Styrax benzoin. Benzoin, Benjamin tree.

Botanical name: 

Related entry: Benzoin odoriferum

Description: Natural Order, Styraceae. This is a tree native to the East India islands; twenty to forty feet high, covered with a soft and whitish bark. Leaves alternate, oblong, smooth above, downy beneath, entire. Flowers in long compound, axillary racemes, with a funnel-shaped corolla. The bark, on being wounded, exudes a viscid juice that is very fragrant, and which slowly dries into whitish, yellowish-white, and sometimes reddish-brown tears. These come to market in compact and mottled masses, which are hard and brittle, and may be reduced to powder readily. They are a compound of different resins, united with a substance named benzoic acid; and thence properly a balsam. Water acts slightly upon them, and becomes impregnated with the benzoic acid; alkaline waters dissolve out the acid in considerable quantities; and alcohol of eighty percent acts on them freely.

Properties and Uses: This balsam is valued mostly for its fragrance, and its stimulating expectorant properties. Its tincture may be added in small quantities to tonic expectorant compounds in the treatment of old coughs; or a portion of it may be thrown into hot water so as to have a room impregnated with its odor. The French make pastilles, to burn for a medicated inhalation, by mixing the powders of four parts benzoin, one part balsam tolu, three parts charcoal, and a trace of saltpeter, and forming them into a mass with water.

A compound tincture, (called Jesuit's Drops,} is formed by macerating three ounces of benzoin, two ounces of storax, one ounce of tolu, and half an ounce of aloes, in a quart of seventy-five percent alcohol. As a stimulant expectorant, it is used in doses of from twenty drops to half a fluid drachm.

Benzoic acid is obtained by putting the balsam into a suitable vessel, and subliming over the acid carefully from a sand-bath heat. It is a beautiful white and feathery substance, of an agreeably aromatic odor. Though commended as an expectorant and a remedy for gouty subjects, it is not a good agent on account of its extremely irritating character. A famous styptic liquid of Italy is made of eight ounces tincture of benzoin, one pound alum, and ten pounds water boiled in a porcelain vessel for six hours, and filtered.

The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at