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.This tree grows in the wild in countries like El Salvador and Belize,2 although it also grows in other South and Central American countries such as Panama, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia and Guatemala.3
The said tree is cultivated in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Fiji, India and Sri Lanka, too. The oily resin from the balsam of Peru smells like a mixture of clove, cinnamon and vanilla, and is deep brown in color.5 Meanwhile, the essential oil it produces is pale yellow.6
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 balsam extracts to help treat external wounds and ease symptoms of asthma,7 colds and rheumatism. Peruvians also used balsam to help relieve fever, bronchitis and coughs,8,9 while Indians utilized Peru balsam to trigger diuretic action in the body, stop wounds from bleeding and promote healing, as well as to expel worms.10 Nowadays, balsam and Peru balsam oil are:11
• Used as fragrance in cosmetic products like perfumes, shampoo and soap
• Added to flavor candies, baked goods, gelatins and pudding
Worm infections caused by pinworms and tapeworms
Scabies and skin sores
Benefits of Peru Balsam Oil
• Acting as an insecticide: According to a June 2012 article in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, components from the Peru balsam oil and a jowan oil exhibited a 100 percent mortality rate against mosquitoes.25
• Helping heal skin graft donor sites: A 2003 Ostomy/Wound Management article highlighted that an ointment composed of castor oil, Peru balsam and trypsin assisted with healing the said wounds without yielding complications.26
• Assisting with scabies treatment: It can alleviate or help treat scabies, specifically by killing the tiny scabies mites.
• Helping curb bacterial growth. When combined with other antibacterial essential oils like tea tree and eucalyptus, Peru balsam oil may help eliminate some varieties of bacteria lingering in the air.27
Composition of Peru Balsam Oil
Some of the components of Peru balsam oil include:28
• Benzyl benzoate
• Benzyl cinnamate (a derivative of cinnamic acid, which is moderately toxic)
• Cinnamyl cinnamate
• Small amounts of nerolidol, free benzyl alcohol and free benzoic and cinnamic acids
• Traces of vanillin, styrene and coumarin
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.29 From this resin, the oil is extracted via high vacuum dry distillation.30 It may blend well with essential oils of black pepper, ginger, ylang ylang, rose otto, lavender, nutmeg and patchouli.31
Is Peru Balsam Oil Safe?
While Peru balsam oil has numerous medicinal uses, there is a major allergy issue linked to it. The resin 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 orally, since it can potentially damage your kidneys.32 I advise that you consult a physician before using Peru balsam oil to avoid side effects.
Other standard precautionary measures when handling Peru balsam oil include diluting it with a safe carrier oil like coconut, jojoba, sweet almond and olive. Performing a skin patch test before using Peru balsam oil topically is highly recommended too. 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:33
Redness, swelling and soreness of the skin
Severe inflammation of the lips, mouth or tongue
Rhinitis with symptoms like runny nose and watery eyes
Allergic contact dermatitis35
Poisoning among breastfed infants if their mothers have applied the Peru balsam herb or oil on their nipples
Flare-up of hand eczema36