Balsam of Peru, also known as black balsam, China oil or Indian balsam, is an oleoresin that looks like a viscous liquid of dark color. This product is obtained from the trunk of the Myroxylon balsamum tree, belonging to the Fabaceae family, widespread in Central America. Although the name may not say much, actually the Balsam of Peru is more widespread than you think since it can be found into the formulation of cosmetic products, from lipsticks to creams, shampoos, deodorants, talc and perfumes, but it can also appear in syrups and toothpastes and can even be used in food products such as candied fruit, ice cream, chocolate, chewing gum, flavored drinks and teas. On the label you can find the words Myroxylon pereirae, Balsam oil, Balsam Peru oil, Indian Balsam. The balsam of Peru owes its fortune to the intense aroma of vanilla and cinnamon, which makes it suitable to be added to cosmetics and foods to give the particular fragrance, and to its healing, anti-inflammatory, soothing and antiseptic properties, which make it an ingredient of creams and sprays for external applications useful in case of rash, eczema, cracking and wounds. You can find the balsam of Peru even in the form of essential oil, in this case you can spread it in the rooms so as to diffuse the sweet, relaxing and calming fragrance, able to promote sleep.
Alternatively, you can add a drop of this essential oil to the shampoo, face and body cream or to a carrier oil, such as jojoba or sweet almond oil, to take advantage of its beneficial properties in case of dandruff, skin and scalp irritation, insect bites, dry and chapped skin, inflammations and wounds or to do massages in case of muscle or joint pain. However, despite the wide spread and the certainly very interesting properties, you should be careful because the Balsam of Peru is often associated with allergies and dermatitis (Scheman et al, Dermatitis, Jul-Aug 2013). A study has in fact shown that one of the most common allergens that cause contact dermatitis on the scalp is precisely the balsam of Peru contained in shampoos, balms and hair gels (Aleid et al, Skin Appendage Disord., Mar 2013). So if you suspect that a product that you are using and that contains balsam from Peru is causing you skin irritations, ask your doctor for an allergy test, or, if you want to start using this product and still do not know if it can cause allergies, you can try to apply a drop diluted in oil on a small area of the skin and see if there are any reactions. Finally, limit the use of this oil only to external applications and avoid it during pregnancy and breastfeeding.