Liquidambar styraciflua. Sweet Gum.

Related entry: Storax

Liquidambar. Liquidambar Styraciflua, L. Sweet Gum.—An indigenous tree (Fam. Hamamelidaceae), growing in different parts of the United States from Connecticut to Florida, and flourishing also in Mexico and Central America, where, as well as in our Southern States, it sometimes attains a great magnitude. In warm latitudes a balsamic juice flows from its trunk when wounded. This has attracted some attention in Europe, where it is known by the name of liquidambar or copalm balsam, and is sometimes, though erroneously, called liquid storax. It is not afforded by the trees which grow in the Middle Atlantic States, but is obtained in the Western States bordering on the Ohio, and southward as far as Central America. It is a liquid of the consistence of thin honey, more or less transparent, of a yellowish color, of a peculiar, agreeable, balsamic odor, and a bitter, warm, and acrid taste. By cold it becomes thicker and less transparent. It concretes also by time, assuming a darker color. It is sometimes collected in the form of tears, produced by the spontaneous concretion of the exuded juice. According to Bonastre, it contains a colorless volatile oil, a semi-concrete substance which rises in distillation and is separated from the water by ether, a minute proportion of benzoic acid, a yellow coloring substance, an oleoresin, and a peculiar principle, insoluble in water and cold alcohol, for which Bonastre proposed the name of styracin. The styracin of Bonastre has since been found to be cinnamyl cinnamate, (C9H9) C9H7O2, which is found together with the ethyl, benzyl, and other esters of cinnamic acid. Examined by W. P. Creecy, of Mississippi, it was found to contain cinnamic acid as the prominent acid ingredient, besides a volatile, odorous principle melting at 65° C. (149° F.), and smelling of vanillin, and 30 per cent. of a hard resin (according to W. von Miller, storesin, C36H55(OH)3). If the storesin be repeatedly extracted with diluted potassium hydroxide solution, it is separated into a-storesin, which is amorphous and melts at from 160° to 168° C. (320°-334.4° F.), and β-storesin, which forms white flocks melting at from 140° to 145° C. (384°-393° F.). Of these, the β-resin is first extracted, while the residue is nearly pure a-resin. The volatile oil mentioned above contains a hydrocarbon, styrol, styrene or cinnamene, C8H8, which changes on heating into the polymeric metastyrol, a colorless, transparent solid. The results of W. L. Harrison, confirmed by Maisch (A. J. P., xlvi, 160, 165), seem to prove that the American drug is identical with storax, except in containing no water mechanically mixed with it.

Another product is said to be obtained from the same tree by boiling the young branches in water, and skimming off the fluid which rises to the surface. It is of thicker consistence and darker color than the preceding, is nearly opaque, and abounds in impurities. This also has been confounded with liquid storax, which it resembles in properties, though derived from a different species of Liquidambar. It is said to be used in Texas in coughs. (Gammage, N. O. M. S. J., xii, 836.) For an account of the collection of American storax, see Ph. Rund., 1895, 57.

Liquidambar may be employed for the same purpose as storax, and is so used in the Southern United States, but it is almost unknown in the Northern States. The concrete juice is said to be chewed in the Western States in order to sweeten the breath. The bark of the tree is used with asserted great advantage in the Southern and Western States in diarrhea and dysentery, especially in children. It is taken in the form of syrup, which may be prepared from the bark in the same manner as the syrup of wild cherry bark, according to the U. S. Pharmacopoeia. The dose is a fluidounce (30 mils) for an adult, repeated after each stool. (Ann. J. M. S., N. S., xxxii, 126.)

Liquidambar Altingia (Altingia excelsa), a tree which inhabits a very wide region in Southern Asia, yields a storax-like substance varying in color from white to red. (See P. J., viii, 243.) According to Tschirch and van Itallie, it differs from storax in the presence of benzoic and cinnamic aldehydes, the absence of ether and the small quantities of cinnamic acid in it. Liquidambar storesin is said also to be known in Eastern markets.

The Dispensatory of the United States of America, 1918, was edited by Joseph P. Remington, Horatio C. Wood and others.