Origin

This is obtained from Myrospermum Toluiferum, a large tree growing in the northern region of South America, especially in the vicinity of Tolu, in New Granada, sixty or seventy miles south of Car-thagena. incisions are made into the bark, through which the juice flows out during the heat of the day. it is imported in tin canisters, earthen jars, or calabashes.

Properties

At first liquid, it soon becomes more consistent, and, as it reaches us, is generally thick, semifluid, tenacious, and of a yellowish-brown colour. By time it concretes into a soft tenacious solid, and ultimately becomes hard and brittle like resin, in which state it is translucent, and of a reddish tint. its smell is gratefully fragrant, its taste warm, sweetish, and somewhat pungent. it melts with heat, and is highly inflammable, diffusing an agreeable odour when it burns. it consists of resin, volatile oil, and cinnamic acid, the last of which may be separated by sublimation. it yields its acid, and a minute proportion of its oil to boiling water; but alcohol is its proper solvent.

Medical Properties and Uses

Balsam of Tolu is a gentle topical irritant, and, in its influence on the system, very moderately stimulant to the circulation, with a tendency to act upon the secretory organs, more especially the bronchial mucous membrane. it is also thought to possess tonic properties. Altogether, however, its remedial influences are feeble; and it is employed more as an adjuvant of pectoral medicines, and for its agreeable flavour, than for any very decided curative effect. it is used almost exclusively in chronic bronchial and laryngeal inflammation. The inhalation of the vapour of an ethereal solution of the balsam is said to afford considerable relief, in some old and very obstinate coughs; but it might be difficult to determine how much of the benefit is to be ascribed to the balsam, and how much to the ether, which is itself an excellent alleviating remedy in such affections.

I should not, however, do justice to the subject, without calling attention to the remarks of MM. Trousseau and Pidoux, based chiefly on personal experience, upon the use of the balsams, and especially of that under consideration, in chronic diseases of the air-passages. They state that there are few agents in the Materia Medica so powerful in the treatment of chronic pulmonary catarrhs, and old cases of laryngitis. Without claiming for them the power of preventing or removing tubercles, they consider them as precious means for retarding the progress of tuberculous degeneration, of preserving strength, and prolonging life in phthisis. in bronchial inflammations, they commence with their use earlier than with the more stimulating substances, as the turpentines; so early even as at the end of a week, and in infantile cases still earlier. But it is in the chronic inflammation of the larnyx, that they have found most benefit from them, particularly in the ulcerated state, unconnected with tubercles. in this affection, the remedy is applied by means of fumigation, so as to bring the agent into direct contact with the ulcerated surface. The object is best effected by throwing upon burning coals a portion of one of the balsams, that of Tolu preferably, so as to fill the space occupied by the patient, and thus maintain a constant impression by the impregnation of the air he breathes.. They consider this method preferable to the use of the inhaler, as keeping up a more steady influence; but, nevertheless, the latter method may be resorted to, if deemed advisable; the balsam being added to boiling water, and the vapours inhaled. They have found balsamic fumigation useful in chronic catarrhs, as well as in laryngitis.

The same authors speak favourably of the use of the balsams in chronic ulcerations of the bowels, such as are left behind by typhoid fever and dysentery. They administer the remedy at the same time by the mouth and by enema, giving, in the latter method, from half a drachm to a drachm of balsam of Tolu, or of storax, "dissolved in boiling water," while the syrup of Tolu is given by the mouth. {Trait, de Thérap., etc., 4e ed., II. 581, 589.)

The dose of the balsam is from ten to thirty grains, which may be repeated several times a day. it may be given in pill or emulsion; but the latter form is preferable. The emulsion may be readily made, in the common method, out of the hard and brittle balsam; but, in its ordinary plastic form, there is some difficulty. This may be obviated by dissolving it in the smallest quantity of almond oil, and proceeding with the solution as with castor oil.

Tincture of Tolu (Tinctura Tolutana, U. S., Br.) is prepared by dissolving the balsam in officinal alcohol. As a fluidrachm of the U. S. tincture contains only about five grains of the balsam, and the British preparation is but little stronger, the preparation is too stimulant, through the alcohol, for obtaining the full expectorant effects of the medicine, unless in the intemperate, or in very low states of the system. it is, therefore, more used for flavouring cough mixtures than for any curative effect.

Syrup of Tolu (Syrupus Tolutanus, U. S., Br.) is prepared, according to the directions of the U. S. Pharmacopoeia, by rubbing the tincture of Tolu first with carbonate of magnesia and a little sugar, afterwards with water gradually added, and then filtering, adding enough sugar to form a syrup, dissolving this with a gentle heat, and finally straining while hot. The British Pharmacopoeia boils the balsam in water, and prepares the syrup from the decotion. However prepared, it is only useful as a flavouring material; as the proportion of balsam is too. small to exert any effect on the system. it is, however, much used as a grateful addition to pectoral mixtures.