Do you break out in a rash when you consume citrus, cinnamon and tomatoes? You could be dealing with a Balsam of Peru allergy. Balsam of Peru is a sticky, aromatic liquid that comes from cutting the bark of the Myroxolon balsamum tree, found in Central America. It smells similar to vanilla and cinnamon and is widely used in food and drinks for flavouring, perfumes and toiletries for fragrance, and medicine and pharmaceutical items for its antiseptic, antifungal and anti-parasitic properties. Today, we’re going to discuss Balsam of Peru allergy and what you need to do if you suspect you have it.
Symptoms of Balsam of Peru allergy
In some people, Balsam of Peru can cause an allergic reaction. People allergic to this compound may experience a red, itchy rash (contact dermatitis) when their skin comes into contact with the ingredient. If a person consumes Balsam of Peru through a food or drink, they may experience inflammation and sores in their mouth.
Other allergic reactions to Balsam of Peru may include:
- A flare-up of eczema on the hands.
- Plantar dermatitis, which manifests as shiny fissures on the soles of the feet.
- Rhinitis, which manifests as a runny nose and and stuffiness.
- Conjunctivitis, which manifests as red, itchy or watery eyes.
How is Balsam of Peru allergy treated?
For many people, avoidance of fragranced skincare products containing Balsam of Peru will lead to a resolution of symptoms. In a smaller subset of people, however, avoiding these personal care products is not enough. In these people, eliminating foods and drinks containing Balsam of Peru is also required, at least temporarily. Sometimes, after a period of elimination, people can slowly reintroduce some items containing Balsam of Peru without any issues.
What items contain Balsam of Peru?
While not an exhaustive list, Balsam of Peru is commonly used in the items below for fragrance, flavour, or medicinal properties:
Fragrance: Perfumes, deodorants, essential oils, air fresheners, cleaning products, aftershave lotion, cosmetics, baby powders, lotion, scented candles, sunscreens, suntan lotion, and shampoo and conditioners.
Food: Tomatoes and tomato products, citrus and citrus-containing products, chocolate, barbequed meats, canned meats and fish, seasoned fish, glazed ham, frankfurter, spices (e.g. cinnamon, anise, ginger, cloves, vanilla, dill, allspice, nutmeg, paprika, curry, spice blends), applesauce, thin-skinned fruits and vegetables (apples, cucumbers), pickled vegetables, yogurt, candy, spiced fruits, certain ice cream flavors, baked goods, spiced condiments (barbeque sauce, chutney, chili sauce, steak sauce, etc.), cola and other soft drinks, aperitifs (e.g. vermouth, bitters, Lillet, etc.), spiced liquors, and spiced tea and coffee.
Medicinal: Hemorrhoid ointment, herbal and botanical products, wound spray, calamine lotion, dental cement, cough medicine and lozenges, lip treatments, insect repellent, surgical dressings, toothpaste and mouthwash.
Learn to read labels
While the lists above include items that commonly include Balsam of Peru, it’s very important to learn to carefully read labels if you’re dealing with a Balsam of Peru allergy. Balsam of Peru goes by many names so printing out the below list and bringing it with you when you shop is recommended. Don’t rely on fragrance-free claims, as sometimes Balsam of Peru could still be an ingredient.
If you’re avoiding Balsam of Peru, do not use any products that list any of the following ingredients:
balsam fir oil, balsam fir oleoresin, Balsam Peru oil, Balsamo, Bálsamo del Perú, Balsams Peru, Balsamum Peruvianum, Baume de San Salvador, Baume du Pérou, Baume Péruvien, Black balsam, China oil, Honduras balsam, hyperabsolute balsam, Indian balsam, Myrospermum pereirae, Myrosperum pereira balsam, Myroxylon balsamum var. pereirae, Myroxylon pereirae klotzsch oil, Myroxylon pereirae klotzsch resin, Oil balsam Peru, Peru balsam, Peru balsam oil, Peruvian balsam, Quina quina, Santos Mahogany, Surinam balsam, Tolu ̧ Toluifera Pereira balsam, Toluifera pereirae
How long before you’ll know if the elimination diet is helping?
It can take up to six weeks of avoiding foods with Balsam of Peru to see a change in your symptoms. Once your symptoms improve, you can slowly add foods back into your diet (one food every week) to see if it triggers a flare-up. Most people don’t react to all the foods listed above. By slowly adding the foods back in, you can pinpoint which ones are your personal triggers.
Most people have never even heard of Balsam of Peru, but if you’re suffering from some unknown allergy, it’s worth looking into.