Type of plant: Evergreen tree growing to 140 feet with large leaves; flowers each produce a single seed that’s 3–4 inches (7–10 cm) long.
Part used: Oleoresin
Method of extraction: Solvent extraction/vacuum distillation
Data: The huge size of the seed makes it very hardy, and when introduced into foreign territory with no natural predators the tree can proliferate easily and cause environmental havoc among indigenous plants. Despite its name, this tree does not grow in Peru — it’s indigenous to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. The essential oil is extracted from the oleoresin, which is tempted out of the tree in different ways. The bark can be cut to make the resin exude; when dry it is collected. Or a portion of the bark is burned to stimulate exudation of the resin, then wrapped in cloths to absorb the resin for some weeks, before pressing the cloth to extract the resin.
Principal places of production: El Salvador, Paraguay, Venezuela, Colombia
When buying look for: Pale- to medium-amber viscous liquid with a unique, warm, sweet balsamic aroma. Also called Peru balsam. Therapeutic properties: Anthelmintic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antitussive, balsamic, calmative, cicatrizing, expectorant
Therapeutic uses: Skin conditions, rashes, wounds, pruritus, scabies, ringworm, bedsores, cuts, ulcers, hemorrhoids, coughs, bronchitis, head lice, dandruff, coughs, respiratory conditions
Blends well with: Benzoin, cajuput, chamomile german, cinnamon leaf, clove bud, copaiba, cypress, elemi, frankincense, geranium, ho wood, lavandin, lavender, lemongrass, manuka, myrrh, orange (sweet), palmarosa, rosewood, valerian, vanilla
Precautionary advice: May cause irritation on highly sensitive skins; a skin patch test is advisable. GRAS status.