Peru Balsam-Myroxylon balsamum (L.) Harms Var perierae-Synonymous with Guatemala Balsam
These are the seed-pods/fruit of the Peru Balsam tree which is also called Guatemala Balsam and Balsamo Del Aire in Guatemala.
Locally, they are used for incense, cosmetics and medicine. A layer of fragrant resin high in cinnamic and benzoic acids protects the seed from dehydration. The soft inner seed cotyledons within are high in Coumarin with a fragrance similar to Tonka bean. Here we have two lovely fragrance materials in one product.
Traditionally, collecting the balsam from the Peru balsam and Balsam Tolu trees is done using destructive methods which when not carefully regulated, kill the trees and decimate the local tree population. Using the seed pods as an aromatic/medicinal material instead of the tapped balsam is completely sustainable and renewable.
For use as an incense or as an ingredient in incense blends, the seed should be removed from the shell. Though the seed is quite fragrant, burning it releases an unpleasant aroma.
An alcohol maceration/extract will collect the aromas of both the resin and the Tonka bean/Coumarin fragrance making an interesting addition to the perfume organ. This tincture can be evaporated and reduced to any desired consistency such as that of an absolute. If desired, the seeds can be removed and an alcohol extract made from both materials separately.
Traditionally, the alcohol/water, (or Brandy), extract of Balsamo Del Aire fruit is used as a digestive, (Called Balsamito), and as a friction-rub for arthritis, rheumatism, headaches and as a vulnerary and can be found for sale in many pharmacies in the interior of the country.
The macerated seed is also used in the pharmaceutical industry for the expulsion of kidney stones, antihysteric and astringent, for the elimination of spots and smoothing of wrinkles on the face.
Keep in mind that some people have an allergic reaction to Peru Balsam and if used in excess it can cause sensitization. Do not apply the undiluted aromatic extract directly to the skin.