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When you buy Styrax you should look twice, because there are both real and false Styrax. Real Styrax is extracted from the Storax tree (Styrax) and is also commonly known as "Benzoin". The resins of the following Storax trees are most commonly available here:
- Benzoin resin tree (Styrax benzoin),
- Chinese Storax tree (Styrax hemsleyanus),
- Japanese storax tree (Styrax japonicus),
- Obassia storax tree (Styrax obassia)
- and Siam benzoin resin tree (Styrax tokinensis).
In contrast, false styrax comes from the sweet gum (Liquidambar). It is actually not related to the Storax tree, but has a similar aroma and the same effect due to almost identical ingredients. Popular names such as "liquid amber" or "liquid amber" are to be understood here as a German translation of the original Latin name Liquidambar. In most cases, false styrax is obtained from the following types of sweet gum:
- American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua),
- Chinese sweet gum (Liquidambar formosana)
- and Oriental sweet gum (Liquidambar orientalis).
Profile of Storax and Amber trees
Scientific name: Styrax / Liquidambar
Plant family: Storax tree family (Styracaceae) / Sweet gum (Altingiaceae)
Popular names: Benzoin, mini acia, liquid amber, liquid amber
Origin: America, Asia, Mediterranean
- Respiratory diseases,
- Insect bites,
- inner unrest
- and aromatherapy.
Most important ingredients:
- Benzoic acid,
- and cinnamic acid.
Plant parts used: Tree resin
Herbal portrait: Incense with a long tradition
During the Storax tree patron saint of the Storax tree family (Styracaceae) the gum tree belongs to the gum tree family (Altingiaceae). The first descriptions of the use of Styrax resins for disease therapy have been in this regard since antiquity, although it is not always clear whether it was the resin of the Storax or the sweet gum tree.
In any case, Styrax already finds in the Papyrus Ebers, one of the most important medical writings from ancient Egypt, mention. The Harz was brought into the realm of the Pharaohs by the Phoenicians, because originally both amber and storax trees come from the Middle and Far East.
Arabic, Japanese and Traditional Chinese Medicine have long known Styrax as a healing natural resin. The resin was and is not only used for healing purposes. For example, it serves as the most important incense in religious ceremonies in the Greek Orthodox Church. Styrax was also a popular incense in paganism. The traditional production of incense styrax is very common, especially in Asia.
Useful information: In pre-Christian times, styrax was a more popular incense than myrrh and incense. Only with the biblical stories about the Three Wise Men from the East, who presented the little Jesus child with gold, incense and myrrh as gifts from the three kings, did the resin of the Storax tree slowly lose its importance.
Regardless of whether it is a storax or amber tree, the important ingredients are mainly found in the resin of both trees. It is obtained by so-called "resinating" the trees by carving their bark down to the resin channels of the tree trunk below. The plant sap, also known as (tree) pitch, then flows out of the resulting notches in the tree bark, where it is collected in special containers. After the drying process, the tree resin is then crushed, creating the typical resin crumbs.
The real Storax tree (Styrax officinalis) was previously repeatedly discussed as the actual source of real Styrax resin. A report from Swiss Botanical Society however, unlike other Storax trees, the tree does not secrete resin and has no resin channels. It is therefore assumed that the Styrax officinalis is not the resin, but the parts of the plant that have a medicinal effect.
Ingredients and effects
The resins of the amber and storax trees are rich in essential oils and are among the so-called balsam resins. The word balsam in this context describes tree resins, which are a combination of
- Benzoic acid,
- Cinnamic acid
- and vanillin
consist. In addition to the balsam tree itself, the storax tree and the gum tree are also part of the balsamic plants. The two Styrax suppliers have one thing in common:
- Medicines for respiratory diseases,
- Breath and air freshener,
- Skin care product,
- Insect repellent,
- Incense for aromatherapy,
- Ritual incense,
- and perfume.
Vanillin gives Styrax more than a sweet aroma
The flavoring vanillin is not only contained in the spice vanilla. Scented plants such as the amber and storax tree also have a high content of the aromatic substance. In addition to its unique smell, vanillin also has some healing properties, including one
- metabolism and digestive,
- muscle strengthening,
- and aphrodisiac
Effect. Until the 18th century, vanillin was therefore used in pharmacies as an active ingredient for the treatment of
- Nausea and vomiting,
- increased irritability,
- Muscle weakness,
- Potency problems
- and depression
traded. Styrax could therefore be a recommendation for aromatherapy in the event of complaints.
Aromatic carboxylic acids of the Styrax clean the airways
The carboxylic acids contained in the Styrax are also aromatic. At the top of the list would be cinnamic acid, another plant aroma that further enhances the sweet, heavy vanilla scent of the balsam resin.
Together with the fragrance cinnamon alcohol, cinnamic acid in the Styrax also forms the so-called Styracin, which is often used for the production of perfumes, room fragrances, aromatic toilet paper, massage and baby oil. For the healing effects of Styrax in respiratory diseases such as
- and whooping cough
is also responsible for benzoic acid. This carboxylic acid is not only aromatic, it also has one
- and analgesic
Effect. Benzoic acid is used today, for example, in expectorants and cough syrups such as mucosolvan or ambroxol. Inhalation therapy with Styrax is also possible for respiratory diseases and their symptoms.
In the case of bad breath and gingivitis, gargling with mouthwash is recommended, which contains benzoic acid as an ingredient. Skin problems like
- Cold sores
- and dermal inflammation
can be cured by rubbing the affected skin with benzene-containing Styrax oil.
By the way: Styrax's sweet flavors may be invigorating and relaxing for people. However, insects cannot stand the sweet, heavy smell of death and experience has shown that they stay away from any room that even smells of Styrax. So if you have to deal with annoying mosquitoes in summer, we recommend that you smoke your four walls regularly with Styrax. In the case of insect bites or to prevent them, liquid Styrax extract can also be applied to affected skin areas.
|Overview of effective ingredients in Styrax|
|Vanillin||creates a sweet aroma; has an aphrodisiac, invigorating, muscle-strengthening, calming, metabolic and digestive effect|
|Cinnamic acid||gives sweet scents a tart, heavy note|
|Benzoic acid||is aromatic; has an antibiotic, antiseptic, expectorant and analgesic|
This is how smoking with Styrax works
The essential oils of the Styrax can be processed very versatile. For this purpose, the balsam resin is placed in alcohol and an oily alcohol extract is extracted by steam distillation. Depending on the purpose of the extract, Styrax oil can later be used to manufacture individual products (e.g. perfume or incense). In addition, the use of pure oil is also conceivable.
Smoke styrax resins properly
Traditionally, the Styrax or Benzoin resin is smoked in its pure form. For this you first need an incense burner (for example a censer or incense burner), which is filled with a layer of sand that is one to two centimeters thick. Then you light a piece of smoke or charcoal. As soon as the coal glows, place it on the sand and put a few crumbs of the Storax resin on it. Alternatively, the coal can also be drizzled with a few drops of Styrax oil.
Tip: It is best to wait until the charcoal on the sand has thoroughly glowed and has added a slightly whitish ash coating on the edge before adding incense. Tools such as fans or feathers speed up the process. To protect your fingers from the hot embers, you should always work with tweezers with this smoking variant.
Incense with essential oils of styrax resins
The essential Styrax oil does not necessarily have to be smoked on charcoal. A fragrance lamp is ideal here, which is provided with a little water and a few drops of Styrax oil. Then place an ignited tea light under the bowl of the fragrance lamp. The advantage of this smoking variant is that there is no smoke. Instead, the room air is gently enriched with Styrax steam.
Other uses of Styrax
- For those who find incense to be inconvenient to smoke, the best thing to do is to buy conventional styrax incense sticks. They can be easily put into a chopstick holder and glow down by themselves after lighting.
- Mouthwash with Styrax for bleeding gums or bad breath usually contains other herbal ingredients for oral care, including thyme or sage.
- Styrax-containing creams - these care products rely on a combination effect of Styrax balm and other medicinal plants.
Side effects and contraindications
- Styrax resin and Styrax oil should always be used sparingly when smoking. Too much of the essential balsamic oils can cause headaches, dizziness, or nausea.
- There are no known contraindications to Styrax.
Storax and amber trees have proven themselves as medicinal trees
The experience of Styrax has always been positive across all ages. The recommendations of famous healing and ethnologists also speak for the balsam resin. The Greek doctor and pharmacologist Dioskurides recommended Styrax officinalis in his legendary medication “Materia Medica”, for example for coughs, catarrh, colds and hoarseness, which proves the good healing properties of storax trees for respiratory diseases.
The German doctor and founder of homeopathy Samuel Hahnemann stated in his "Apothekerlexikon" that benzoin was prescribed for "slimy tightness". Similar to Dioskurides, this probably means respiratory diseases that lead to chest tightness and mucus accumulation in the bronchi. Hahnemann also advised to use benzoin resin for tooth problems.
A statement by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, who often also dealt with folk herbal knowledge, could indicate an ancient use of Styrax as an insect repellent. The ethnologist is known for his mystical formulations and wrote that "the winged snakes that are found in frankincense trees can only be driven away with styrax incense". What is meant here is the resin of the sweetgum tree.
The price of the Storax resin is preserved in a tradition from Pliny the Elder. In his encyclopedia of natural research "Naturalis historia" he writes that the price for a pound of pure resin was 17 silver denarii. At that time it was very expensive and only the most exquisite medicinal extracts, herbs and fragrances could achieve such a pound price on the market. It can therefore be assumed that the balm of the Storax trees has lived up to its reputed healing properties since ancient times and was therefore highly valued.
Buy Styrax - Styrax is not just Storax resin
As already mentioned at the beginning, when buying Styrax you should always pay attention to whether it is resin from the amber or storax tree. If you have special requests here, you have to be very careful not to be ripped off. The term "benzoin" can be very helpful, because it can only be used for products made from genuine Storax resin.
Styrax is one of the oldest incense resins in the world and was even more popular than frankincense and myrrh in its day. Today the benefits of the balsam resin obtained from Storax and Amber trees are gradually being rediscovered, the resin being used primarily for aromatherapy for respiratory diseases. In addition, the sweet, heavy smell of Styrax successfully removes insects and pests. The resin is also suitable for meditation and relaxation. (ma)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Miriam Adam, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
- Marzell, Heinrich: Dictionary of German Plant Names, Avus, 2000
- Luo G. et al .: "Analysis of cinnamic acid in storax and its original plant by HPLC", in: China journal of Chinese materia medicam, 21 (12), January 1997, NCBI
- Busch, D.W.H. et al .: Encyclopedic Dictionary of Medical Sciences, published by Veit et Comp, 1940
- Yang, Yifan: Chinese Herbal Medicines: Comparisons and Characteristics, Elsevier, 2002