Bálsamo / Myroxylon balsamum
Distribution & Tree
Strength & Durability
Ecological & Social Importance
The tree is well known for its yield of “Peru balsam” used in perfumes, harvested mainly in El Salvador whose aroma is reminiscent of vanilla. The resin is produced by incising the tree’s bark in the form of a “V”. The bark is heated with wooden torches to encourage drainage and liquid absorbed into clothes. The impregnated cloth is then boiled and pressed. When cool, it solidifies into bright crystalline pieces. A single tree may yield up to 4 to 5 lbs per year. (The process can be observed in this video). Medically, the balsam is used for respiratory infections and can also be applied to the skin as an antiseptic. In Mexico, balsam was even used to flavor gum. Its nutty seed is consumed in local markets. In Coban, it’s been added to homemade liquor as a flavoring. The seed’s oil is employed to extract an oil prized for cosmetics.
It was an article of commerce in pre-Conquest Mesoamerica and a form of tribute paid to the Aztec emperors. It was the subject of two Papal Bulls issued in the 16th century authorizing the clergy the use of “balsamo negro” in the preparation of the chrism and has been used as an incense to the present in church services. Two towns on Guatemala’s Pacific coast are named for the tree.
|Technical Characteristics||Santos Mahogany||Hickory (Shagbark)||Black Locust|
|Bending Stiffness (Modulus of Elasticity)||GPa||16.4||14.9||14.1|
|Bending Strength (Modulus of Rupture)||MPa||148.7||139.3||133.8|
|Values determined at 12% humidity - Provided for reference only|
Values are for reference only and cannot be guaranteed. Wood is a natural material and physical and mechanical properties may vary depending on age, genetics, and other factors. We encourage customers to consult the references provided in the bibliography. For further explanations of wood’s key technical characteristics, an excellent resource is the Wood Database with articles on Density (average dried weight); Janka hardness; Elastic Modulus; Rupture Modulus; Crushing Strength; Radial, Tangential and Volumetric Shrinkage.