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Balsam of Peru - where to find it, how to spot it

Balsm of Peru

Balsam of Peru comes from the bark of the tree Myroxolon balsmum, common in El Salvador. It is an aromatic widely used in fragrances and flavourings.

Balsam of Peru smells of vanilla and cinnamon because it contains 60-70% cinamein – a combination of cinnamic acid, cinnamyl cinnamate, benzyl benzoate, benzoic acid and vanillin. The other 30-40% is made up of resins and essential oils similar to those in citrus fruit peel.

It has mild antibacterial, antifungal and antiparasitic properties so is also used in medicinal products. For many people it is a potent allergen.

Symptoms of Balsam of Peru Allergy

People allergic to Balsam of Peru may experience typical allergic contact dermatitis reactions to it. If they have eaten it they may experience inflammation and soreness of the mouth, tongue or lips and/or pruritis and contact dermatitis in the perianal region, possibly due to unabsorbed substances in the faeces.

If they use products containing Balsam of Peru they may experience a flare-up of hand eczema. Other allergic reactions to Balsam of Peru are plantar dermatitis (shows as shiny fissures on the soles of the feet), rhinitis, and conjunctivitis. In a case study in Switzerland, a woman who was allergic to Balsam of Peru was allergic to her boyfriend's semen following intercourse, after he drank large amounts of Coca Cola. acid and vanillin. The other 30-40% is made up of resins and essential oils similar to those in citrus fruit peel.

Where Balsam of Peru is found:

Fragrances in perfumes and toiletries

Perfumes, deodorants, soaps, after-shave lotions, cosmetics, lipsticks, baby powders, sunscreens, creams, lotions, suntan lotions, shampoo and conditioners, colognes.

Flavouring in food and drinks

Citrus fruit peel, cola and other soft drinks, apéritifs, (eg vermouth bitters), pre-ground spices eg allspice, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, paprika, curry, anise, ginger, flavoured tea and coffee wine, beer, gin, liqueurs, juice, marmalade, tomatoes and tomato-containing products, Mexican and Italian foods with red sauces, ketchup, chili sauce, barbecue sauce, chutney, pickles, pickled vegetables, chocolate, vanilla, baked goods and pastries, pudding, ice cream, chewing gum.

Healing properties in medicinal products

Medicinal creams and ointments, haemorrhoidal suppositories and rectal ointment (eg Anusol), tincture of benzoin, wound spray, calamine lotion, nappy rash ointments, dental cement, cough medicine, throat lozenges, lip salves, insect repellents, surgical dressings, toothpaste and mouthwash.

Points to watch to avoid Balsam of Peru

If you’re avoiding Balsam of Peru use only labelled cosmetics, toiletries and medicines that do not list it among the ingredients.

It may appear on labels as : 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.

More allergy information and advice here