All Blisters

Where To Buy Friars Balsam (Compound Benzoin Tincture) & How To Use It

Compound tincture of benzoin aka Friars balsam - NOLS wilderness medicine

What do you do if your feet are extremely sweaty and your blister taping won't stick? Or it your adventures include creek crossings, or running through wet grasses and you need a bandage, dressing or plaster to stay on for the duration? You use an adhesive enhancer. Something like Compound Benzoin Tincture, commonly referred to as Friar's Balsam.

The Origin and History of Compound Benzoin Tincture

Compound Benzoin Tincture (CBT) is a botanical product derived from plants of the family Styraceae. Benzoin producing plants are small to medium trees growing in tropical Asia. Benzoin is the product formed when the tree trunk is injured. It is produced by incising the bark and collecting the exuded resin after it hardens on exposure to air and light.

Benzoin is an ancient drug that has had more different Latin titles and synonyms since its origin in the 15th or 16th century than any other official preparation. Benzoin contains esters of cinnamic and benzoic acids together with free acids. Amounts and types of esters vary with its source. CBT is prepared by mixing benzoin with aloe, storax, and Tolu Balsam. Alcohol is used as the menstruum.

Alternative Product Names For Compound Benzoin Tincture, Including Friar's Balsam

  • Compound benzoin tincture
  • CBT
  • Compound tincture of benzoin
  • Tincture of benzoin
  • TBCo
  • Friar's balsam

What Is Benzoin?

"Benzoin is unrelated to benzoin resin or TBCo. Benzoin resin is commonly called benzoin (but is not the chemical compound of benzoin) and is also called gum benzoin or gum Benjamin. Tincture of benzoin is a pungent solution of benzoin resin in alcohol. A similar preparation called Friar's Balsam or Compound Benzoin Tincture (USP) contains, in addition, Cape aloes and storax (liquidambar resin)." Wikipedia

What Is A Tincture?

You want the tincture, not just benzoin. Tinctures form a film over the skin as they dry. They're sticky, that's why they’re used as adhesive enhancers.

"Tincture of benzoin is a pungent solution of benzoin resin in ethanol. A similar preparation called Friar's Balsam or Compound Benzoin Tincture contains, in addition, Cape aloes or Barbados aloes and storax resin. Friar's balsam was invented by Joshua Ward around 1760.” Wikipedia

What Does Compound Benzoin Tincture / Friar's Balsam Look Like

Compound benzoin tincture is a thin brown liquid.

  • It appears yellow/brown on the skin.
  • It is slightly tacky while it remains semi-wet on the skin, or as the skin perspires.
  • It's not tacky when it dries on the skin, which takes 30-60 seconds.
  • It markedly increases the adhesive strength of adhesive products (tapes, dressings, bandages, plasters).

Where Can You Buy Compound Benzoin Tincture / Friar's Balsam?

During the pandemic, and up until early 2024, the raw products of Compound Benzoin Tincture were unavailable. There was a worldwide shortage of the product as a result. It is not until recent months that has begun to be manufactured again. We're delighted to be able to add this to our product range again.

Compound Benzoin Tincture is available in several vessel types. Each has its pros and cons.

- Bottles

Bottles are great for home use where a cotton tip applicator can be used to apply the tincture as needed. It is a little bulky to carry the bottle and cotton tip applicators if you're packing ultra-light.

If bottles are to be used in a medical setting, to satisfy infection control procedures, the liquid would need to be decanted into a separate vessel, with the potential for wastage of the product.

We have the Gold Cross 25ml bottles available from our online store (AU/NZ only).

- Single-Use Ampoules

Single-use ampoules are a great low weight/bulk option for carrying Compound Benzoin Tincture during hiking, expedition and wilderness settings, within a first aid kit or blister kit. They are also a great options in medical and first aid settings where double-dipping into a bottle is in breach of infection prevention practises. There is less wastage of the product too.

Each ampoule contains 0.6ml (0.02 fl. oz.) of liquid and covers a whole foot, inlcuding the toes. One of the premium manufacturers of CBT single-use ampoules is James Alexander Corporation in New Jersey, USA.

We're glad to now offer the James Alexander Corp 0.6ml Compound Benzoin Ampoules in 6-Packs or a bulk Box of 100.

How To Use Friars Balsam

  1. Clean your skin of fluids, oils and debris
  2. Apply CBT to the area of skin you intend to cover with your tape or dressing, avoiding areas of open skin
  3. Allow to dry (30-60 seconds)
  4. Apply your tape or dressing over it

Caution

Area of application: Ideally, apply to the exact area of skin that your tape will adhere to. If you apply Friar's balsam over too large an area, as your skin perspires, the tincture will become sticky again. Then sock fibres, dirt and grit will stick to your skin. Not only that, the increased stickiness (higher coefficient of friction) means an increased likelihood of blisters. So, do be careful with your application. If you have any areas of exposed tincture, apply a small amount of powder or lubricant on these uncovered areas.

Not on injured/open skin: The base of Compound Benzoin Ticture is alcohol. If you put anything containing alcohol on an open blister, a cut, an abrasion or damaged skin due to things like eczema, it will sting. You only need to apply it to the intact skin around the skin breach, so your adhesive product will stick better.

Staining: The brown sticky liquid will make a mess and likely stain anything porous you get it on. So, be very careful with open bottles, saturated cotton tips and the applicator end of the ampoule.

How To Remove Residue

Wash thoroughly with soapy water. Dry vigorously to help remove the residue. Be sure to use a towel or flannel you don't mind staining, or use a disposable paper towel.

Hot-Shots

Compound Benzoin Tincture is also used during the blister treatment procedure affectionately known as the "hot-shot". You can read all about performing hot-shots, watch videos of the technique and learn my thoughts on this here.

Alternative Adhesive Enhancer Products

Wrapping Up

Use adhesive enhancers like Friars balsam when tapes don't stick well to your skin. In addition, if your skin is macerated or your shoes and socks are already wet, these products will help your dressings stay on. Personally, I use Skin-Prep wipes. They come in individual little packets and the liquid in them is colourless. So they're less messy compared to the brown Friars balsam. We have Skin-Prep wipes in both the ADVANCED and ULTRA Blister Kits.

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