Benzoin resin is a balsamic resin obtained from the bark of several species of trees in the genus Styrax. It is used in perfumes, some kinds of incense, as a flavoring, and medicine (see tincture of benzoin). Its principal component is benzoic acid. Commonly called "benzoin", it is called "benzoin resin" here to distinguish it from the chemical compound benzoin. Benzoin resin does not contain this crystalline compound.
Benzoin is also called gum benzoin or gum benjamin, but "gum" is incorrect as benzoin is not a water-soluble polysaccharide. Its name came via the Italian from the Arabic lubān jāwī (لبان جاوي, "frankincense from Java"), because it was brought from Indonesia. The Catalan traders, who bought lubān jāwī from moorish traders, modified the word by changing a to e and omitting the lu to benjawi. Italians further changed it into benjuì, and in Latin it became ultimately known as benzoë. In India it is commonly called loban (لوبان)(from lubān).
Benzoin resin is a common ingredient in incense-making and perfumery because of its sweet vanilla-like aroma and fixative properties. Gum benzoin is a major component of the type of church incense used in Russia and some other Orthodox Christian societies, as well as Western Catholic Churches. Most benzoin is used in Arab States of the Persian Gulf and India, where it is burned on charcoal as an incense. It is also used in the production of Bakhoor (Arabic بخور - scented wood chips) as well as various mixed resin incense in the Arab countries and the Horn of Africa. Benzoin resin is also used in blended types of Japanese incense, Indian incense, Chinese incense (known as Anxi xiang; 安息香), and Papier d'Arménie as well as incense sticks.
There are two types of benzoin resin used in incense and perfumery, benzoin Siam and benzoin Sumatra. Benzoin Siam is obtained from Styrax tonkinensis, found across Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Benzoin Sumatra is obtained from Styrax benzoin grown on the island of Sumatra. Both varieties are anti-pathogenic resins, which are exuded from the tree when it is damaged. Unlike Siamese benzoin, Sumatran benzoin contains cinnamic acid in addition to benzoic acid.
The use of benzoin resin, known as styrax in perfumery, is regulated by the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) and is considered a restricted substance due to its risk of causing sensitization potentially leading to generalized allergic response. IFRA Standard states– "Crude gums of American and Asian styrax should not be used as fragrance ingredient. Only extracts or distillates (resinoids, absolutes and oils)...can be used and should not exceed a level of 0.6% in consumer product." This regulation stands for both skin contact and non skin contact consumer products.
- Pastrorova I, de Koster CG, Boom JJ (1997). "Analytic Study of Free and Ester Bound Benzoic and Cinnamic Acids of Gum Benzoin Resins by GC-MS HPLC-frit FAB-MS". Phytochem Anal 8 (8): 63–73. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1099-1565(199703)8:2<63::AID-PCA337>3.0.CO;2-Y.
- Ricette di Osterie dell'Emilia, Arcigola Slow Food Editore, 1977 [ISBN 88-86283-29-6] p. 150
- St. Alban Blend
- Klemens Fielbach; Dieter Grimm (2007), "Resins, Natural", Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry (7th ed.), Wiley, p. 4
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