Balm, a tree the specific name being given because it was once supposed to be the Scriptural "Balm of Gilead" -- an opinion probably erroneous, for it does not at present grow in Gilead, either wild or in gardens, nor has it ever been satisfactorily proved that it ever did. It is a shrub or small spreading spineless tree, 10 to 12 feet high, with trifoliate leaves in fascicles of 2-6, and reddish flowers having four petals. It is found on both sides of the Red Sea, in Arabia, Abyssinia, and Nubia. It does not occur in Palestine.


Entry from Everybody's Cyclopedia, 1912.

Balm (?), n. [OE. baume, OF. bausme, basme, F. baume, L. balsamum balsam, from Gr. ; perhaps of Semitic origin; cf. Heb. basam. Cf. Balsam.]

1. Bot.

An aromatic plant of the genus Melissa.

2.

The resinous and aromatic exudation of certain trees or shrubs.

Dryden.

3.

Any fragrant ointment.

Shak.

4.

Anything that heals or that mitigates pain.

"Balm for each ill."

Mrs. Hemans.

Balm cricket Zool., the European cicada. Tennyson. -- Balm of Gilead Bot., a small evergreen African and Asiatic tree of the terebinthine family (Balsamodendron Gileadense). Its leaves yield, when bruised, a strong aromatic scent; and from this tree is obtained the balm of Gilead of the shops, or balsam of Mecca. This has a yellowish or greenish color, a warm, bitterish, aromatic taste, and a fragrant smell. It is valued as an unguent and cosmetic by the Turks. The fragrant herb Dracocephalum Canariense is familiarly called balm of Gilead, and so are the American trees, Populus balsamifera, variety candicans (balsam poplar), and Abies balsamea (balsam fir).

 

© Webster 1913.


Balm, v. i.

To anoint with balm, or with anything medicinal. Hence: To soothe; to mitigate.

[Archaic]

Shak.

 

© Webster 1913.

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