Balsams. By the French chemists this word is applied only to those resinous vegetable juices which contain benzoic acid; and of these there are but six, namely, the balsam of Peru, the balsam of Tolu, dragon's blood, benzoin, storax, and liquidambar. But by the Germans and English the term is not thus limited in its signification, being applied to all resins obtained from trees and shrubs, as also to some pharmaceutical preparations, dividing them into two classes - one containing benzoic acid, and the other not. The former class, consisting of the six named, are aromatic, resinous substances, composed of resin, benzoic acid, and a volatile oil, the last, according to the quantity present, tending to give liquidity to the substance. They are soluble in alcohol, and water being added resin is precipitated, making the fluid milky, in ether they are only partially soluble, and not at all in water. The peculiar smell of the balsams is lost by exposure to the air. Their taste is described as hot and acrid. The plants which furnish them belong to the orders styra-ceae, leguminosae, and balsamaceae. The second class of balsams are the semi-liquid and resinous juices composed only of resin and a volatile oil, and obtained mostly from plants of the orders coniferae, terehinthacecp,, and leguminosae.

The turpentines, and Canada, copaiba, and Mecca balsams belong to this class. They do not differ essentially in their properties from the other balsams. The use of balsams is principally in medicine, but they also enter into the composition of varnishes, and are employed for some other purposes, which will be mentioned in the description of each one. Benzoin and turpentine will be treated of under their own titles. - A full history and description of the balsam of Peru, by Dr. Pereira, may be found in the "Pharmaceutical Journal" (English); and an able paper, made up from this, is published by Dr. Muspratt in his work on chemistry, with which will be found drawings and botanical descriptions of the plants producing the balsams. So much error and uncertainty has prevailed in the accounts of this substance, that very elaborate investigations have been made by Dr. Pereira and others to define its true character, and that of the plants producing it. There appear to be two balsams in Peru, one called the white balsam, and the other the black, which is the real balsam of Peru of commerce.

Both are obtained from the myrospermum pubescens of De Can-dolle, the one from the fruit by pressure, and the other by incision from the stem; and both are procured exclusively "from the so-called Balsam Coast in Central America," the Pacific coast of San Salvador, between lat. 13° and 14° N. Sonsonate appears to be the most important district for the production of the balsam; and the tree which there yields it is possibly a different species from the myrospermum pubes-censy and has been temporarily called by Dr. Pereira the myrospermum of Sonsonate. Black balsam exudes from incisions in the trunk of this tree, and is said to be an admirable remedy for effecting the speedy cure of wounds. Spirit of balsam is made from the flowers, oil of balsam, an excellent anodyne, from the seeds and nuts, and white balsam from the capsules. The tincture or essence of balsam, called bal-samito, is extracted from these. The methods practised by the Indians of preparing the white and black balsams are very differently described by different authorities, and these descriptions are given in the paper referred to. The black balsam is a sirup of the consistency of honey, of a deep red-brown color, translucent, of a strong smell, and an intolerably acrid bitter aste.

Owing to its high price it is found profitable to adulterate it, and this is done with olive oil, oil of turpentine, and copaiba. It is tested by mixing a few drops of it with twice as many of concentrated sulphuric acid, and then adding water; if pure, a little resin is obtained. Copaiba may be detected by the smell. When pure, 1,000 parts of balsam will, by the benzoic acid it contains, saturate 75 parts of crystallized carbonate of soda. The composition of the balsam, according to Stolze, is as follows:

Balsam of Peru (Myrospermum pubescens).

Balsam of Peru (Myrospermum pubescens).

Brown, slightly soluble resin......

2.40 per cent.

Brown resin......

20.70 "

Oil - cinnameine......

69.00 "

Benzoic and cinnamic acids.....

6.40 "


0.60 "

Loss and moisture......

0.90 "

100.00 "

This balsam is used in perfumery, in the manufacture of sealing wax, lozenges, tinctures, pomatums, and as a substitute for vanilla in liqueurs, chocolate, etc. - Balsam of Tolu is obtained in New Granada, South America, in the region of Tolu and Turbaco, a few miles S. of Cartagena, and also along the Magdalena river. The tree which produces it is the myrospermum toluiferum. The balsam differs very little from that of Pern, only it becomes resinified more easily. Ther chemical composition is the same. When fresh it is of a reddish brown color, soft like turpentine, but gradually becomes harder. It has an agreeable odor like benzoin, and a sweetish taste. It is often adulterated with resin, which may be detected by the fumes of sulphurous acid, which are set free when sulphuric acid is poured upon it and the mixture heated. If no resin is present, the odor of benzoic and cinnamic acid is perceived. - Dragon's blood is the product of an East India tree, called the calamus draco, and is also obtained in Africa and South America from a number of other trees. It is prepared in the form of drops and small balls of a dark red color, and is also put up in sticks and irregular-shaped cakes.

Its use is for coloring varnishes, staining marble, preparing gold lacquer, and for tooth powders and washes. It was formerly used in medicine as an astringent, but is now regarded as inert. - Storax is rarely met with unadulterated with foreign matters; and the various mixtures sold by this name have caused uncertainty as to its real character. It is often confounded with liquidambar, but is distinguished from it by its peculiar vanilla-like odor, which, as well as the styrax family of plants, from which it is procured, connect it more closely with benzoin. The species of the tree is the officinalis; it grows in Asiatic Turkey, and the shipments of this balsam are from Trieste. It is of liquid consistency, and of gray, brown, or black color, according to its purity. Its uses are in medicine as an expectorant, and as an ingredient in ointment. - Liquidambar is the resinous product of the common sweet gum tree of the United States. It is only, however, in the warm latitudes of Mexico and Louisiana that this tree yields its balsam. This is of thin consistence, yellowish color, agreeable smell, and acrid taste. It becomes thicker, of darker color, and contains a larger proportion of benzoic acid, as it increases in age.

It may be used for the same purposes as storax, but is more highly esteemed and better known in Europe than in this country. - The Chinese lac, or varnish, is described by Dr. Ure as a balsam of the benzoic acid class, and derived from the bark of the augia sinensis. - The Canada balsam is the gum that exudes from the balsam fir, abies balsamea, of the northern states. It is collected by breaking the vesicles which form on the trunk and branches, and receiving then-contents in a bottle. Its color is whitish, slightly yellow, and its odor like that of the turpentines. Its analysis is thus given by Bonastre:

Balsam of Tolu (Myrospermum toluiferum).

Balsam of Tolu (Myrospermum toluiferum).

Styrax officinalis.

Styrax officinalis.

Essential oil.....

18.6 percent.

Resin soluble in alcohol....

40.0 "

Resin soluble with difficulty....

83.4 "

Elastic resin.....

4.0 "

Bitter extract and salts.....

4.0 "

100.0 "

It is used in the preparation and preservation of objects for the microscope, and in a few unimportant medicinal compounds. - The copaiba balsam is obtained from the copaifera officinalis, a tree of Brazil and Guiana. It is of yellowish color, semi-liquid consistency, a bit-ter sharp taste, and a disagreeable suffocating smell. It will dissolve one fourth its weight of carbonate of magnesia, and continue translucent. With alkalis it gives crystalline compounds. It contains an oil that dissolves caoutchouc, Its composition, according to Durand, is:

Balsam Copaiba (Copaifera officinalis).

Balsam Copaiba (Copaifera officinalis).

Volatile oil.................................

38.00 per cent.

Copalbea acid....

52.75 "

Brown soft resin...............

1.66 "

Water and loss.....

7.59 "

100.00 "

Its use is principally in medicine, for altering the secretions of the mucous membranes by which it is excreted, namely, those lining the respiratory and urinary organs. The resin is said to be more active therapeutically than the oil. It is also used for liqueurs, and for making paper transparent. It is often largely adulterated with castor oil and with turpentine. - Mecca balsam, called also opobalsam, is the product of the balsamodendron Gileadense of the East. Its properties are similar to those of balsam of copaiba and liquid turpentines. (See Balm Of Gilead).