What is Peru Balsam Oil?
Peru balsam oil, which is also known as black balsam, quina, tolu, Balsam fir oil, and balsamo, comes from the balsam of Peru, a resinous substance obtained from the tree called Myroxylon balsamum or Myroxylon pereirae.1
This tree grows in the wild along the Balsam Coast, particularly where El Salvador meets the Pacific Ocean.2 It naturally thrives in South and Central American countries like Panama, Mexico, and Jamaica, and is also cultivated in Western Africa, India, and Sri Lanka.3
The oily resin from the balsam of Peru smells like a mixture of clove, cinnamon, and vanilla, and is deep brown in color, while the essential oil it produces is pale yellow.4
Uses of Peru Balsam Oil
The balsam of Peru tree was used medicinally by the Aztecs and the Incas during the peak of the Mayan civilization. They used its leaves and fruits to treat asthma, colds, flu, rheumatism, and external wounds.5 Peruvians also used balsam to relieve fever, bronchitis, coughs, and inflammation of the pharynx and the mouth.
Nowadays, balsam and Peru balsam oil are both used as:
- A fragrance in cosmetic products like perfumes, shampoo, and soap
- A flavorings for food and drinks
- A component of candles
Meanwhile, when applied topically as a cream, salve, or in wound dressings, the balsam of Peru may help alleviate or treat:
Composition of Peru Balsam Oil
Some of the components of Peru Balsam oil include:
- Benzyl benzoate
One of its major compounds that causes adverse reactions, but can help take out head lice with only a small concentration
- Benzyl cinnamate
A derivative of cinnamic acid, which is moderately toxic
- Propylene glycol6
A substance that absorbs water and that is used to make polyester compounds and as a base for deicing solutions7
- Cinnamic acid:
- A potent antioxidant
- A strong antimicrobial that kills certain species of bacteria, virus, and fungi
- May help fight against prostate and lung cancer
- Exerts a skin pigmentation effect by lowering melanin in the skin
- Has an aroma that can prevent malaria
- Benzoic acid
An antibacterial substance that reduces skin inflammation, eczema, and fungal skin infections
Believed to be associated with good health and is found in many herbal teas
- The main compound in vanilla beans and its essential oil
- A powerful antioxidant that protects the cells from free radical damage and the skin from UV radiation
Benefits of Peru Balsam Oil
Some of the health benefits you can get from using Peru balsam oil include:
- Treatment of respiratory conditions. It can act as an expectorant, helping the lungs expel phlegm and clearing congested airways
- Relief from muscle pain
- Reducing inflammation in the nose and in cramped muscles
- Killing bacteria in the air when vaporized, especially when mixed with other antibacterial essential oils like sandalwood, patchouli, and ylang ylang8
- Stress relief and reduction of mental exhaustion
- Better skin health. It helps scrub off dead skin cells from the scalp, helping get rid of dandruff. It can also alleviate or help treat scabies
How to Make Peru Balsam Oil
Peru balsam oil is derived from balsam trees, which are tapped like rubber trees to collect their oily resin.9 From this resin, the oil is extracted via steam distillation.10 It blends well with essential oils of clove, cinnamon, vanilla, ylang ylang, rose, lavender, patchouli, and spice oils like black pepper.
How Does Peru Balsam Oil Work?
To avail of Peru balsam oil's healing properties, follow these applications:
- For cough or other respiratory illnesses: Pour three to four drops in a vaporizer and let the aroma diffuse. Follow with a warm salt water gargle after a few minutes.
- For sore muscles: Add two to three drops of Peru balsam oil into a 100ml carrier oil (olive, almond, or coconut), and use it to massage painful muscles twice a day.
- For scabies mites: Mix two to three drops with extra virgin olive oil. Apply on affected areas where you can see the burrows of the mites and massage on the skin.
- For dandruff: Pour two to three drops into a glass of water. Apply onto hair and scalp and rinse. Do it once a week.
Is Peru Balsam Oil Safe?
They say that not all that glitters is gold, and while Peru balsam oil has numerous medicinal uses, there is a major allergy issue that is at hand. The resin that comes from the tree is one of the most allergic substances in nature, as it contains five food allergens. It is also not safe to take it orally as well since it can potentially damage your kidneys.11 I highly recommend that you consult a physician before using Peru balsam oil medicinally to avoid side effects.
Other standard precautionary measures when handling Peru balsam oil include diluting it with milder essential oils and avoiding contact with the eyes and mucous membranes.12
I also advise performing a skin patch test before using Peru balsam oil topically. Simply apply a few drops of the essential oil on a small portion of your skin and wait for at least 24 hours. If any reaction occurs, stop using it immediately.
Potential Side Effects of Peru Balsam Oil
The allergen content of Peru balsam oil can put you at risk of:
- Redness, swelling, and soreness of the skin
- Severe inflammation of the lips, mouth, or tongue
- Rhinitis with symptoms like runny nose and watery eyes