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(Storax family)


180 species in 12 genera are recognised in 3 centres of distribution: eastern Asia to western Malaysia; south-eastern United States; Mexico to tropical South America.

[Summary yet to be added]


130 species are found in warm regions of Eurasia, Malaysia and America. Styrax benzoin yields the fragrant resin gum benzoin which is used medicinally and for incense.

Styrax tonkinensis and other Styrax species yield Siam benzoin. Benzoin (or bitter almond oil camphor) is an unrelated material that should not be confused with Gum Benzoin (Budavari 1996). Compound Tincture of Benzoin (Friar's Balsam, Balsam Traumatic) is composed of gum benzoin, storax (Liquidambar), balsams of Tolu and Peru (see Myroxylon balsamum Harms, fam. Leguminosae), aloe (Aloe), myrrh (Commiphora) and angelica (Angelica).

Styrax officinale, a Mediterranean species, provided a storax used in Ancient Egypt. Storax (styrax) of more recent time is provided by Liquidambar.

Allergic contact dermatitis from Compound Tincture of Benzoin has been reported following local application in the treatment of fissured nipples (Eades 1934), following its use as a supportative dressing in rhinoplasty (Luria 1967), under plaster cases (Spott and Shelley 1970, Cullen et al. 1974), under adhesive tape (Steiner & Leifer 1949), following its use as an antiseptic (James 1930), and in a hair preparation (Garnier 1950).

Cross-sensitivity has been observed to aloe (Aloe), storax (Liquidambar), balsam of Peru (from Myroxylon balsamum Harms, fam. Leguminosae), benzoic acid and cinnamic acid (James 1930, Steiner & Leifer 1949, Hjorth 1961, Mitchell and Dupuis 1972). Rockl and Bandmann (1957) reported that 4% of 230 patients who had eczema showed positive patch test reactions to benzoin. Two of ten patients who had skin disease were actively sensitised by patch testing with Compound Tincture of Benzoin (Steiner & Leifer 1949).

Friar's Balsam used for inhalations is derived from Sumatra benzoin (Styrax benzoin and S. paralleoneurus and other species).


  • Budavari S (Ed.) (1996) The Merck Index. An Encyclopedia of Chemicals, Drugs, and Biologicals. 12th edn. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck & Co., Inc.
  • Cullen SI, Tonkin A, May FE (1974) Allergic contact dermatitis to Compound Tincture of Benzoin spray. The Journal of Trauma 14(4): 348-350 [doi] [url] [pmid]
  • Garnier, G. (1955) Dermatitis bullosa due to wave set containing tincture of benzoin. Bull. Soc. Franc. Derm. Syph. 57: 397.
  • Hjorth N (1961) Eczematous Allergy to Balsams, Allied Perfumes and Favouring Agents. With special reference to balsam of Peru. Copenhagen: Munksgaard [WorldCat] [url]
  • James, B.M. (1930) Dermatitis produced by Compound Tincture of Benzoin. J. Med. Soc. New Jersey 27: 259.
  • Mitchell, J.C. and Dupuis, G. (1972) Allergic contact dermatitis from storax (Styrax). Contact Dermatitis Newsletter (11): 274.
  • Rockl, H. and Bandmann, H.J. (1957) Benzoin, a relatively frequent contact allergen. Hautarzt 8: 416.
  • Spott, D.A. and Shelley, W.B. (1970) Exanthem due to contact allergen (benzoin) absorbed through the skin. J. Am. Med. Ass. 214: 1881.
  • Steiner K, Leifer W (1949) Investigation of contact-type dermatitis due to Compound Tincture of Benzoin. Journal of Investigative Dermatology 13(6): 351-359 [doi] [url] [url-2] [pmid]

Richard J. Schmidt

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