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Common name: Benzoin, Gum Benzoin, Gum Benjamin

Latin name: Styrax benzoin

Botanical family:

Botanical description: Large tropical tree up to 50 to 70 feet high, with pale green citrus-like leaves. It releases a balsamic resin when the trunk is cut. The resin hardens on exposure to air.

Used part of the plant: Tears externally yellowish or rusty-brown. In blocks or lumps of varying size, made up of tears, compacted together  with a reddish-brown, reddish-gray, or grayish-brown resinous mass.

Origin: Sumatra.

Native to tropical Asia, the Benzoin is cultivated in Sumatra. The name "Benzoin" derives from the Arabic "luban-jawi" means "incense from Java". It has been imported, and used for centuries by the Chinese. Benzoin has been used in the Far East, as both an incense and medicine. Used for thousands of years to drive out evil spirits, it is used by the Chinese for respiratory and urinary problems of a "cold and damp" nature.

Uses: Powdered resin of Benzoin was popular in the Greek and Roman civilizations as an aromatic fixative for pot-pourris. In Medieval Europe it was a key ingredient in "Friar’s Balsam" and used for sore, cracked skin and respiratory complaints. Also called "pulmonary balsam" it was used in France for chronic coughs and bronchitis.

In Sumatra, the benzoin is collected by making incisions in the tree during its seventh year, only the unhealthy trees yielding resin.

Principle active: Sumatra benzoin contains coniferyl cinnamate, sumaresinolic acid, benzoic acid, cinnamic acid, styrene, vanillin.


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