This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Balsamum Peruvianum, indicum, mexicanum, americanum. Balsam of Peru: a resinous juice, obtained from certain odoriferous trees (Cabureiba Pison. Hoitziloxitl feu arbor balsami indici Hernand.) growing in Peru and the warmer parts of America.
1. Balsamum peruvianum Pharm. Lond. & Edinb. Balsamum peruvianum nigrum, fuscum, vulgare. Common balsam of Peru; usually about the consistence of thin honey, and of a dark opake reddish brown colour inclining to black. It is said to be extracted by boiling the tops and bark of the tree in water, and to be found floating on the surface when the liquor cools (a). The balsam, however, as brought to us, dropt into cold water, does not float, but sinks immediately to the bottom: if a drop be let fall into water almost boiling hot, it se-parates into two parts, an oily cuticle, of a very penetrating taste, which spreads upon the fur-face, and a groffer matter, in larger quantity, which finks. It may be presumed therefore, that the balsam is extracted by some other method than that above pointed out.
(a) Monardes, apud Clusium, exoticorum, lib. x.
This balsam does not in any degree unite with water, or render it milky or turbid, by agitation. It becomes miscible with water, like that of copaiba, by the intervention of mucilage or yolk of eggs, but not perfectly by sugar: when united with sugar in a dry form, or with thick solutions of it, great part of the balsam separates and subsides on diluting the mixture with water. It dissolves in rectified spirit of wine, a small quantity of impure matter commonly remaining: and likewise, by the assistance of a boiling heat, in alkaline lixivia (a). It unites readily with distilled oils; but not at all with expressed oils or with fluid animal fats, a circumstance in which it differs remarkably from all the other resinous juices that have been examined: after it has been blended, by trituration, with confident unctuous matters, and with wax, it separates and falls to the bottom as soon as the mixture is made fluid by heat. Nor does it mingle very perfectly with the vegetable juices of its own kind, the native balsams and turpentines.
Distilled with water, it yields about one sixteenth its weight of essential oil, of a reddish colour, a fragrant smell, and a very pungent taste: this oil is remarkably difficult of solution in spirit of wine, requiring, according to Hoffman's experiments, no less than twelve times its own weight of the spirit. The balsam, dis-tilled in a retort, without addition, yields a larger quantity of a yellowish red empyreumatic oil, and commonly, as Neumann observes, a small portion of saline matter similar to flowers of benzoine.
(a) Hoffman, Diss. de balsamo Peruviano, cap, ii. 11 & 23.
This juice has an agreeable aromatic smell, and a very hot pungent taste. It is one of the hottest of the natural balsams, and hence preferred, in cold phlegmatic dispositions, for warming the habit, and strengthening the nervous as well as the vascular system. The dose is from two or three grains to ten or twelve. It is used also, in preference to the other balsams, externally, for wounds and ulcers: Van Swieten ob-serves, that for preventing or abating the ter-rible symptoms arising from punctures of the nerves or tendons, one of the best remedies is balsam of Peru, dropt warm into the wound, and made to spread and penetrate by applying a warm spatula (a). A solution of this balsam in rectified spirit, in the proportion of four ounces to a pint, is directed in the last edition of the London dispensatory.
2. Balsamum peruvianum album seu Styrax alba Ph. Paris. White balsam of Peru, or white storax; brought over in gourd shells; of a pale yellowish colour, thick and tenacious, becoming by age solid and brittle. It is sup-posed to be the produce of the same trees which afford the common or black balsam, and to exude from incisions made in their trunks.
(a) Comment, in Boerh. aphorisinos, § 164. vol. i.p. 242.
Tinct. Balsam. Peruv. Ph. Lond.
This balsam is in taste less hot and pungent than the foregoing, in smell more fragrant and agreeable, somewhat approaching to that of storax. It readily dissolves in rectified spirit, and unites with oils both expressed and distilled, as also with animal fats. Dropt, in its fluid state, into warm water, it spreads totally upon the surface, and forms a pellicle cohesive enough to be taken off entire(a), one of the principal criteria by which the precious balsam of Gilead has been distinguished. It is rarely met with in the shops.