Sumatra Benzoin

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Chapter: Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry : Drugs Containing Resins

Sumatra Benzoin is obtained from the incised stem of Styrax benzoin Dryander and Styrax parallelo-neurus Perkins., belonging to family Styraceae. It contains about 25% of total balsamic acids, calculated as cinnamic acid






Gum Benjamin; Benzoinum; Benzoin; Luban (Hindi).


Biological Source


Sumatra Benzoin is obtained from the incised stem of Styrax benzoin Dryander and Styrax parallelo-neurus Perkins., belonging to family Styraceae. It contains about 25% of total balsamic acids, calculated as cinnamic acid


Geographical Source


The trees are found in Sumatra, Malacca, Malaya, Java, and Borneo.




The plants are medium-sized trees. Sumatra Benzoin is a pathological resin which is formed by making incision and by attack of fungi. In Sumatra the seeds are sown in rice fields. The rice plants provide protection to benzoin plants during first year. After harvesting of the rice crop the trees are allowed to grow. When they are 7 years old, three triangular wounds are made in a vertical row. Tapping consists of making in each trunk three lines of incisions which are gradually lengthened. The first triangular wounds are made in a vertical row about 40 cm apart, the bark between the wounds being then scraped smooth. The first secretion is very sticky and is rejected. After making further cuts, each about 4 cm above the preceding ones, a harder secretion is obtained. Further incisions are made at three-monthly intervals, and the secretion becomes crystalline. About 6 weeks after each fresh tapping the product is scraped off, the outer layer (finest quality) being kept separate from the next layer (intermediate quality). About 2 weeks later the strip is scraped again, giving a lower quality darker in colour and containing fragments of bark. Fresh incisions are then made, and the above process is repeated. Second exudation is milky white and is used for medicinal purpose. The stem is incised four times during one year. AH types of exudations are sent to industry for further processing. A single tree yields about 10 kg of resin per year and is completely exhausted by the 19th year of its life.

          Styrax benzoin



Sumatra benzoin occurs in brittle masses consisting of opaque, whitish, or reddish tears embedded in a translucent, reddish-brown or greyish-brown, resinous matrix. Odour, agreeable and balsamic, taste, slightly acrid. Siamese benzoin occurs in tears or in blocks. The tears are of variable size and flattened; they are yellowish-brown or reddish-brown externally, but milky-white and opaque internally. The block form consists of small tears embedded in a glassy, reddish-brown, resinous matrix. It has a vanilla-like odour and a balsamic taste.


When heated, benzoin evolves white fumes of cinnamic and benzoic acids which readily condense on a cool surface as a crystalline sublimate.


Chemical Constituents


Sumatra Benzoin consists of free balsamic acid (cinnamic and benzoic acids) (25%) and their esters. The amount of cinnamic acid is usually double that of benzoic acid. It also contains triterpenic acids like siaresinolic acid (19-hydroxy-oleanolic acid) and sumaresinolic acid (6-hydroxy-oleanolic acid); traces of vanillin, phenylpropyl cinnamate, cinnamyl cinnamate, and phenylethylene.





Sumatra Benzoin possesses expectorant, antiseptic, carminative, stimulant, and diuretic properties. It is used in cosmetic lotions, perfumery and to prepare Compound Benzoin. It forms an ingredient of inhalations in the treatment of catarrh of upper respiratory tract in the form of Compound Benzoin Tincture. Benzoin is used as an external antiseptic and protective, and is one of the main ingredients of Friar’s Balsam. It is also used to fix the odour of incenses, skin-soaps, perfumes and other cosmetics and for fixing the taste of certain pharmaceutical preparations. Benzoin retards rancification of fats and is used for this purpose in the official benzoinated lard, also used in food, drinks and in incense.


Allied Drug


Palembang benzoin, an interior variety produced in Sumatra is collected from isolated trees from which the resin has not been stripped for some time. It is very light in weight and breaking with an irregular porous fracture. It consists of reddish-brown resin, with only a few very small tears embedded in it. Palembang benzoin is used as a source of natural benzoic acid.


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