Scientific Name(S): Myroxylon pereirae (Royle) Klotzsch. Syn. with M. balsamum var. pereirae. Family: Leguminosae or Fabaceae
Common Name(S): Peru balsam, Peruvian balsam, Indian balsam, black balsam, balsam Peru
Botany: Peru balsam is a large tree that grows 50 to 75 feet in height in Central America. It is often 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 are then boiled in water. The balsam sinks to the bottom and is collected. Approximately two pounds is the annual yield per tree.
History: 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. Today, the material is in a number of pharmaceutical preparations and plays an important role in perfumery. The material has no use as an internal medication.
Uses of Peru Balsam:
Peru balsam has been used in the treatment of dry socket, topically as a treatment of wounds and ulcers, and in suppositories for hemorrhoids.
Side Effects of Peru Balsam:
Peru balsam may cause contact dermatitis
Toxicology: Peru balsam is a contact allergen and contact dermatitis occurs frequently with the product. Systemic toxicity following application of Peru balsam to nipples of nursing mothers has been described.
Summary: Although Peru balsam is not used widely in American medicine, its use persists in topical applications and as a food flavoring. Its topical use is somewhat limited by contact dermatitis that occurs frequently with the product.
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