Canadian Essential Oils for Respiration

It’s no secret that the last couple of years have been challenging. With fall and winter approaching, many of us will be looking at preventing the cold and flu and supporting our immune and respiratory systems.

And while there are many essential oils that can help us achieve our goals, let’s delve into essential oils that come from trees that literally grow in our Canadian backyard. Trees have a special kind of energy. When I look at a tree I see Mother Earth, strength, stability and life-giving breath.

Black Spruce (Picea mariana)Steam distilled from the needles, black spruce has a composition high in monoterpenes and esters. Its main constituents of α-pinene, β-pinene and bornyl acetate(1) make this a great choice for anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral actions. It is also an essential oil to consider for soothing the central nervous system.

White Spruce (Picea glauca)Similar to black spruce in chemical composition, white spruce is also rich in monoterpenes and esters with a composition of α-pinene, β-pinene, limonene and bornyl acetate.(1) Some say white spruce is softer in scent profile but don’t let that fool you! It packs a punch with immune stimulant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral actions.

Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea)This monoterpene- and ester-rich essential oil is steam distilled from the needles. High in β-pinene, δ-3-carene and limonene,(1) use this when looking for anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, mucolytic and immune-modulatory(2) actions.

Eastern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis)Also known as northern white cedar,(3) and not to be confused with Thuja plicata, eastern white cedar is steam distilled from the twigs and rich in monoterpenes and ketones. Its main constituents are α-thujone, fenchone, β-thujone and α-pinene,(1) making it an excellent choice when you need anti-infectious, mucolytic and anticartarhal actions. Caution to use this particular essential oil in small doses, taking special care in dilution rates (maximum dermal limit is 0.4%)(1) and safety considerations.

Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana) – Steam distilled from the leaves (needles), this monoterpene and ester-rich essential oil has a composition of α-pinene, β-pinene, δ-3-carene, bornyl acetate and camphene constituents. Use it for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, mucolytic and sedating actions.

For support during colds or flu affecting the respiratory system, a steam inhalation works nicely. For a topical application, use a combination of essential oils together to create a synergy and apply it as a chest ointment – don’t forget to inhale while applying it.

Interesting fact: The great boreal forest of North America, located along the northern portion of the continent, distances from Alaska all the way to Newfoundland. And Canada’s boreal forest represents 25% of the world’s last remaining intact forest. It’s up there alongside the Amazon! Within this great forest lies an array of birds, wildlife, wetlands and plants! And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that within the plants are many essential oil-bearing trees.



(1) Tisserand, R. Young: Essential Oil Safety, 2nd Edition.

(2) Anandalumar, P. et all. D-limonene: A multifunctional compound with potent therapeutic effects. 2021 Jan.

(3) Thuja occidentalis, Eastern White Cedar;


About the author: Maria Fiordalisi, CAHP®, has been certified in aromatherapy since 2017. She offers an array of alternative holistic therapies including reflexology, reiki, aromatherapy massage, culinary nutrition consultations, and holistic health and wellness coaching. She also formulates custom aromatherapy health and wellness products. Maria founded Helianthus Holistic Arts in 2020, a multidisciplinary school teaching aromatherapy certification courses and general health and wellness workshops.