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Benzoinum

Botanical name:

Benzoinum (from Styrax benzoin), curiously enough escaped the attention of the Greeks and Romans, nor, so far as is known, did those energetic tradesmen of the tenth to the thirteenth centuries, the Arabians and Persians, carry it to China. Ibn Batuta (333a) 1325-49, mentions "Java frankincense," which under the Arabian name became corrupted into Banjawi, Benjui, Benzui, Benzoë, Benzoin, and finally even Benjamin. After a hundred years the sultan of Egypt, Melech Elmaydi, sent it to the doge of Venice among other presents, and in 1490 a second doge of Venice was presented with a larger amount by the same sultan of Egypt. Considered still a precious balsam, in 1476 Caterina Cornaro, queen of Cyprus, received from Egypt 15 pounds of "Benzui." Thence travelers in Siam and the Malabar Coast, Venetian tradesmen, and others, gave it due consideration, during and after which time it became regularly imported into Europe. Being submitted to dry distillation in rude paper cones over a pan, the condensed distillate, or flowers, under the name of Flores Benzoës, in the 17th century, gave origin to the now familiar Benzoic Acid. Thus from the empiricism of the past this grateful flavoring agent and preservative was introduced to the medicine and pharmacy of to-day.


The History of the Vegetable Drugs of the U.S.P., 1911, was written by John Uri Lloyd.



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