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Peru Balsam

Medically reviewed on June 7, 2018

What is Peru Balsam?

Peru balsam is a tall tree native to Central and South America. The plant bears evergreen leaves and white flowers. The hardwood tree contains oil that is naturally resistant to insects and has a characteristic scent.

Scientific Name(s)

Myroxylon balsamum

Common Name(s)

Peru balsam is also known as balsam of Peru, balsamo blanco, baumier du Perou, Peruvian balsam, Indian balsam, black balsam, and Perubalsambaum.

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Crude Peru balsam is a dark brown, thick liquid with an aromatic smell similar to that of cinnamon and vanilla and a bitter taste. It is obtained from the tree after the bark has been removed; the trunk is wrapped with rags that are later boiled to extract the resin.

The balsam was imported almost exclusively from El Salvador to Europe through Peruvian ports, which is how the material derived its name. Central and South American natives used the material to stop bleeding and promote wound healing, and also to increase urination and to expel worms. It was once used widely as a treatment for scabies; it has also been used in suppositories for hemorrhoids and in dentistry in the treatment of "dry socket" after teeth are pulled, and in dental impression material. Today, the material is in a number of pharmaceutical preparations and plays an important role in perfumes. The material should not be swallowed.

General uses

Peru balsam has been used in the treatment of dry socket in dentistry, on the skin as a treatment for wounds and ulcers, and in suppositories for hemorrhoids. However, there are only older, small studies to support these uses.

What is the recommended dosage?

Peru balsam has been used on the skin in 5% to 20% formulations for wounds and burns. Case reports and small clinical studies report the effectiveness of balsam combined with other ingredients in the management of certain wounds; however, there are no recent clinical studies to support appropriate dosing.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not been identified.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. A toxic reaction following application of Peru balsam to the nipples of breast-feeding mothers has been reported.

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

Peru balsam is an allergen.

Toxicology

Information is lacking.

References

1. Peru Balsam. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons [database online]. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health Inc; November 2012.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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