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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

aka Benzoin laurel, Benzoin tree, Gum Benjamin, Gum Benzoin, Palembang benzoin, Sumatra Benzoin
(Styrax benzoin)
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ALSO: (S. tonkinensis) and (S. hypoglauca)

Storax is a vanilla-scented solid resin taken from the European species S. officinalis, which is used in perfumery, incense and medicine. The term 'storax' ALSO REFERS to the liquid balsam obtained from the species Liquidambar.

CONTAINS: 18% or more of benzoic acid alone and in combination with benzoresinol and siaresinotannol, and about 20% of cinnamic acid; also 1% vanillin, stryol, styracin, pheynl-prophyl, cinnamate, and benzaldehyde.

The Styrax genus is widely distributed throughout the world in the form of deciduous and evergreen shrubs and small trees appearing in North and South America, Asia and Europe. Sumatra benzoin is a tender evergreen tree found in rich woods and swamps of Sumatra, growing to a height of 25 feet with a 15 to 20 foot spread and being cultivated in Sumatra, Java, and Malaya. Bark is gray and resinous; leaves are ovate with very tiny teeth and a length of up to 5 to 6 inches, the undersides being downy and grayish to whitish; the cup shaped flowers appear in clusters of 10 to 20 and are fragrant, being about 1 to 1-1/4" wide. The average yield of gum resin is 3 lbs. annually for a period of 10 to 12 years, the first 3 years giving the best quality resin. When the tree is cut down, the resin is scraped out.

The Arab, Ibn Batuta, explored Sumatra between 1325 and 1349. He called it Luban Jawi which means 'frankincense of Java'.

The gum resin derived from S. benzoin became well known as an ingredient in Friar's Balsam (tincture of Benzoin). In Europe, the resin was subject to tax at the end of the 16th century, at which time it was known as 'Asa Dulcis'. In Chinese medicine it was first mentioned in an herbal in 1596 by Li Shi Zhen.

Astrologically ruled by the planet Mars and said to be sacred to Aphrodite, Venus, and Mut.

PROPAGATION: Usually collected from the wild but can be propagated by seed in autumn, and by semi-ripe cuttings in summer.
NEEDS: Moist to wet soil in sun or partial shade with a minimum temperature of 59.
HARVEST: Deep incisions are made in the trunks of the trees, which must be seven years old (no younger). The gum is collected from the wounds and stored in pieces, which are called 'tears', or compressed into a solid mass or made into tinctures. The gum resin [an xi xiang] of Sumatra benzoin is a whitish-gray or brown with a camphorish-cinnamon odor and is acrid in taste.
PART USED: Gum resin, essential oil.
FLOWERS: Spring and summer.
Siam Benzoin (S. tonkinensis): Native to Laos and North Vietnam. Chiefly contains benzoic acid - up to 38% - some of it free, some combined with benzoresinol and siaresinotannol; also, vanillin and an oily, aromatic liquid. It does NOT contain cinnamic acid. When pure, the resin should dissolve completely in alcohol and give up only traces of ash. The gum resin is yellow, orange or pale brown with a slightly acrid and bitter taste and a vanilla scent. It is the most expensive of the benzoin gums.
S. hypoglauca: Used as an alternative source of gum resin.


Astringent, expectorant, antiseptic, anti-spasmodic.
Has been used in Chinese medicine as a circulatory stimulant.
Has been used internally for coughs, colds, bronchitis, sore throat, wounds, ulcers, and mouth ulcers; also for chest and abdominal pain.
The tincture has been used in the vaporizor for congestion.
For external use, the tincture is combined 1 part to 2 parts of sterile water.

!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
GUM = 15 grains
BENZOIC ACID = 5 to 15 grains
COMPOUND TINCTURE OF BENZOIN, B.P. and U.S.P. = 1/2 to 1 drachm
TINCTURE OF BENZOIN, B.P.C. = 1/2 to 1 drachm

Is considered sedative and is used for colds, flu, chills, and itching skin conditions.

Used as an anti-oxidant in cosmetics, as a fixative in perfumes, in Friar's Balsam, and as a flavoring in commercial foods (chewing gum, baked goods, puddings, soft drinks and candy).
Once used extensively to flavor chocolate.
Used for incense, perfumes, scents for soap and in pharmaceutical products.
Esoterically used in incense to strengthen the mind. It is also said to make one more aware of the balance of light and dark.
It is also used as a religious and visionary herb to promote self-growth and inner development and to pursue spiritual journeys via mediation; also associated with travel.
In Taro it is associated with 7's in general and with the 7 of cups in particular.
In Catholic tradition, 10 parts of frankincense is added to 4 parts of benzoin and one of storax to create the incense.

©2003 & 2006 by Ernestina Parziale, CH