In its natural crude state, Peru balsam is a very viscous semi-solid oleoresin of a dark brown colour. It can be used as a raw material in flavoring, cosmetics and perfumery. A powerful and balsamic amber note, Peru Balsam is diffusive with a velvet and warm texture. It possesses a comforting vanillic softness with a delicate background of spiced touches. Within a composition it imparts a depth and warmth to a variety of olfactive directions. It is tenacious, imparting fixative effects for an extended period of time. It is a highly versatile ingredient, blending well with a vast array of oils, bases and compositions.
The name of this balsam is due to its historic transport route during colonial times. Everything coming from Central America had to stop first in the port of Callao in Peru. The Panama Canal did not exist at the time, so all of the ships that went out of El Salvador had to go down and around South America before going to Europe.
El Salvador is the only country in the world to produce this balsam. Wherever Peru Balsam is traded around the world, then if it is of natural origin, it was produced in El Salvador.
In perfumery Peru Balsam recognized for its fixative properties, it synergizes well with other suave notes such as benzoin and vanilla. It combines well in amber and leather compositions that may include labdanum or styrax. Particularly used in oriental and chypre perfumes. Being considered a soft balsamic ingredient, it is a note that can give opulence in composition. Vanilla and sour nuances give it a particularly gourmand characteristic with some animalic and sensual notes in the bottom. Its balsamic character is confirmed by a strong and sweet cinnamic presence that fades away into a subtle woody touch.
Peru Balsam is also a compound of interest for its antibacterial, antifungal and anti-parasitic properties; it also has anti-bruising qualities. Other medicinal characteristics such as its use for treating rheumatism and its ability to increase blood pressure are also recognized. Some of its principal healing properties are fixed in its capacity to promote skin cell regeneration.
Finally, Peru Balsam has traditionally also been used in food aromas in order to help in the flavouring and in the consistency of products, this is particularly the case for the chocolate industry.
A piece of bark measuring about 36 by 6 inches, is removed starting from the lower part of the tree trunk. The exposed area is then burnt with a torch, and then a piece of dry cloth is placed on the scorched area to absorb the oleoresin produced by the tree in response to the treatment. The oleoresin is extracted from the cloth by boiling in water for many hours and then passage through a rustic wooden press. The bark removed from the tree trunk is subject to a similar process.
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