071. Styrax officinale. Officinal Storax.

Botanical name: 

071. Styrax officinale. 071. Styrax officinale. C. Also see 072. Styrax benzoin. Benjamin tree.
Styrax, Pharm. Lond. & Edinb. ab hac arbore effluit.

Synonyma. Styrax folio mali cotonei. Bauh. Pin. p. 452.
Styrax arbor. J. Bauh. Hist. vol. i. p. 341. Gerard. Emac. p. 1526. Raii Hist. p. 1680.
Styrax arbor vulgaris. Park. Theat. p. 1530. Lin. Spec. Plant. p. 635. Millers Figures, p. 260.

Class Decandria. Ord. Monogynia. Lin. Gen. Plant. 595.
Ess. Gen. Ch. Cal. inferus. Cor. infundibuliformis. Drupa 2-sperma.
Spec. Char. S. foliis ovatis subtus villosis, racemis simplicibus folio brevioribus. Ait. Hort. Kew.

The Storax-tree usually rises above twenty feet in height; it sends off many strong branches, which are covered with a roughish bark of a grey colour: the leaves are broad, elliptical, entire, somewhat pointed, on the upper surface smooth, and of a light green colour, on the under surface covered with a whitish down; they are placed alternately, and stand upon short footstalks: the flowers are large, white, and disposed in clusters upon short peduncles, which terminate the branches: the corolla is monopetalous, funnel-shaped, and divided at the limb into five lance-shaped segments: the filaments are ten, placed in a regular circle, and seem to adhere towards the base: the anthers are erect and oblong: the germen is oval, and supports a slender style, with a simple stigma: the fruit is a pulpy pericarpium, which contains one or two nuts of an oval compressed figure. It is a native of Italy and the Levant, and flowers in July.

Gerard appears to be the first who cultivated the Storax-tree in England; and although it is indigenous to many of the southern parts of Europe, yet the resinous drug which it produces is only to be obtained in perfection from these trees growing in Asiatic Turkey. ["Copia ejus effluit ex arboribus procerioribus in Gallo-Provincias sylvis (de la Chartreuse de Montrieu, Du Hamel Traité des arbres tom. ii. p. 288), item incisione promanat in planitie quadam agri Tiburtini montium catena septentrionem versus cincta. (Mazeas, Journal des Scavans, 1769. p. 105. Ed. in 4to). Sed quae in officinis servatur, orientalis originis est, transferturque ad nos ex Turcia per Massiliam." Murray App. Med. vol. ii. p. 80.] The Storax issues in a fluid state from incisions made in the bark of the trunk, or branches, of the tree; and as it was formerly the custom to collect and export this gum-resin in reeds, it obtained the name of Styrax calamita. But the only two kinds of Storax [It is necessary to observe, that no reference is here made to the Styrax liquida, which is produced from a very different tree, viz. the Liquidamber styraciflua; and, according to Monardes, is obtained by boiling the branches in water, which occasions the drug to separate, and rise to the surface, when it is skimmed off for use.] now to be met with in the shops may be divided into the pure and the common Storax; the first is usually in irregular compact masses, free from impurities, of a yellowish or reddish brown appearance, and interspersed with whitish tears, somewhat like Gum ammoniac or Benzoin; it is extremely fragrant, and, upon the application of heat, readily melts. This has been called Storax in the lump, red Storax, and the separate tears, Storax in the tear. The common Storax is in large masses, very light, and bears no external resemblance whatever to the former Storax, as it seems almost wholly composed of dirty saw-dust merely caked together by the resinous matter; and though much less esteemed than the purer kinds of Storax, yet when freed from the woody part, we are told that it possesses more fragrance, and is superior to the other kind. Rectified spirit, the common menstruum of resins, readily dissolves the Storax, which may be inspissated to a solid consistence, as directed for the Styracis purificatio in the London Pharm. without sustaining any considerable loss of its sensible qualities.

"Common Storax, infused in water, imparts to the menstruum a gold yellow colour, some share of its smell, and a slight balsamic taste. It gives a considerable impregnation to water by distillation, and strongly diffuses its fragrance when heated, though it scarcely yields any essential oil. The spirituous solution, gently distilled off from the filtered reddish liquor, brings over with it very little of the fragrance of the Storax; and the remaining resin is more fragrant than the finest Storax in the tear, which I have met with. The pure resin distilled without addition, yields along with an empyreumatic oil, a portion of saline matter, similar to the flowers of Benzoine: I have sometimes also extracted from it a substance of the same nature by coction in water." [Lewis Mat. Med. p. 621.]

Storax, with some of the ancients, was a familiar remedy as a resolvent, and particularly used in catarrhal complaints, coughs, asthmas, menstrual obstructions, &c. and from its affinity to the balsams it was also prescribed in ulcerations of the lungs, and other states of pulmonary consumption. And our pharmacopoeias formerly directed the pilulae e styrace; but this odoriferous drug has now no place in any of the officinal compounds; and though a medicine which might seem to promise some efficacy in nervous debilities, yet by modern practitioners it is almost totally disregarded.

Medical Botany, 1790-1794, was written by William Woodville, M. D., and illustrated by James Sowerby.