As this is the only genus of the order, its characters are necessarily those of the latter. It consists of a very small number of species, of which none probably are officinal. But, as their balsamic products have been confounded with storax and balsam of Peru (two officinal substances), a short notice of them is requisite.
1. L. Styraciflua, Linn.; Sweet Gum; White Gum.—A native of the United States and Mexico, attaining, in ihe southern districts, an immense size. In Louisiana and Mexico there is obtained, by making incisions into the stem, a fluid balsamic juice called liquidambar or copalm balsam. In this fluid state it constitutes the liquid liquidambar, or oil of liquidambar of Guibourt. It is transparent, amber-yellow, has the consistence of a thick oil, a balsamic odour, and an aromatic, acrid, bitter taste. By time it concretes, and becomes darker coloured. The soft solid called by Guibourt soft or white liquidambar, is perhaps a mixture of the opake deposit of the fluid balsam, and of the latter rendered concrete by keeping. It is a soft, almost opake solid, very similar in appearance to concrete turpentine. Its odour is similar to, though weaker than, the liquid balsam. Its taste is balsamic and sweetish. Bonastre [Journ. de Pharm. t. xvii, p. 338, 1831.] analyzed a very fluid sample, recently received from America, and found it to consist of—volatile oil, 7.0, semi-concrete matter, 11.1; benzoic acid, 1.0; crystalline matter soluble in water and alcohol, 5.3; yellow colouring matter, 2.05; oleo-resin, 49.0; styracin, 24.0; loss, 0.55. The volatile oil consists, according to Henry, of C10H7. Styracin is a fusible, crystalline substance, soluble in boiling alcohol, and composed, according to Henry, of C11H5O2. The proportion of benzoic [cinnamic?] acid is increased by time. Mr. Hodgson [Journal of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, vi. 190.] obtained from a sample which he examined 4.2 per cent.
Liquidambar has been confounded with both white balsam of Peru and liquid storax. The liquidambar which I have received from M. Guibourt is quite different from a genuine sample of the white balsam of Peru received by me from Guatemala, and it is equally different from the liquid storax of the shops. And Dr. Wood [United States Dispensatory] observes that some of the genuine juice of liquidambar styraciflua brought from New Orleans, which he examined, had an odour entirely distinct from that of liquid storax.
A thick, dark-coloured, opake, impure substance is obtained from the young branches of this species by boiling them in water and skimming off the fluid balsam which rises to the surface. This also has been confounded with liquid storax, but none of it comes to this country.
The effects and uses of liquidambar are similar to those of storax and other balsamic substances. The dose of it is from ten to twenty grains.
2. L. Altingia, Blume; Altingia excelsa, Noronha.—A native of Java, where it is called Ras sama-la (Rasamalla or Rosa-mallas, Auct.) It yields a fragrant balsam, which by some writers has been regarded as the liquid storax of the shops. But the latter substance comes to England by way of Trieste, and, according to Landerer, [Pharmaceutisches Central-Blatt für 1840, p. 11.] is ihe produce of Styrax officinale, and as such I shall describe it hereafter (see Styrax officinale). [Phil. Trans. vol. xxvi. p. 44.] Petiver says that the Rosa-mallas grows in Cobross, an island at the upper end of the Red Sea, near Cadess, which is three days' journey from Suez. Its bark is removed annually, and boiled in salt water until it comes to a consistence like birdlime; it is then separated, put in barrels (each holding 420 lbs.), and sent to Mocha, by way of Judda. The Arabs and Turks call it Cotter Mija.
Dr. Marquart [Jahrb. für prakt. Pharmacie, Bd. v. p. 486 (quoted by Dierbach, in the Ergänzungsheft to Geiger's Handb. d. Pharm. 2te Aufl. 1843.] analyzed some of the genuine resin of L. Altingia, and, by distillation with carbonate of soda, obtained a volatile oil resembling styrol, and a substance resembling styracin, but which had a different composition.
3. L. orientale, Miller; L. imberbe, Aiton; Platanus orientalis, Pocock.—This tree grows in Cyprus, where it is called Xylon Effendi (the wood of our Lord). By incisions made in the bark, it yields a kind of white turpentine, and a very fragrant oil. Dr. Lindley thinks it is probable that the liquid storax of the shops is collected from this tree; but I do not agree with him in this opinion.