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Benzoin - Styrax benzoin

Family - Styracaceae

Synonyms
Gum Benzoin, gum benjamin, styrax benzoin.

General Description
A large tropical tree up to 20 meters high with a pale green citrus-like leaves, whitish underneath, bearing hard shelled flattish fruit about the size of a nutmeg. The benzoin is a pathological profuct, formed when the trunk is cut; the tree exudes a balsamic resin which hardens upon exposure to air and sunlight.

Distribution
Native to tropical Asia; the two main regions of production are Sumatra, Java and Malaysia for ' Sumatra'benzoin, and Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, China and Thailand for 'Siam ' benzoin.

Other Species

There are many different varieties within the Styrax family which produce benzoin, but these are generally classified under either Sumatra benzoin (S.paralleloneurus) or Siam benzoin ( S. tonkinensis) -see also Botanical Classification section.

Herbal/Folk Tradition
It has been used for thousands of years in the east as a medicine and incense; the fumigations were believed to drive away evil spirits. it was used by the Chinese herbalists for its heating and drying qualities, a good urinary antiseptic and as an aid to digestion.

In the west, it is best known in the form of compound tincture of benzoin or Friars balsam, used for respiratory complaints. Externally it is used for cuts and irritable skin conditions; internally it is used as a carminative for indigestion, etc. It also acts as a preservative of fats.

Actions
Anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, antiseptic, astringent, carminative, cordial, deodorant, diuretic, expectorant, sedative, styptic, vulnerary.

Extraction
The crude benzoin is collected from the trees directly. Benzoin resinoid, or 'resin absolute', is prepared from the crude using solvents, for example benzene and alcohol, which are then removed. Commercial benzoin is usually sold dissolved in ethyl glycol or similar solvent. A 'true absolute is also produced in small quantities.


Characteristics
1. Sumatra crude benzoin occurs as greyish- brown brittle lumps with reddish streaks, with a styrax-like odour. There are several different qualities available; the so-called 'almond' grade is considered superior.

2. Siam benzoin comes in pebble or tear-shaped orange-brown pieces, with a sweet balsamic vanilla-like scent, this type having more refined odour than the Sumatra type Benzoin resinoid is produced from both the Siam and Sumatra types, or a mix of the two. It is an orange-brown viscous mass with an intensely rich sweet-balsamic odour. It blends well with sandalwood, rose, jasmine, copaiba balsam, frankincense, myrrh, cypress, juniper, lemon, coriander and other spice oils.

Principal Constituents
1. Sumatra benzoin: mainly coniferyl cinnamate and sumaresinolic acid, with benzonic acid, cinnamic acid, and traces of styrene, vanillin and benzaldehyde.

2.Siam .benzoin: mainly coniferyl benzonate (65-75 per cent), with benzonic acid, vanillin, siaresinolic acid and cinnamyl benzoate.

Safety Data
Non-toxic, non-irritant, possible sensitization. Compound benzoin tincture is 'regarded as moderately toxic, due probably to occasional contact dermatitis developed in some individuals... which contains, in addition to benzoin, aloe, storax, Tolu balsam and others.

Safety Data
Non-toxic, non-irritant, possible sensitization. Compound benzoin tincture is 'regarded as moderately toxic, due probably to occasional contact dermatitis developed in some individuals... which contains, in addition to benzoin, aloe, storax, Tolu balsam and others.


Aromatherapy/Home Use
Skin care; Cuts, chapped skin, inflamed and irritated conditions.

Circulation:
Muscles and joints: Arthritis, gout, poor circulation, rheumatism.

Respiratory system:
Asthma, bronchitis, chills, colic, coughs, laryngitis.

Immune system
Flu

Nervous system
Nervous tension and stress related complaints. It warms and tones the heart circulation, both physically and metaphorically: This essence creates a kind of euphoria; it interposes a padded zone between us and events.

Immune system
'Flu

Nervous system
Nervous tension and stress related complaints. It warms and tones the heart circulation, both physically and metaphorically: This essence creates a kind of euphoria; it interposes a padded zone between us and events.

Other uses
Compound benzoin tincture is used in pharmaceuticals and in dentistry to treat gum inflammation. The resinoid and absolute are used extensively as fixatives and fragrance components in soaps, cosmetics, toiletries and perfumes, especially Siam benzoin. Both types are used in most food categories, including alcohols and soft drinks.
 

Reference: The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils: Julia Lawless

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