Baume de Tolu

BAUME DE TOLU/Balsam of Tolu (Myroxylon toluiferum – Leguminosae)

The balsam tree, Myroxylon balsamum, is a large evergreen of tropical America, which can reach a height of 20 m (about 66 ft). It has small, pinnate, dark green leaves, and a fruit which appears in June and December consisting of a lance-shaped, one-seeded pod. M. toluiferum is a similar tree, but it yields the fragrant gum resin known usually by its French name, baume de Tolu. This is obtained by tapping – making an incision in the bark from which the resin exudes.
Baume de Tolu has been used in medicine for centuries, and was first mentioned by the Spanish naturalists, Hernandes and Monardes, in their book Nova Plantarum (1574). In the seventeenth century, it was included in the European pharmacopoeiae. The resin has always been used by the natives of South America and Mexico for its balsamic and expectorant values.


Description: After collecting the resin it is steamed to separate out the oil. Fresh, the oil is of a grey colour, but matures to a reddish brown. The smell is sweet, pleasant and aromatic; when warmed, it has notes of benzoin, vanilla and even of hyacinth.
The principal constituents: Benzoic acid (up to 15 per cent), plus benzoate, cinnamate, cinnamic acid, nerolidol, and vanillin. Its properties are very similar to baume de Canada and baume de Perou.


In illness
The oil is an expectorant and is bechic, and is a good natural antiseptic. In the Second World War, Japanese troops were issued with bandages imbued with baume de Tolu to use on their injuries to avoid tetanus, the vaccination not then being practised in Japan. Baume de Tolu (Balsam of Tolu) is particularly valuable for problems of the skin and of the urinary and respiratory systems. I have also found it useful for aches and pains such as those caused by rheumatic conditions, fever, or pre-menstrual.

Always use the oil in combination with other essential oils. It can be added, for instance, to juniper, rosemary or Siberian pine to reinforce the actions of those essences.

Chest infection remedy
This is good for colds which end up on the chest. Warm up the baume de Tolu by placing the bottle under a hot tap.

  • 10 ml (2 tsp) soya oil
  • 3 drops baume de Tolu
  • 2 drops eucalyptus
  • 1 drop myrrh
  • Mix together, and keep in a well-corked bottle. Rub on the chest vigor¬ously twice a day, then wear a woolly vest and dress warmly.

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