Peru Balsam

Scientific names: Myroxylon pereirae

Common names: Peru balsam also is known as Peruvian balsam, Indian balsam, black balsam, and balsam Peru.

Efficacy-safety rating:

ÒÒ...Ethno or other evidence of efficacy.

Safety rating:

...Little exposure or very minor concerns.

What is Peru Balsam?

Peru balsam is a tall tree that grows in Central America. This large tree often is cultivated as a shade tree. Crude Peru balsam is a dark brown, thick liquid with an aromatic smell of cinnamon and vanilla, and bitter taste. To remove it from the tree, the bark is alternately scorched and beaten. The balsam in the bark is obtained by boiling. Following removal of strips of bark from the tree, the exposed wood also secretes balsam. The material is soaked up by rags wrapped around the tree, which then are boiled in water. The balsam sinks to the bottom and is collected yielding approximately 0.91 kg per tree annually. A synonym is M. balsamum var. pereirae.

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What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

The drug was first imported from Spain through Peruvian ports, from which the material derives its name. Peru balsam has been used for the treatment of topical wounds and infections and as a flavoring in the food industry. Indians used the material to stop bleeding and to promote wound healing. They also used the material as a diuretic and to expel worms.

Miscellaneous uses

Peru balsam is in a number of pharmaceutical preparations and plays an important role in perfumery. The material has no use as an internal medication. Peru balsam is mildly antiseptic. It has been used in the treatment of dry socket, topically as a treatment of wounds and ulcers, and in suppositories for hemorrhoids. There are no clinical studies to validate the medicinal uses of Peru balsam.

What is the recommended dosage?

Peru balsam has been used topically as 5% to 20% formulations for wounds and burns. However, there are no recent clinical studies to support appropriate dosing.

How safe is it?

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/nursing

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

Peru balsam may cause contact dermatitis.

Toxicities

Systemic toxicity following application of Peru balsam to nipples of nursing mothers has been described.

References

  1. Peru Balsam. Review of Natural Products. factsandcomparisons4.0 [online]. 2005. Available from Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Accessed April 19, 2007.

Copyright © 2009 Wolters Kluwer Health

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