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Aromatic resinous substance that flows from a plant, either spontaneously or from an incision, and is used chiefly in medicinal preparations. Some of the more aromatic varieties are used in incense. Balsam of Peru, a fragrant, thick, deep brown or black fluid used in perfumes, is a true balsam, from a lofty leguminous tree, Myroxylon pereirae, native to and introduced into Sri Lanka. Balsam of Tolu (Colombia) is used in perfumes and in cough syrups and lozenges; it hardens with age. Canada balsam and Mecca balsam are not true balsams.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on balsam, visit Britannica.com.