What is Peru Balsam Essential Oil?
Peru balsam essential oil is the yellow to yellow-orange fluid extracted from the purified resin of Balsam of Peru. It is an aromatic viscous resin obtained by scorching or inflicting V-shaped wounds on the bark of the trunk of the tree Myroxylon Balsamum Pereirae. The purified resin is used to make essential oil and resinoid, which have very similar olfactory qualities.
The Balsam of Peru exudes to heal the lesions of the tree, then the liquid can be collected.
Myroxylon Balsamum (L.) Harms, belonging to the family Leguminosae, subfamily Papilionoideae, is a tree native to Central and South America, and it is used in folk medicine, as shade for cultivated crops, ornaments, and for fine timber.
The vanilla-balsamic notes of Peruvian balsam oil produce a delightful fragrance, its mellow, fleshy roundness surrounding the delicate floral sillage reminiscent of orchids and white flowers.
Balsam of Peru has a long lasting base note, which brings a sweet rich touch to floral and oriental compositions.
About Peru Balsam
Peru Balsam is a very viscous, dark brown, transparent liquid which does not harden on exposure to the air. It has a pleasant sweet lasting odor which is slightly reminiscent of Vanilla. It is a complex mixture of 25-30% resin and 60-65% essential oil.
Balsams have been used since ancient times, due to their therapeutic and healing properties. In the perfume industry, they are used as fixatives, and in the cosmetics industry and in cookery, they are used as preservatives and flavoring.
They are generally defined as vegetable material with highly aromatic properties that supposedly have the ability to heal diseases, not only in the body, but also in the soul. When viewed according to this concept, many substances can be considered balsams but a more modern concept is based on its chemical composition and origin.
Then, we could say that: we are in front of a balsam when this is a secretion or exudate of plants that contain cinnamic and benzoic acids, and their derivatives, in their composition.
The most common naturally-occurring balsams (i.e. true balsams) are the Benzoins, Liquid Storaque and the Balsams of Tolu and Peru. Many other aromatic exudates, such as Copaiba Oil and Canada Balsam, are wrongly called balsam.
These usually belong to other classes of natural products, such as essential oils, resins and oleoresins. Despite the understanding of some plants, many plants are still called balsams.
Alternate names given to Peru Balsam
Common names in the region include: Balsamo, palo de balsamo (Spanish-speaking America, in general), cedro chino, nabal (Brazil), incienso, and quina (Argentina).
Among the other alternate names used for Balsam of Peru are: Balsamum peruvianim, Black balsam, China oil, Honduras balsam, Indian balsam, Peruvian balsam, Peru balsam, Surinam balsam, Balsams Peru, Balsam Peru oil, Oil balsam Peru, Peru balsam oil, Balsamum Peruvianum, Bálsamo del Perú, Baume du Pérou, Baume Péruvien, Baume de San Salvador, Myroxylon pereirae klotzsch resin, Myroxylon balsamum var. pereirae, Myroxylon pereirae klotzsch oil, Myrospermum pereirae, Myrosperum pereira balsam, balsam fir oleoresin, balsam fir oil, hyperabsolute balsam, Quina, Balsamo, Tolu, Quina quina, Santos Mahogany, Toluifera pereirae, and Toluifera pereira balsam.
It can be found in a very extended area, from southern Mexico, Central America and even as south bound as Argentina. Nowadays, it has been introduced to southern Florida, Indonesia, India and West Africa.
How is Peru Balsam Essential Oil extracted?
Balsam of Peru is predominantly found in the Cordillera del Bálsamo in El Salvador. In the wild, it grows at altitudes of 600 to 1,500 meters. Its harvesting is strongly rooted in local Salvadoran tradition and it takes place over nine months of the year, with peak production from January to May during the dry season.
The collectors or “balsameros” climb ropes to a height of more than 20 meters, then remove the bark of the carefully selected tree. The inflicting wound in the tree is burned with a flaming stick to stimulate exudation of the balsam. The balsameros apply cloths to the incision to absorb the secreted balsam.
After a few weeks, the cloths saturated with the precious resin are pressed and filtered to produce the delightful balsam of Peru essential oil and resinoid.
The trees suffer no permanent damage from this process and can continue to yield balsam for more than 100 years.
Historical Uses and Interesting Information about Peru Balsam Essential Oil
The name Balsam of Peru comes from colonial times, when the balsam was exported from Peru to Europe for its fragrance and medicinal qualities. However, the designation of Balsam of Peru is misnamed, since during the Spanish domination of Central and some parts of South America, the balsam was collected in Central America, and then, shipped to either Callao or Lima in Peru. This was the reason why it acquired the name of of “Balsam of Peru”.
It was exported to Europe and documented early in the 17th century. Today it is extracted under a handicraft process and is mainly exported from El Salvador.
Peru Balsam has been reported in use from beginning of 17th century. However, its wider use was depicted on December 1912, in Merckís Report.
The leaves and stem have been used by the Indian tribes of Mexico and Central America for the treatment of asthma, catarrh, rheumatism and external wounds.
Chemical Components of Peru Balsam Essential Oil
Peru balsam essential oil contains 25 or so different substances, including cinnamein, cinnamyl cinnamate, benzyl cinnamate, benzyl benzoate, benzyl acetate, benzyl salicylate, benzaldehyde, benzoic acid, benzoic alcohol, methyl cinnamate, eugenol or allylguaiacol and vanillin.
It also contains cinnamic acid, alcohol and aldehyde; isougenol, citrus pell, coniferyl alcohols, coumarin, farnesol, and nerolidol.
A minority of it, approximately 30–40%, contains resinous substances or esters of unknown composition.
Properties of Peru Balsam Essential Oil
It possesses stimulant, stomach, vulnerary, protective, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, balsamic, expectorant, cardiovascular, fixative, deodorant, cicatrisant, antioxidant, anxiolytic, depurative, anti-parasite, relaxing, nervine and desinfectant properties.
Also, Peru balsam essential oil promotes growth of Epithelial cells (EC), which are the first cell types to come into contact with external stimuli, such as chemicals and particulate materials.
Uses Of Peru Balsam Essential Oil
When diluted in carrier oil, balsam of Peru oil may relieve dry chapped skin, eczema, rashes, sores and wounds, rheumatism, diaper rash, bedsores, pruritus, prurigo, and sore nipples.
It can be applied to the chest to relieve asthma, colds, coughs and bronchitis. It may also be effective to combat skin parasites such as scabies; for infected and poorly healing wounds, for burns, decubitus ulcers, frost bite, ulcus cruris and bruises caused by prostheses.
Additionally, it stimulates the heart, increases blood pressure, and lessens mucous secretions. Also, it reduces inflammation and prevents from infections; relieves respiratory and dental conditions, and helps in hemorrhoid treatment.
Since it contains benzoic acid, Balsam of Peru may cause dermatitis in individuals with sensitivity to benzoin resinoids.
On the other hand, Peru balsam essential oil has been used to relieve symptoms of nervous tension and stress, when used in a diffuser.
It is often used in diaper rash ointments, hair tonics, antidandruff preparations, and feminine hygiene sprays. In addition, Peru balsam oil can be used as a natural fixative and fragrance component in soaps, detergents, creams, lotions, incense and perfumes.
Pharmaceutical industry usually uses it in the manufacture of cough syrups, treatment of dry socket in dentistry, and in suppositories for hemorrhoids.
Peru balsam and its essential oil are used to flavor baked goods, candy, chewing gum, gelatin, ice cream, pudding, soft drinks and syrups.
Benefits of Peru Balsam Essential Oil
Fights bronchitis and other respiratory infections
Benzoin, one of the main components of Peru Balsam essential oil, have been used since ancient times by the Romans, the Egyptians and the Phoenicians for the treatment of respiratory infections, such as bronchitis, colds, coughing and flu, due to its antiseptic and expectorant properties. Besides, The Peru balsam plants have been reported to inhibit Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
Relieves congestion in the respiratory tract
It can stimulate the lungs to expel phlegm, which also clears out congestion in the respiratory tracts.
Phlegm and mucus catch germs and bacteria, which can cause major complications and delay the recovery of the patient.
Peru balsam essential oil can be used in a diffuser, so that its properties enter directly into the respiratory system to achieve a quick recovery.
Reduces anxiety, stress and mental afflictions
Peru balsam essential oil is widely known for its ability to alleviate mental afflictions, particularly nerves, anxiety, and stress.
When using it in a diffuser, in a session of aromatherapy inhalation or simply by inhaling directly from the bottle, it will act on the stress hormones in our system, which will allow us to calm down and give our body a rest from the exhaustion caused by daily stress.
The depurative properties of Peru balsam essential oil have already been studied and have shown quite positive results.
The diuretic nature of Balsam of Peru essential oil is beloved by those who need to flush out toxins, waste, and excess water and fat from their bodies.
By stimulating urination, Balsam of Peru essential oil ensures that you are keeping your kidneys working properly and remaining healthy.
The anti-inflammatory properties of Balsam of Peru essential oil are numerous, ranging from the topical application at wounds or aching joints to internal results of its use in the form of lower blood pressure and increased heart health.
This natural quality of Balsam of Peru essential oil may, in fact, be its most versatile and essential trait. This is particularly important for people who suffer from hemorrhoids, as this is a popular curative approach to that uncomfortable condition.
Due to its pleasant aroma and taste, as well as its antibacterial, astringent, and antiseptic qualities, Peru balsam essential oil is a popular ingredient in dental hygiene products, as it can help eliminate dangerous bacteria and infections from the teeth and gums.
Adding a couple of drops of Peru balsam oil to your usual shampoo, can significantly improve the health, strength and shine of your hair. In addition, you will be promoting the health of your scalp by eliminating dead cells through a natural exfoliation produced by Peru balsam oil and also, dandruff problems if any.
Prevents bacterial infections
The active ingredients in Balsam of Peru essential oil have been connected with the elimination of germs and bacteria, cleansing areas that may be susceptible to invasion or infection, as well as the common ulcer-causing bacteria.
It has been used as Helicobacter pylori in test-tube studies, so it is used topically as a treatment of wounds and ulcers.
Besides, Peru balsam essential oil is widely used in the prevention and treatment of scabies, often caused by mites. Balsam of Peru oil is commonly considered anti-mite, as this is one of the most popular applications in its original countries.
Stimulates immune system
Peru balsam oil strengthens the immune system, mainly thanks to its diuretic and antioxidant properties, since one of them detoxifies our body in its entirety, and the other, decreases the premature deterioration of each one of our internal and external organs.
Studies have shown that the oil can stimulate the immune system and helps eliminate free radicals throughout the body.
This allows us to be biologically prepared to face harmful conditions for our health, preventing the development of chronic diseases, even cancer.
Helps to lower blood pressure and improve heart health
This oil can regulate the high pressure levels in hypertensive people, which favors cardiovascular health and prevents coronary diseases, thrombosis, cerebrovascular accidents, etc.
Warnings and Precautions when Using Peru Balsam Essential Oil
Balsam of Peru is in the “top five” contact allergens most commonly causing patch test reactions in people referred to dermatology clinics. Crude Balsam of Peru is banned by the IFA (International Fragrance Association).
The essential oil of Balsam of Peru may not present this problem. However, If applying a new essential oil to your skin always perform a patch test to the inner arm (after you have diluted the essential oil in a carrier oil).
Wash an area of your forearm about the size of a quarter and dry carefully. Apply a diluted drop (1 drop EO + 1 drop carrier oil) to the area. Then apply a loose band-aid and wait 24 hours. If there is no reaction, then go ahead and use the oil in your formulas.
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Other important warnings to keep in mind:
- Keep the product out of the reach of children.
- Avoid contact with sensitive areas of the body, such as the eyes, nasal passages, the urogenital area and the inner ear.
- If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is not advisable to use this essential oil. Also, do not use on children under 6 years old.
- Avoid its use if you are under conventional medical treatment for hypertension.
Where to Buy Peru Balsam Essential Oil?
Usually, good quality oils, that is, 100% pure and not mixed with other substances, can be found in specialized natural herb stores.
Please keep in mind that this oil is super thick, which makes it a little complicated to work with in massage, for example. However, its aroma is wonderful and its benefits even better. In short, you will love it!
Tips for a better performance and duration of your oils:
- Store them in a dark glass bottle, never plastic, not even when blended with a carrier oil.
- Keep them in cool, dark places, away from sources of heat and light.
- Maintain the container that holds it tightly closed, since they are very volatile and also, their properties would be lost or modified.