The healing power of Peru balsam

The Peru balsam is a tree from South America that can grow to about 40 meters in height. It always stays green. A resin is extracted from the tree and has been transported to Europe since the 17th century. Germany was the first country to describe the medicinal effects of Peru balsam. Today, balsam of Peru is used by the drug, pharmaceutical, food and perfume industries. In addition to medicines, it is also found in detergents, soaps, lotions and all kinds of cosmetic products. Its main medicinal effectiveness is that it can serve as a cough suppressant. It is also prescribed for all kinds of skin conditions such as itching and it can even combat lice. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.

Botanical drawing Peru balsam / Source: Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)

Contents:

  • Traditional use of Peru balsam
  • Uncertainty about the height of the Peru balsam tree
  • Production method Peru balsam
  • Naming
  • Active substances
  • Peru balsam for cough
  • Peru balsam for the skin
  • Peru balsam for lice and scabies
  • Dose and safety

Traditional use of Peru balsam

In Europe, Peru balsam is mainly used for cough problems, hemorrhoids and diaper rash ointments, hair growth products, anti-dandruff rinses and feminine hygiene sprays. The Indians in South America use it against itching and as a natural remedy for eczema. They also use balsam of Peru to stop bleeding and heal wounds faster. It has been used internally by the Indians for centuries as a diuretic. It is also a traditional means of eliminating worms. It is a good antiseptic, promotes loose coughing of pulmonary mucus, and is a tonic for the heart; it causes blood pressure to rise. It can also be used for sore nipples and excessive discharge from the ear. It can be used internally and helps by loosening mucus in bronchitis and asthma. In addition, it is a means for treating white discharge.

Uncertainty about the height of the Peru balsam tree

Some European sites state that this tree only grows to a height of 12 meters, but sites in North and South America state that the tree grows to a height of 35 to 40 meters. The latter sites come from the continent where the tree grows and are therefore more reliable.

Production method Peru balsam

The sap of the tree is extracted by burning part of the trunk with torches, causing the sap to be released through the tree. The sap is then collected with cloths. After 15 days, the cloths are collected in a bag and then taken to a place to boil them. During cooking, the cloths are pressed through a grid, after which the juice is released and can be collected. The sap then has a light brown to dark brown almost black color and can then be used to make a natural medicine, or a deodorant, or an ointment, depending on which company purchases it. The scent of Peru balsam is somewhere between the scent of vanilla and cinnamon, a sweet scent.

Naming

The Latin name for Peru balsam tree is Myroxylon balsamum . In Dutch it is called peru balsem, tolu balsem or myroxylon. Tolu is the Colombian name for this tree. In Argentina it is called quino quino. The name Peru balsam mainly comes from the fact that it was shipped from Peru to Europe in the 17th century. Today, El Salvador is the largest producer of Peru balsam.

Active substances

Only the balsam of the Peruvian balsam tree is used, a product obtained from the resin of the tree. This balm contains the following active ingredients: cinnamein, an essential oil consisting of the substances benzyl benzoate, benzyl cinnamate and cinnamyl cinnamate. It also contains free benzoic acid, cinnamic acid, terpene and benzyl alcohols, vanillin and resin.

Peru balsam for cough

When Peru balsam is taken it is an expectorant for the lungs. In addition, it acts as an antiseptic for the respiratory tract. Unfortunately, it also has side effects. It irritates the stomach and intestines too much. That is why Peru balsam is no longer used in phytotherapy for cough, bronchitis and asthma.

Peru balsam for the skin

Peru balsam promotes granulation, i.e. it ensures that skin wounds heal faster. It is an antiseptic that can be safely used externally. Moreover, it soothes itching. It is regularly found in ointments, creams, emulsions and solutions that combat skin problems.

  • Poorly healing wounds,
  • Burns,
  • frostbite wounds,
  • Itch,
  • gorges,
  • Skin infections,
  • Redness.

Peru balsam is sometimes used in a suppository to combat itching and pain caused by hemorrhoids.

Peru balsam for lice and scabies

Benzyl benzoate is a substance that can fight parasitic infections. It is found in large numbers in Peru balsam and eliminates disease-causing parasites. Together with its disinfectant effectiveness and skin care aspects, benzyl benzoate ensures that balsam of Peru can be used for the following indications caused by parasites:

  • Lice,
  • Scabies.

Dose and safety

Peru balsam is mixed with another oil or balm. Below are the ratios of Peru balsam to the neutral balsam type.

  • For itching, wound healing and disinfection: 10% Peru balsam
  • For scabies and lice: 50% balsam of Peru

When Peru balsam is taken internally, it often leads to gastroenteritis or inflammation of the stomach and intestinal mucosa. That is why this use in phytotherapy has fallen into disuse. There may also be external side effects. Some people develop contact dermatitis or eczema reactions. It is recommended never to use balsam of Peru for more than a week. If Perubalm is used too much, it can also lead to kidney problems.