Benzoin essential oil

Benzoin essential oil information

Benzoin essential oil information

General Information

Common: Name Benzoin

Scientific Name: Styrax benzoin

Family: Styracaceae

Origin: Sumatra, Java and Malaysia (‘sumatra benzoin’). Loas, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, and Thailand (‘siam benzoin’)

Synonyms: Gum benzoin, gum benjamin

Essential Oil Properties and Characteristics

A large tropical tree found in Thailand and adjacent islands. It has pale green citrus like leaves, whitish underneath, bearing hard-shelled flattish fruit about the size of a nutmeg. Benzoin is a pathological product, formed when the trunk is cut; the tree exudes the balsamic resin which hardens upon exposure to air and sunlight.

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

Sumatra crude benzoin occurs as greyish-brown brittle lumps with reddish streaks, with a styrax-like odour. Siam benzoin comes in pebble or tear-shaped orange-brown pieces, with a sweet balsamic vanilla-like scent, this type having a more refined odour than the Sumatra type.

Strictly speaking Benzoin is not an essential oil, as it is a pure resin which needs to be melted with heat before it can be used.

Origin and History

Benzoin 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, as a good urinary antiseptic and as an aid in digestion.

In the west, it is best known in the form of compound tincture of benzoin or Friars Balsam, used for respiratory complaints.

Method of Extraction

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 benzene is usually sold dissolved in ethyl glycol or a similar solvent. A ‘true’ absolute is also produced in small quantities.

Chemical composition

Sumatra Benzoin: mainly coniferyl cinnamate and sumaresinolic acid, with benzoic acid, cinnamic acid, and traces of styrene, vanillin and benzaldehyde.

Siam Benzoin: mainly coniferyl benzoate (65-75 per cent), with benzoic acid, vanillin, siaresinolic acid and cinnamyl benzoate.

Precautions During Use (Contraindications)

Benzoin is non-toxic, non-irritant, possible sensitisation.

Therapeutic properties

The therapeutic properties of benzoin oil include: Anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, antiseptic and astringent. It is soothing, warming and stimulating.

Its warming properties make it a valuable oil for use to help fend off winter ailments. It is also useful for helping people get through various life crises

Disclaimer: This information has been provided in good will and is considered to be correct at the time of writing (1st Jan 2005). Visitors should ensure they consult a medical practitioner if they are unsure about the use of essential oils.