Jump to Navigation

We've moved! The new address is http://www.henriettes-herb.com - update your links and bookmarks!

Styrax (U. S. P.)—Storax.

Related entry: Liquidambar.—Sweet-Gum

"A balsam prepared from the inner bark of Liquidambar orientalis, Miller"—(U.S.P.) (Liquidambar imberbe, Aiton).
Nat. Ord.—Hamamelaceae.
COMMON NAMES AND SYNONYMS: Liquid storax, Balsamum storacis, Prepared storax, Styrax praeparatus (Br.).
ILLUSTRATION: Bentley and Trimen, Med. Plants, 107.

Botanical Source.—This tree is a native of Asia Minor, in the extreme southwest of which country it is gregarious, forming forests of trees of from 20 to 60 feet high. The leaves are bright-green, perfectly smooth even at the axils of the veins on the under side, shining above, pale beneath, palmate, with serrated, obscurely trilobed divisions. The aments or catkins are of distinct sexes, monoecious, having a common 4-leaved deciduous involucre; males conical; anthers numerous and subsessile; females globose, composed of small scales which surround the ovary, grow together, and gradually enlarge; calyx urceolate, 1-leafed, 2-flowered; styles 2, subulate; capsules 2, oblong, 1-celled, many-seeded (L.—Jus.).

Ɣ History and Preparation.—Mr. Daniel Hanbury, in 1857, ascertained that the original storax, derived from Styrax officinale, had disappeared from commerce, and that the liquid storax then in the market was collected in the southwestern part of Asia Minor, from Liquidambar orientalis, or Oriental sweet-gum tree (see Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1857, p. 249, and 1863, p. 436). The district opposite the islands of Samos and Rhodus is now known to be the only place on the globe where liquid storax is collected on a commercial scale. This is done, according to Mr. H. Massopust (1896), by removing strips of the whole bark lengthwise, by means of a sharp instrument, laying bare the wood. One-fourth of the total bark is removed in one season, which lasts from July to September, during which time the tree is in its sap. The bark is made into bundles and softened by throwing them into kettles with boiling water, and is then pressed out in bags made of goat's hair or in baskets. The balsam is then put into barrels, together with about one-fourth its weight of water. This is intended to keep the balsam soft and prevent loss of its aroma. Before the storax is put on the market, the water is poured off, and the balsam is kneaded with a stick so as to remove "the last drop of water." On storax so treated, the seller allows 16 per cent of tare. It is also made up in tin cans which are put in to boxes (Prof. J. Weller, Zeitschr. des Allg. Oesterr. Apotheker-Vereins, 1896, p. 19). It is shipped to Constantinople, Smyrna, and Bombay, and reaches the western commerce by way of Trieste.

The residual bark from which storax is removed by pressure, is also an object of commerce under the name of Cortex thymiamati. It has a strong odor of storax, and is used at Trieste in the preparation of Storax calamitus, which is a mixture of ground cortex thymiamati (3 parts) with liquid storax (1 part) and some olibanum (J. Moeller, loc. cit.), the purpose being to bring storax into a more easily manageable form. Exposed to the air for some time, it becomes covered with a whitish efflorescence consisting of styracin (see page 1856 (a few paragraphs down)). Much of the commercial storax calamitus however, is merely "an odoriferous sawdust." (See an interesting article on storax, in Pharm. Era, Vol. VIII, 1892, p. 135.)

Description and Tests.—The official storax must conform to the following requirements: "A semiliquid, gray, sticky, opaque mass, depositing, on standing, a heavier, dark-brown stratum; transparent in thin layers, and having an agreeable odor and a balsamic taste. Insoluble in water, but completely soluble (with the exception of accidental impurities) in an equal weight of warm alcohol. If the alcoholic solution, which has an acid reaction, be cooled, filtered, and evaporated, it should leave not less than 70 per cent of the original weight of the balsam, in the form of a brown, semiliquid residue, almost completely soluble in ether and in carbon disulphide, but insoluble in benzin"—(U S. P.). This evidently refers to cold benzin, as some constituents of storax are soluble in boiling benzin (see Chemical Composition). "When heated on a water-bath, storax becomes more fluid, and if it be then agitated with warm benzin, the supernatant liquid, on being decanted and allowed to cool, will be colorless, and will deposit white crystals of cinnamic acid and cinnamic ethers"—(U.S. P.).

Storax is heavier than water. It is sometimes adulterated with mineral matters, resin, turpentine, etc. If large quantities of resins are present, the balsam hardens in cold weather; genuine storax has at all seasons more or less the consistency of honey (J. Moeller, loc. cit.). An important aid in detecting the presence of turpentine and other resins in storax consists in determining the acid number, the saponification and iodine numbers, and other data (see for example, F. Evers, Jahresb. der Pharm., 1896, p. 116; and K. Dieterich, ibid., 1897, p. 11). The British Pharmacopoeia and the German Pharmacopoeia direct that storax be purified by alcohol previous to its being used medicinally.

Chemical Composition.—The chief constituents of storax are certain esters of cinnamic acid, together with free cinnamic acid. These esters are crystallizable styracin (cinnamyl-cinnamate, C6H5CH:CH.COOC9H9, derived from cinnamyl-alcohol C9H9OH, or C6H5CH:CHCH2OH); oily phenyl-propylcinnamate (C6H5CH:CH.COOCH2CH2CH2C6H5), ethyl cinnamate (C6H5CH:CH.COOC2H5), and the cinnamate of the trivalent alcohol storesin (C36H55[OH]3), a substance existing in storax also uncombined and in the form of a sodium compound. It constitutes altogether about one-half of the weight of storax (W. von Miller, Liebig's Annalen, 1877, and Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1878, p. 455; also compare Liquidambar). Other constituents of storax are water (from about 20 to 25 per cent), the hydrocarbon styrol, resin, caoutchouc, ethyl-vanillin, traces of benzoic acid, etc.

W. von Miller, in separating these constituents, proceeded as follows: Storax was wrapped in a linen bag and heated in the vapors of distilling water. The distillate contained volatile styrol (styrolene, cinnamene, phenyl-ethylene, C8H8, or C6H5.CH:CH2). The residual storax passed through the cloth, leaving caoutchouc and resin. The storax was next extracted with 3 times its quantity of diluted caustic soda solution (of about 5 per cent NaOH). This dissolved part of the storesin and all of the free cinnamic acid. The former was precipitated from the solution by carbonic acid gas, then the latter by hydrochloric acid. The residual storax was extracted with cold alcohol, the solvent distilled off, and the residue treated with hot petroleum-ether, which dissolved styracin and the other esters, leaving the remainder of storesin undissolved.

Cinnamic acid (C6H5CH:CH.COOH) is the common constituent of several balsams, e. g., balsam of Peru, tolu, storax, etc., and is formed in old oil of cinnamon by oxidation of cinnamic aldehyde (Dumas and Péligot, 1834). It has also been obtained synthetically from benzaldehyde (bitter almond oil) by Perkin. Storax usually yields between 6 and 12 per cent of the acid, but Loewe obtained as much as 23 per cent. It forms shining, odorless crystals of an aromatic, somewhat acrid taste, soluble in hot water, alcohol, and ether. Oxidizers convert it into benzaldehyde and benzoic acid. Its cinnamyl-ester is styracin; its benzyl-ester is cinnameïn (see Balsam of Peru).

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Storax is a stimulant, acting more especially upon mucous tissues, as do nearly all balsams. It has been found beneficial as an expectorant in cough, chronic catarrh, asthma, bronchitis, and other pulmonary affections; also in gonorrhoea, leucorrhoea, and gleet, in which it is as efficient, and more pleasant than copaiba. In fact the uses of storax are very similar to those of the latter balsam. Combined with tallow or lard, it forms a valuable application in many forms of cutaneous disease, especially those common to children, as ringworm, tinea, ringworm of the scalp, scabies, etc. It forms a good application for ulcerations, the result of freezing the fingers or toes. It is much used, on account of its fragrance, for compounding ointments and pills, and is an excellent addition to opium in the form of pill, when it is necessary to conceal the taste and smell of this narcotic; 3 or 4 grains of storax may be combined with 1 grain of opium for this purpose. The dose of storax is from 10 to 20 grains, gradually increased.

Related Species and Preparations.Styrax officinale, Linné, is a small tree growing from 12 to 20 feet or more in height, with the branches alternate and round, having its bark smooth, and the young shoots downy. This plant inhabits the Levant, Palestine, Syria, and is common all over Greece; it is cultivated in several parts of Europe, but at the present, day produces no balsam. It formerly yielded true storax, an article no longer in commerce (see Pharmacographia).

[image:24385 align=left hspace=1]Liquidambar Formosana, Hance.—Formosa and southern China. Yields "a dry, terebinthinous resin of agreeable fragrance when heated"—(Pharmacographia). The Chinese use it.

Altingia Excelsa, Noronha (Liquidambar Altingiana, Blume).—The rasamala, of Java and Malaysia. Yields a fragrant resin (see Pharmacographia).

Symplocos racemosa, Roxburgh (Nat. Ord.—Stryraceae), Lotur bark.—India. Contains 3 alkaloids, loturine, colloturine, loturidine (Hesse). In dilute acid solutions all show deep violet-blue fluorescence. In India this bark enters into numerous preparations for bowel disorders, and a decoction is used to give "firmness to spongy and bleeding gums." It is also used in menorrhagia, and as a mordant in dyeing red (Dymock, Mat. Med. of Western India).

MACKENZIE'S SYRUP.—A preparation known as Mackenzie's syrup, and which has obtained considerable celebrity in some sections of the country, as a remedy in consumption, coughs, laryngitis, etc., is made as follows: Take of colombo root and horehound, each, 2 ounces; boneset, 1 ounce; pleurisy root, 4 ounces; water, 2 gallons. Boil until one-half of the water has evaporated; subject the articles to another boiling in freshwater, add the two decoctions together, strain and evaporate to 6 quarts. To this add sugar, 5 pounds; Canada balsam, 1 pound; liquid storax, 1/2 pound; wheat bran, 2 pints; subject to a gentle heat for 2 hours; add beeswax, 1 pound, and let it stand for 24 hours to cool; strain, add 1 pint of yeast, let the mixture stand for 6 days, and put it into well-corked bottles. The dose is 1 or 2 tablespoonfuls, 3 times a day. The sugar and the balsams are undoubtedly the active agents of this heterogeneous compound.

King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.

Main menu 2