Styrax (storax) balsam is a recent natural resin isolated from the wounded bark of Liquidambar orientalis Mill. (Asia Minor) and Liquidambar styraciflua L. (Central America) (Hamamelidaceae). It is often called benzoic resin, a similar resin obtained from the Styracaceae plant family.
Purified storax contains circa 33 to 50 % storesin, an alcoholic resin, both free and as cinnamic esters. Contains 5 to 15 % cinnamic acid, 5 to 15 % cinnamyl cinnamate (styracin), circa 10 % phenylpropyl cinnamate; small amounts of ethyl cinnamate, benzyl cinnamate, and styrene (phenylethylene), traces of vanillin. Also a volatile oil (styrol, styracin, etc.) Some sources report a resin (storesin) containing triterpenic acids (oleanolic and 3-epioleanolic acids).
Storax has a pleasant, sweet, balsamic, slightly spicy odor. Storax and its derivatives (resinoid, essential oil, absolute) are used as flavors, fragrances, and in pharmaceuticals (Friar's Balsam).
American styrax resin (Liquidambar styraciflua) is chewed like gum to freshen breath and clean teeth.
Linnaeus, who determined the scientific names of plants, thought that storax was extracted from the tree called in modern Hebrew livneh refu'i which he termed Styrax officinalis. However in the light of tests made in Israel it is very doubtful if a sap with medicinal or aromatic qualities can be extracted from this tree. The storax of the ancients was probably extracted from a different tree, seemingly from the Liquidambar orientalis which grows wild in northern Syria and may even have been grown in Israel; from it is extracted an aromatic sap with healing qualities called storax liquidis. This may possibly be the biblical balm, though other sources conclude that the biblical balm is Balsam (opobalsamum).
Styrax officinalis is a more humid Asian species, reported from India, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Java, Sumatra, and Malaysia. Thus, this species historically would have needed to be imported from outside Israel.
In the nineteenth century, styrene was isolated by distillation of storax balsam.
- Karl-Georg Fahlbusch et al. (2007), "Flavors and Fragrances", Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry (7th ed.), Wiley, p. 115
- James A. Duke (2008), "Storax (Liquidambar orientalis Mill. and L., Styraciflua L.)", Duke's Handbook of Medicinal Plants of the Bible, Taylor & Francis, pp. 258–259
- George A. Burdock (2010), "Storax", Fenaroli's Handbook of Flavor Ingredients (6th ed.), Taylor & Francis, pp. 1853–1854
- "Compound Benzoin Tincture", British Pharmacopoeia 3, 2009
- James A. Duke (2008), "Benzoin (Styrax benzoin Dryander.)", Duke's Handbook of Medicinal Plants of the Bible, Taylor & Francis, p. 445
- Jehuda Feliks (2007), "Storax", Encyclopaedia Judaica 19 (2nd ed.), Thomson Gale, p. 238
- Denis H. James; William M. Castor (2007), "Styrene", Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry (7th ed.), Wiley, p. 1