Tolu balsam

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Tolu balsam or balsam of Tolu (a variant of balsam of Peru) is the resinous secretion of Myroxylon toluifera. The resin, as well as the leaves and fruit, have been traditionally used by the people of Central America to relieve coughs and asthma, and to treat wounds. The resin is tapped from the trunk of the tree through incisions into the bark and collected when dry. The colour of the resin is light to reddish brown. Tolu balsam is pliable when warm and fractures in a pattern similar to flint when cold. The dry resin has a complex aroma consisting chiefly of cinnamon and vanilla notes with a slight floral character.

The resin is still used in certain cough syrup formulas. However its main use in the modern era is in perfumery, where it is valued for its warm, mellow yet somewhat spicy scent. It is also used as a natural remedy for skin rashes. Ironically, it is a well known cause of contact dermatitis, a form of skin allergy.

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