Nat. Ord. — Styracaceae. Sex. Syst. — Decandria Monogynia.
The Concrete Juice of Styrax Benzoin.
Description. — Styrax Benzoin is a tall tree of quick growth, with many strong, round branches, covered with a hoary and fine whitish downy bark. Its leaves are alternate, on short petioles, ovate-acuminate, entire, smooth above, and tomentose beneath. The petioles are round, striated, channeled, tomentose. The flowers are in compound axillary racemes, nearly the length of the leaves, usually hang all on the same side, with angular downy peduncles, and a few, tomentose, oblong, deciduous bracts. The calyx is campanulate, downy, and minutely five-toothed ; the corolla is longer than the calyx and is five-cleft, the segments are linear, and obtuse, somewhat silky rather than tomentose. Stamens ten ; filaments connected below into a tube almost as long as the calyx, and bearing linear, erect anthers. The ovary is superior, ovate-tomentose, with a filiform style and simple stigma. The fruit is a drupe of a globose form containing one or two angular nuts, convex on one side, and concave on the other.
History. — This tree is a native of Sumatra, Borneo, Java, Siam, etc., where it is cultivated ; it is called Benzoin Tree or Benjamin Tree, and furnishes the benzoin of commerce. This resinous balsam is obtained by making incisions into the bark of trees six or seven years old, from which the balsam exudes in the form of a thick, white, resinous juice, which is allowed to remain for three months before it is collected, when new incisions are made. There are several varieties of benzoin, the best of which are in tears of a whitish color, and united by a reddish-brown connecting medium ; the brown or blackish masses, which are more common, usually contain many impurities, and are inferior to the tears.
Benzoin is firm, brittle, pulverizable, of an agreeable balsamic odor when rubbed, and of a sweetish, balsamic, somewhat acrid taste. When pure, it is wholly soluble in alcohol or ether. When heated, thick, white, pungent fumes of benzoic acid are given out, which cause coughing when inhaled. In pulverizing it, sneezing is apt to be induced. Water added to its alcoholic solution, precipitates it, rendering the liquor milky, and which has been heretofore much used as a cosmetic, under the name of Virgin's Milk. Its specific gravity is from 1.06 to 1.09. It contains volatile oil, resin, a balsamic matter, aromatic extractive, with a large proportion of benzoic acid.
Properties and Uses. — Stimulant and expectorant, and has some influence on the sexual organs. It enters into the manufacture of elixir paregoric, and constitutes the basis of Turlington's and many other balsams, which exert a salutary influence in healing wounds ; the tincture is also employed to form a coating over the adhesive preparation so well known as Court Plaster. The fumes or vapor inhaled into the lungs, has been strongly recommended in chronic laryngitis. But principally used to prepare benzoic acid, to improve the taste and odor of other medicines, and in perfumery.
A preparation has been recently used with some degree of success in hemorrhages, called Pagliari's Hemostatic or Styptic. It is made by boiling together for six hours in a glazed earthen vessel, Alum one pound, Tincture of Benzoin eight ounces, Water ten pounds. As the water evaporates it must be constantly replaced by hot water, so as not to interrupt the ebullition, and stir the resinous mass round constantly. Then filter the fluid and keep in stoppered bottles. It is limpid, color of champagne, styptic in taste, and aromatic in odor. White resin has been successfully substituted for the benzoin. Every drop of this fluid poured into a glass containing human blood produces an instantaneous magma ; and by increasing the proportion of the styptic to the quantity of the blood, a dense, homogeneous, blackish mass results. It is said to be useful in all arterial and venous hemorrhages. In applying it, lint and bandages should be used to prevent the coagula which forms from being removed from the mouths of the vessels ; an application of them for twenty-four or forty-eight hours is sufficient.
Off. Prep. — Acidum Benzoicum ; Tinctura Benzoini Composita ; Unguentum Benzoini.