Styrax benzoides

Styrax benzoides

Siam benzoin (Styrax benzoides Craib) is an arboreal species belonging to the Styracaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota Domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Subarign Tracheobionta,
Magnoliophyta Division,
Magnoliopsida class,
Ericales Order,
Styracaceae family,
Genus Styrax,
S. benzoides species.

Etymology –
The term Styrax comes from the Greek στῠραξ stýrax styrax, an aromatic resinous plant; according to some authors this name is derived from the Arabic as (si) tirax, resin that is extracted from different plants of the genus, according to others it is the Arabic name that derives from the ancient Greek.
The specific epithet benzoides comes from bɛnzoʊ.ɪn or benjamin and in reference to the benzoin species, due to the resin with a balsamic odor obtained from the bark.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Styrax benzoides is a plant native to Sumatra in Indonesia and present in East Asia and especially in southern Yunnan, Laos, Myanmar, northern Thailand, Siam and Vietnam.
Its natural habitat is that of forest areas, in the jungle, often in ravines and cliffs between 800 and 1000 m. s.l.m. although they can be found at very different altitudes.

Description –
Styrax benzoides is a plant in an arboreal or shrub form that reaches a height of 9-12 meters but even more.
The trunk has an average diameter of 20-30 cm and is straight, with a reddish-brown bark. The branches are densely gray-brown starry tomentose.
The leaves are alternate with a petiole of 1-1.5 cm, almost 4 angled; the leaf lamina is ovate to ovate-lanceolate, 5-7 X 3-6.5 cm, leathery, abaxially densely gray-brown tomentose starry, adaxially glabrous or densely stellate pubescent primary vein, rounded base, sub-integer margin, sharp apex ; they have secondary veins in 5-9 pairs, subparallel tertiary veins.
The inflorescences are axillary, in racemes or panicles; they bear many flowers, of 2,5-5 cm, with a pedicel of about 4 mm. The calyx is about 3.5 X 3 mm, trunk to wavy, rarely 5 teeth, densely starry tomentose. The corolla tube of about 2 mm; the lobes are oblong-lanceolate, about 9 x 2 mm. The filaments are hairy, densely starry on the free part.
The antesis is in the spring period.
The fruit is globose to subglobose, with a diameter of 1-1.6, wrinkled, densely gray starry tomentose, dehiscent with 3 valves.
The seeds are brown, hairless.
The plant bears fruit in October.

Cultivation –
In nature, the plants of Styrax benzoides grow from the plain to the plateau, that is, at an altitude of 60-2100 m asl.
It is a plant that does not require special cultivation requirements. Pedologically it can also be grown on various types of soil and can grow in a variety of other associations, ranging from heavily textured soils to lighter and less fertile to lush soils.
Young plants need a period of growth in a shaded area and then require, as adults, sunny exposure.
Furthermore, for optimal growth, plants require fairly high rainfall, and an evenly distributed intensity throughout the year.
Reproduction usually occurs by seed.

Customs and Traditions –
Styrax benzoides is a plant from which a resin is obtained which, in the air, tends to solidify into a rubber.
The resin is widely used in perfumery, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, mostly for external use.
It has excellent odorous properties, it is in fact an excellent perfume riser and an effective preservative of some fatty substances, which prevents oxidation. It is therefore perfect for aromatherapy.
The cosmetic industry also takes advantage of its valid astringent and, above all, depigmenting properties, with products to lighten freckles and skin spots in general. Cosmetic preparations containing benzoin are used when you want to obtain a lightening effect on reddened skin, but also as a deodorant and purifying. These latter prerogatives are also exploited in toothpastes and mouthwashes.
In the pharmacy it enters the composition of preparations useful for disinfecting small wounds of the skin and mucous membranes, for chilblains, breast fissures and burns.
The resin is also a specific remedy for some minor respiratory diseases, using it in mother tincture.
The tincture can be used for respiratory diseases but also to perfume and purify environments.

Preparation Method –
Styrax benzoides resin can be used as a mother tincture; in fact, just dissolve a few drops in boiling water and do balsamic and expectorant inhalations in case of colds, throat irritations, catarrhal coughs.
The resin can be found on sale in herbalist’s shops or in specialized shops.
The mother tincture is simple to prepare. The resin is finely ground in a mortar and macerated in alcohol for food use for 10 days, shaking often. The proportion is 20 g of resin in 100 ml of alcohol. At the end of the maceration period, it should be filtered and stored in dark glass bottles.
For cosmetic use, for reddened skin and freckles, dissolve 1.5 g of tincture in 100 ml of rose water. The product thus obtained is called Venus milk and is applied to the affected parts with a cotton swab.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.
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Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is taken for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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