Definition of tolu in English:


(also tolu balsam)

Pronunciation: /təˈluː//ˈtəʊluː/


  • [mass noun] A fragrant brown balsam obtained from a South American tree, used in perfumery and medicine.

    • ‘The main constituents of tolu balsam are the benzyl- and cinnamyl esters of benzoic acid and cinnamic acid.’
    • ‘Taken internally, the balsam of tolu was described as a blood clarifier and systemic cleanser.’
    • ‘Natural, edible oil-soluble gums suitable for use in balancing natural and synthetic flavor oils and neutral edible oils include damar, colophony, Canada balsam, elemi, copaiba, galbanum, labdanum, myrrh, oliganum, opopanax, Peruvian balsam, sandarac, storax, tolu balsam and mastic.’
    • ‘Balsam of tolu was also included in the U.S. Pharmacopeia in 1820 and is used much as balsam of Peru.’
    • ‘Wild populations are the major sources of Peru and tolu balsam.’


Late 17th century: named after Santiago de Tolú in Colombia, from where it was exported.