BENZOIN ESSENTIAL OIL (STYRAX BENZOIN):
Botanical Name: Styrax benzoin
Common Method of Extraction: Solvent Extracted
Part Typically Used: Resin
Color: Golden brown
Consistency: Thick Viscosity
Perfumery Note: Base
Strength of Initial Aroma: Sweet, warm and vanilla-like aroma
Styrax benzoin is a tree which originated in Laos and Vietnam, but now grows in and around Malaysia, Java and Sumatra.
Styrax benzoin is a species of tree native to Sumatra in Indonesia. Common names for the tree include gum benjamin tree, loban, kemenyan, onycha, and Sumatra benzoin tree. It is a common member of the forests of Sumatra, where it grows to about 15 meters in maximum height.
Benzoin is the gum resin which exudes from the bark after tapping and the trees can apparently produce resin in this way for about 15 to 20 years.
Benzoin oil is extracted from resin of the Styrax benzoin tree and belongs to the Stryracaceae family. The tree is from Java, Sumatra and Thailand and grows to 8 meters. Deep incisions are made in the trunk of the tree, from which the grayish colored sap exudes. When the resinous lump becomes hard and brittle, it is collected from the bark.
When incisions are made in the trunk of the tree it exudes a balsamic liquid which solidifies after exposure to air and sunlight, resulting in a reddish-brown gum. The balsamic liquid collects as “tears” beneath the bark or around the incision cuts and although it is known as a gum, it is actually a balsamic resin.
The oil is extracted from the balsamic resin by means of a solvent, and because the resulting resinoid is still too viscous (thick) to work with at this stage, a diluent is added to the resinoid to make it mobile and easier to use. After this process, the oil is referred to as a resinoid. The resulting oil has a balsamic, creamy aroma reminiscent of vanilla due the presence of a component called vanillin, which also occurs in vanilla.
Benzoin oil has been in use for thousands of years ago instances have been found of its use in some of the oldest civilizations of the world, particularly in their religious ceremonies. Benzoin, also known as gum Benjamin, is one of the classic ingredients of incense.
From early records we know benzoin resin was imported by the Chinese and the ancient Egyptians via the Red Sea. Papyrus records indicate that it was ground into powder and mixed with other substances such as pine, juniper, galbanum, cypress and labdanum into incense, and often made into cones that were placed on the heads of Egyptian dancers.
The Ancient Greeks and Romans knew benzoin, although they called it by quite different names – “Silphion” to the Greeks, and “Laserpitium” to the Romans. They would include the powdered resin in pot-pourris because of its very powerful fixative properties.
In England its use was first recorded between the 15th and 16th centuries when it was brought over by spice traders and used in powdered form to make dry perfumes, one of which was worn by Queen Elizabeth I.
The Portuguese navigator, Barboza, is thought to have introduced the precious resin to Europe. Later, in 1623, the resin’s properties were sufficiently valued for the British to set up a factory in Siam to produce and export it.
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