This section is from the book "Materia Medica And Therapeutics - Vegetable Kingdom", by Charles D. F. Phillips. Also available from Amazon: Materia Medica And Therapeutics: Vegetable Kingdom.
Active Ingredients. - In consistence this balsam is viscid, and like treacle, with a sp. gr. of 1.15. It is reddish-brown, or almost black; possesses an agreeable odor, somewhat resembling that of vanilla, and has a warm, acrid, and slightly bitter taste. It is inflammable, and burns with a considerable amount of smoke; is entirely soluble in alcohol, and in about 5 parts of rectified spirit; and undergoes no diminution when mixed with water.
Balsam of Peru contains cinnameine (cinnamate of benzyl, C16H14O2) to the extent of about 70 per cent. This is a neutral, acrid, colorless, strongly-refracting oil, inflammable, of sharp taste, and slightly aromatic odor. It is heavier than water, and insoluble in that medium, but soluble in alcohol and in ether.
By the action of caustic potash, cinnameine is converted into cinnamic acid, which constitutes about 6.4 per cent. of the balsam; and a light and oily fluid called Peruvine. (Cinnamic acid may also be formed by exposing oil-of-cinnamon to the atmosphere.) Cinnameine is colorless and soluble in alcohol and ether; slightly, if at all so, in cold water.
About 24 per cent. of the fresh balsam consists of Resin-of-Peru, which is formed by the cinnameine uniting with the elements of water, and forming a hydrate of cinnameine. The resin increases in quantity with the age of the balsam, at the expense of the oil.
Physiological Action. - Balsam of Peru is stimulant, tonic, and expectorant, the action closely resembling that of storax and benzoin. It is not possessed, however, of the remarkable influence over the urinary organs which characterizes the produce of its near botanical ally, the Co-paifera; while in tonic properties it is equally inferior to myrrh. Acting most decidedly upon the mucous membranes, it promotes digestion, causes warmth and excitement throughout the system, stimulates the pulse, and increases the secretion of the kidneys and the skin. In large doses it produces pain and oppression in the stomach, with nausea, vomiting, colic, and diarrhoea.
Therapeutic Action. - Balsam of Peru is employed in chronic bronchitis, asthma, gonorrhoea, gleet, leucorrhoea, and other disorders of similar character. Converted into a plaster, it is applied externally for the cure of headache and toothache. In its simple condition it is excellent for closing recent wounds, and for healing ulcers and other lesions of the body. It often proves a valuable external application also for sore nipples, in cases of which, the following preparation, used five or six times daily, rarely fails to be of service: - Balsam of Peru, 120 gr.; oil of almonds, 90 gr.; gum-Arabic, 120 gr.; rosewater.
Preparations And Dose. - Two to ten minims and upwards may be given in an emulsion of almonds, mucilage, or the yolk of eggs, with a little sugar.