the tree. It has a balsamic-pine aroma. The essential oil is used for respiratory complaints and for some stress-related conditions.

Copaiba Balsam Essential Oil

Copaiba balsam (Copaifera Officinalis) is a tropical tree which grows up to 59 feet in height. It is native to South America. There are various species of Copaiba balsam which produce a balsam for essential oil purposes.

The essential oil is dry distilled from the collection of crude balsam from the tree. It has a balsamic-peppery aroma. Canadian balsam essential oil is used in aromatherapy practice for respiratory problems and cystitis. It is also a popular perfume ingredient.

Peru Balsam Essential oil

Peru balsam (Myroxylon balsamum var. pereirae) is related to the Copiaba balsam tree in that both species belong to the Fabaceae botanical family. Peru balsam is a tropical tree which grows to a height of 82 feet. It has fragrant flowers, although the essential oil is obtained by dry distillation of crude balsam obtained from the wood.

Peru balsam essential oil is described as a “true balsam” whereas Copaiba balsam is not. Peru balsam essential oil has a balsamic-vanilla aroma. It is used for respiratory problems and in skin care.

Closely related to Peru balsam is Tolu balsam (Myroxylon balsamum var. balsamum).

Learn More About Essential Oils with a Sedona Aromatherapie Course

If you new to aromatherapy and would like to learn more about essential oils and their uses, consider one of the home study aromatherapy courses from Sedona Aromatherapie! To learn more, visit the courses home page.


  • Lawless, Julia, 1995, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, UK: Thorsons

  • Penny Price Academy of Aromatherapy

  • Author is a certified aromatherapist

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