Storax balsam

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A petri dish of styrax

Storax (Latin: storax; Greek: στύραξ, stúrax),[1][2][3][4][5] often commercially sold as styrax, is a natural resin isolated from the wounded bark of Liquidambar orientalis Mill. (Asia Minor) and Liquidambar styraciflua L. (Central America) (Hamamelidaceae).[6] It is distinct from benzoin (also called "storax"), a similar resin obtained from the Styracaceae plant family.

Composition[edit]

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, circa 10% phenylpropyl cinnamate; small amounts of ethyl cinnamate, benzyl cinnamate, and styrene, Some may contain traces of vanillin. Some sources report a resin containing triterpenic acids (oleanolic and 3-epioleanolic acids).[7]

Uses[edit]

Storax has a pleasant, floral/lilac, leathery, balsamic smell. Storax and its derivatives (resinoid, essential oil, absolute) are used as flavors, fragrances, and in pharmaceuticals (Friar's Balsam).[6][8][9]

American storax resin (Liquidambar styraciflua) is chewed like gum to freshen breath and clean teeth.[10]

History[edit]

Mnesimachus, Aristotle, Theophrastus (Historia Plantarum), Herodotus, and Strabo are the first ones to mention the storax tree and its balsam. In ancient Greece, storax also denoted the spike at the lower end of a spearshaft.[11]

Pliny (Historia Naturalis 12.98, 15.26; 24.24) notes the use of storax as a perfume, while Scribonius Largus drank wine flavored with storax.[12] Ciris mentions storax as a fragrant hair dye.[13] Dioscorides (De materia medica 1.79) reports its use as incense, similar to frankincense, having expectorant and soothing properties.[14]

The 10th century Arab historian al-Masudi listed storax gum (mayʿa) as a spice in his book Murūdj al-dhahab (Meadows of Gold).[15]

Chao Ju-Kuan, a 13th century trade commissioner in Fukien province, described liquid storax gum as a product of the Somali (Po-pa-li) coast.[16]

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).[17]

Styrax benzoin 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.[10]

In the nineteenth century, styrene was isolated by distillation of storax balsam.[18]

In North Africa, for mystical purposes, women burn benzoin and storax in potsherds.[19]

Safety[edit]

Storax resin is "generally regarded as safe" (GRAS), but at low levels, for example, circa 15 ppm in candy and 25 ppm in baked goods.[7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Storax" in the American Heritage Dictionary
  2. ^ "Storax" in Merriam–Webster
  3. ^ "Storax" in the Oxford Dictionary Online
  4. ^ "Storax" in Webster's New World College Dictionary
  5. ^ "Storax" in the Collins Dictionary
  6. ^ a b Karl-Georg Fahlbusch; et al. (2007), "Flavors and Fragrances", Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry (7th ed.), Wiley, p. 115 
  7. ^ a b 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 
  8. ^ George A. Burdock (2010), "Styrax", Fenaroli's Handbook of Flavor Ingredients (6th ed.), Taylor & Francis, pp. 1853–1854 
  9. ^ "Compound Benzoin Tincture", British Pharmacopoeia, 3, 2009 
  10. ^ a b James A. Duke (2008), "Benzoin (Styrax benzoin Dryander.)", Duke's Handbook of Medicinal Plants of the Bible, Taylor & Francis, p. 445 
  11. ^ Henry George Liddell; Robert Scott, eds. (1897), "στύραξ", Greek-English Lexicon (8th ed.), Harper & Brothers, p. 1442 
  12. ^ "styrax", Oxford Latin Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 1968, p. 1832 
  13. ^ "storax", Oxford Latin Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 1968, p. 1825 
  14. ^ Dioscorides (1902), "Styrax", in Julius Berendes, De materia medica (PDF), PharmaWiki.ch, p. 89 
  15. ^ A. Dietrich (2004), "AFĀWĪH", The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 12 (supplement) (2nd ed.), Brill, pp. 42–43 
  16. ^ E. Cerulli; M. Orwin; G. S. P. Freeman-Greenville (1997), "SOMALI", The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 9 (2nd ed.), Brill, pp. 713–727 
  17. ^ Jehuda Feliks (2007), "Storax", Encyclopaedia Judaica, 19 (2nd ed.), Thomson Gale, p. 238 
  18. ^ Denis H. James; William M. Castor (2007), "Styrene", Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry (7th ed.), Wiley, p. 1 
  19. ^ D. S. Margoliouth (1997), "ḲĀDIRIYYA", The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 4 (2nd ed.), Brill, pp. 380–383