Scientific Name(S): Liquidambar orientalis, L. styraciflua Family: Hamamelidaceae
Levant storax (L. orientalis Mill.) is obtained from a small tree native to Turkey. American storax is obtained from L. styraciflua L., a large tree found near the Atlantic coast from New England to as far south as Central America. Also known as the sweet gum tree, red gum, bilsted, star-leaved gum, styrax, and the alligator tree.
Although not yet proven, storax may demonstrate similar antibacterial and protectant properties such as those of tea tree oil. Presently it is used topically as a skin protectant, as a flavor, and in perfumes.
There have been no demonstrated adverse effects.
The bark of the tree is mechanically ruptured in early summer, then stripped as late as autumn. The bark is then pressed in cold water alternating with boiling water, and crude liquid storax obtained from this process is collected. The crude balsam is then dissolved in alcohol, filtered, and collected in a manner so as not to lose the volatile constituents.
Storax has been used as an expectorant, especially in inhalation with warm air vaporizers. It has also been used to treat parasitic infections. The leaves are rich in tannins and have been used to treat diarrhea and to relieve sore throat. In Latin America, the gum is used to promote sweating and as a diuretic. It is also applied topically to sores and wounds. Storax had been used in the US as a component of hemorrhoid preparations, but today its only official use is as an ingredient in compound tincture of benzoin, where it is used as a topical protectant. Resins derived from storax have been used in perfumes, incense and as food flavors.
The reddish-brown wood of the tree, called satin walnut, is used in furniture making.
Crude storax is a gray, thick liquid with a pleasing odor but a bitter taste. About 85% of the crude material is alcohol soluble. Purified storax forms a brown semi-solid mass that is completely soluble in alcohol. Storax is high in free and combined cinnamic acid. Purified storax yields up to 47% total balsamic acids. Its major components include phenylethylene (styrene), cinnamic esters, and vanillin.
Upon steam distillation, the leaf yields an oily liquid containing about three dozen components, the major ones being terpinen-4-ol, alpha-pinene, and sabinene. Benzaldehyde is produced from certain chemical reactions with the cinnamic acid in storax. Storax also contains an aromatic liquid (styrocamphene).
Storax has been used in traditional medicine for many years and continues to be used topically as a skin protectant. It is also widely used as a flavor and in perfumes.
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