The Physiomedical Dispensatory by William Cook, M.D., 1869    



Description:  Natural Order, Leguminosae. This is a large tree native to the forests of South America, and especially to Peru. Leaves alternate, with five pairs of leaflets. Flowers white, on long and woolly racemes in the axils of the leaves. Incisions in the bark are followed by a balsamic exudation, which is caught upon rags; and then purified by boiling the rags in water, and skimming off the balsam as it rises. This balsam is of the consistence of very thick molasses, of a reddish-brown color, and a peculiar and penetrating odor that is very agree- able. Alcohol dissolves the larger portion of it; and it may be mixed with water by trituration with mucilages, as in emulsions. A variety, said to be obtained from the fruit, is pale-yellow; and may be so dried as to be reducible to powder.

MYROSPERMUM TOLUIFERUM, Balsam of tolu. This is obtained from another species of the same genus as the above balsam of Peru. It is of a reddish or orange-yellow color; at first thin, but subsequently becoming firm, and finally almost brittle; and with a fragrance and other properties closely allied to the Peru balsam.

Properties and Uses:  These two balsams are so nearly alike in character, that they may be considered together. They are pleasant but pungent to the taste; exert a marked stimulating influence on the respiratory mucous membranes; and promote expectoration, at the same time giving a warming impression throughout the lungs. They are wholly improper to use in irritable or inflamed conditions, being suitable only to states of debility or lingering congestion. At present, they are rarely employed alone; but are added to relaxing expectorant sirups, both to sustain the action of the latter, and to impart a pleasant flavor. The balsam of tolu is the pleasanter article. From one to two drachms of the tincture is sufficient to flavor a quart of ordinary sirup, as of lobelia. When a small portion of either is burned, it tills a room with an agreeable aroma, and promotes expectoration; and a milder fragrance is given to the atmosphere by adding a few grains to a quart of boiling water. The tincture is prepared by dissolving three ounces of the balsam in a quart of diluted alcohol, and then filtering. The sirup is made by intimately mixing a fluid ounce and a half of the tincture with two and a half pounds of sugar, evaporating all the alcohol at a low heat, and dissolving the impregnated sugar in a pint of water. When thus prepared, it has a milky appearance. Mr. Finley proposes the following method, by which the milkiness is avoided: Rub two fluid ounces of tolu tincture with two drachms of carbonate of magnesia and two ounces of powdered sugar; gradually add twelve fluid ounces of water by trituration, and filter; add to this twenty-two ounces of sugar, and dissolve at a low heat in a covered vessel. This may be added to cough sirups without occasioning turbidity.

 Medical Herbalism journal and