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Sharif et al., 2016 106
A review on bioactive potential of Benzoin Resin
Atia Sharif1, Haq Nawaz1, Rafia Rehman1, Ayesha Mushtaq1*, Umer Rashid2
1Department of Chemistry, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad-38040-Pakistan and 2Institute of Advanced Technology,
Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400 UPM Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia
Styrax benzoin (benzoin resin) is a perennial tree belonging to the family (Styracaceae). It has been cultivated in the different
regions of the world for thousands of year for incense and pharmaceutical preparations. Styrax benzoin usually contains
benzaldehyde, benzoic acid, benzyl benzoate cinnamic acid and vanillin. Its chemical composition is influenced by the place of its
origin, geographical, and climatic conditions. Styrax benzoin has been used traditionally for the treatment of skin diseases,
arthritis, wounds, muscle pain, anxiety, and nervous disorders. Benzoin oil is widely used in the food, drinks and alcoholic
beverage to give flavor, and for varnishing woods. The methods of production of resins are much traditional so there is a growing
need to develop the new methods to maximize the production of resins.
Key words: Benzoin resin, dermatology, cinnamic acid, diuretic
Full length article *Corresponding Author, e-mail: email@example.com
Styrax Benzoin (benzoin resins) are perennial trees
which belong to the family (Styracaceae). Styracaceae is
native to subtropical or tropical regions, for example
Mediterranean, North or South America and Asia. There are
approximately 150 species of Styrax present which are used
for the production of aromatic resin when they are burned.
The Styrax, genus is different from all the members of the
family Styracaceae due to the production of the resins which
excrete from the trunks and barks of the plants after injured
with sharps . Styrax is self or cross pollinated and
variability is present in flowers, fruits shape and colours and
stem wood or chemical composition of resins due to cross
Styrax Benzoin is known by different names
depending where you are in the world. The common names
of the Styrax Benzoin are benzoin resins, benzoin trees,
Sumatra benzoin. Styrax in Swedish is known as benzoin. In
German, it is called as benzoebaum. In Spanish, it is well
known as bálsamo de Benjuí and in French as arbre à
benjoin. In Chinese it is known as xi xiang. The species of
Styrax is divided into two groups ‘Siam Benzoin’ and
‘Sumatra Benzoin’. Styrax benzoin and Styrax
paralleloneurm are known as ‘Saim benzoin’ and ‘Styrax
tonkinensis’ is known as ‘Sumatara benzoin’. The plant
can be shrub or tree with approximately 25m in length and
has diameter 30cm with smooth and simple hairy dark green
leaves and white flowers. The fragrance of the benzoin
resins is most familiar among the people since ancient times
and used in every culture of the world as medicine or
The resin has great variability between the species
and cultivars and is thought to be related to growing
conditions, geographic origin, genetic factors, different
chemo-types and differences in the nutritional status of the
plants. In Indonesia, Styrax benzoin which is known as
Sumatra benzoin is tapped to get the resin, after collection it
is dried. This dried resin gave the fragrance when burned
and it was believed that it has magical properties. In north
Sumatra greater than 18,000 families are depending on the
production of benzene resins . A benzoin resin have
vanilla like fragrance with reddish yellow to milky white
colour in ‘Siam benzoin’ due to presence of benzoic acid
while in ‘Sumatra benzoin ‘its colour is dull reddish to
greyish brown with storax like fragrance due to presence of
Benzoin resins have variability between the species
and quality of benzoin resins depends on the practice of the
farmers. There are two main varieties of benzoin resins;
Sumatra benzoin and Saim benzoin which are present in the
market. These two varieties grow in different geographical
areas. Saim benzoin grows in Laos while Sumatra benzoin
grows in Indonesia . Due to distinct growing region, their
chemical composition is also different. Sumatra benzoin is
reported to contain more cinnamic acid and cinnamates than
Siam benzoin . It is not possible to give annual
consumption of benzoin resins due to sufficient accuracy
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Sharif et al., 2016 107
worldwide. Sumatra benzoin mainly used in incense purpose
while Saim benzoin is mainly used in pharmaceutical
industries and its minor use in varnishes the town woods .
Styrax benzoin is native to the South-East or East
Asia from tropical region to warm temperate of Northern
Hemisphere. The name Styrax originates from the Greek
word sturax and benzoin is derived from Arabic word luban
jawi which means java incense. In Roman it was used
approximately 2000 years ago.
In 15th and 16th centuries, England imported
benzoin in powdered form with spices for perfume
preparation which was used by Queen Elizabeth Ӏ. Benzoin
was also used in religious ceremonies and drives away the
evil spirits in the culture of ancient Malayan. Styrax
Benzoin trees are most abundantly present in Indonesia
especially in Sumatra therefore it is also known as Sumatra
Styrax benzoin grows in warm temperate to tropical
regions. Some are found also across the equator in South
America. Natural home of Styrax benzoin is Sumatra,
Indonesia but it is also available in the Western countries
from ancients. Styrax species other than Styrax benzoin
grow in many countries such as China, Laos, Malaysia,
Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. The plant grows in the
rain forests of tropical region of Sumatra.
Singapore imports 5330 tons of benzoin, Malaysia
133 tons, China 77 tons, United Arab Emarates, 22tons,
Kuwait 16 tons, India 70 tons, Pakistan 16 tons, Saudi
Arabia 10 tons, Japan 25 tons, respectively. Singapore is the
biggest importer of benzoin resins and then Europe imports
benzoin resins for pharmaceuticals and other direct
importers of Sumatra benzoin are Indian sub-continent,
Japan and other countries of Middle East.
1.4 Botany, Morphology, Ecology
Styrax benzoin is a perennial tree of tropical areas
which grow up to height of 15-25 meters. Styrax benzoin has
tap roots which disappear laterally and tree also has shallow
root system. Leaves are ovate and arranged alternately in the
form of crown around the stem with hairy underside and
smooth upper surface having length in the range of 6-10 cm
and 3-5 cm wide. Flowers are bisexual and white in colour
or bell shaped in the time of blooms in spring and has 5
petals which are arranged in the form of cluster along the
branches. Fruits are closed in the hard and flat shell having
the diameter approximately 2-3 cm. Seeds dormant after 6-7
months of fruit fall . Resins of Styrax benzoin obtained
from tapping of the bark which is produced after 15-20
years. Styrax benzoin resins are yellow in colour when
obtained and later it becomes reddish-brown after hardening
Styrax benzoin originated in rainforest that has
medium to high altitude. Cultivation periods require 1300
millimetre rain per year or 3 to 6 dry months. Plants survive
in extremely low or high temperatures ranging from -4 to
45°C. Soil having low base saturation and high acid content
(pH below than 4.5) is required for best growth.
Styrax benzoin is acrid, impressively aromatic and
have strong vanilla like smell . Main components of
Styrax benzoin are benzaldehyde, benzoic acid, benzyl
benzoate, cinnamic acid and vanillin . Vanilla like
fragrance of plant is due to the presence of vanillin.
Cinnamates present in the Styrax benzoin are used as
flavouring agent and produce chocolate like flavor.
2.1. Chemical composition
Styrax benzoin contains cinnamyl cinnamate 8-14
%, methyl cinnamate 10-17 %, cinnamic acid 4-7 %, benzyl
cinnamate 2-4 % and little amount of vanillin, benzoic acid,
phenylpropylic alcohol. Before the use of Styrax benzoin, a
skin test must be taken as it causes allergy. Styrax benzoin is
composed of 18% of benzoic acid, a little amount of volatile
acids and 75 % of amorphous resins. Free benzoic and
cinnamic acid and their corresponding esters such as
coniferyl and p-coumaryl alcohol are present in different
amounts and also some other higher molecular weight
compounds like pinoresinol is also present .
Styrax benzoin has vanilla like odour due to the
presence of vanilline. Trans-coniferyl alcohol benzoate or
trans-p-cumaryl alcohol is obtained from the Styrax benzoin
. Styrax benzoin contains the cinnamic acid, benzoic
acid, methyl cinnamate, coniferyl benzoate,cinnamayl
cinamate, cinamic acid, phenylethylene, and vanillin. Figure
1 shows structures of important phytochemicals of Styrax
benzoin. Due to difference in production region and varieties
of benzoin such as Siam benzoin and Sumatra benzoin, it
has significant differences in chemical composition .
Table.1. Compounds composition in the styrax species of
Styrax benzoin and Styrax paralleloneurm
Benzoic acid ester
Cinnamic acid ester
Sharif et al., 2016 108
Figure 1. Structures of some bioactive compounds found
in Styrax benzoin
4. Postharvest technology
Styrax benzoin resins are obtained by tapping of the
trees. In order to obtain the resins in the form of tears having
5-6 cm length and 8-10 cm wide notches are made on the
cambium of trunk and bark of tree is removed. The tapper
makes a notch of 8-10 cm wide and 5-6 cm long into the
cambium of the trunk and the bark is removed. Along the
trunk of tree a number of notches are made after the interval
of 20 to 30 cm and the first notch is made at a length of 30
cm above the ground level. After tapping exuded resins are
lifted on the trunk of tree after approximately 4 to 5 months
for hardening the resins. The process of tapping occurs
during the first cold day of the winter and benzoin tear is
obtained. In natural forests, first tapping of benzoin tree is
done in the age of 3-5 years while in the regenerated forests;
tapping is done in the age of 6 to 8 years. After the
collection of resins, sorting and hard cleaning is carried out
for the removal of bark pieces but extra care is required to
retain the whole tear as such.
5. Value addition
A few local industries of Central Java produced
cigarette known as Klembak menyan which is used to
reduce stress. The components of this cigarette are tobacco,
a large amount of benzoin resins and cloves . According
to the papyrus records, benzoin resins are grinded in powder
form and mixed with cypress, galbanum, juniper and pine to
make a cone that the Egyptian dancers used to place on their
heads. Romans and Greeks used benzoin resins from
ancients for incense purpose and in their traditional dishes;
they use benzoin oil with black paper, juniper, berry, ginger,
lavender, sweet marjoram and rosemary. The native people
of Sumatra use Lubanja; a benzoin resins it is burnt with
coffee and gave vanilla like odour in their coffee ceremonies
Benzoin oil is also used in the treatment of skin
diseases by mixing 10 ml of almond oil, 6 drops of benzoin
oil and 2 drops of wheat germ oil and by applying on the
affected area such as wounds, skin ulceration, burn and bad
sores. Benzoin oil is used for the treatment of psoriasis and
eczema with clay as taking 2 tbsp clay and by adding 3
drops of benzoin oil along with distilled water to make paste
apply on affected areas and leave it for 20 minutes and then
rinse off with water. Benzoin is useful with lemon juice for
the treatment of brown marks on the face by adding 2 drops
of lemon juice, 10 ml almond oil, 4 drops benzoin oil and 2
drops of wheat germ oil .
6. Uses Styrax bnzoin resin is widely used as an ingredient
in the incense and is believed that it helps to drive out the
evil spirits. Benzoin is also used as a preservative and
fragrance compound in the perfumes, soaps, cosmetics and
toiletries. Benzoin is also used as a flavouring agent in the
food, alcoholic beverage and soft drinks. Benzoin resins act
as powerful antioxidants and help to prevent the rancidity of
fats. Styrax benzoin is also used in the healing of wounds
6.1. General uses
Styrax benzoin is used as disinfectant and it is a
good herbal remedy for the throat infection and for
respiratory elements. Styrax benzoin tincture is used as a
mouthwash for the treatment of cold sores. After the tooth
extraction, dentists use benzoin resins tincture as an anti-
inflammatory agent. Benzoin resins are familiar in the
products which are used in the treatment of skin diseases
like irritated or dry skin, wounds and inflamed skin. Benzoin
resins are used as a herbal remedy for the muscle pain, poor
circulation, gout and arthritis. Benzoin resins are used in the
religious ceremonies in the many regions of the world. After
burning, it produces a sweet smell that uplifts the mood and
stimulates the nervous system. It stimulates the heart beat by
giving the warm feelings and improves the circulation of
blood . Oil extracted from the aromatic plant is known as
essential oil [15-18] which has various pharmacological uses
[19-20] due to the presence of various bioactive
components. Benzoin oil is used as sedative and relaxant
and relieves the tension, stress, anxiety and nervousness. It
brings out the neurotic or nervous system to normal. GC-MS
analysis is generally used to find out bioactive components
present in essential oils [18-21-22]. Styrax benzoin contains
the compounds like benzoic acid, benzaldehyde and benzyl
benzoate which are most effective bactericidal, germicidal,
antiviral substances and fungicidal. If smoke of benzoin
resin is spread then smoky zone become free of germs.
Benzoin oil also has anti- flatulent and carminative
Sharif et al., 2016 109
7. Pharmacological uses
7.1. Phytotherapy in dermatology
Phytotherapy in dermatology is the process of
reparation of medicines from plants and their uses in the
treatment of skin. Benzoin is used in conditioning of the
skin and also to toughen the skin . Benzoin oils are also
used for beauty of skin, making the skin fresh and youthful.
It also has ability to heal the wounds and scars. Benzoin oil
has healing properties that owe to benzoic acid,
benzaldehyde and benzyl benzoate. Cinnamate present in
the benzoin is also used in toughening of the skin but it is
quite toxic and cause allergy .
7.2. Respiratory problems
There are a lot of respiratory problems such as
chest infection, pneumonia, asthma, noisy breathing,
obstructive sleep apnoea and aspiration . Essential oil of
benzoin is used to treat congestion, coughing and other
respiratory problems. Benzoin is an excellent disinfectant
and has expectorant qualities which help free mucus and
ease breathing. As well as clearing up the respiratory
system, its sedative properties can help clear the way to a
good night’s sleep. Styrax benzoin used in the
pharmaceutical industries for the treatment of bronchitis,
cough laryngitis and as an antiseptic for prevent the
7.3. For digestion
In digestive issues like cramping and flatulence,
then benzoin essential oil might provide relief. This
wonderful essential oil has carminative properties as well as
being able to relieve gas and inflammation in the intestines.
It helps to relax the stomach muscles enabling excess wind
to pass naturally, relieves pain related to gas. Benzoin
essential oil also improves general digestion and helps
improve your appetite. One of the health benefits of benzoin
essential oil is preventing the acidity that occurs in the
stomach and avoid many diseases are caused by gastric
acidity. In cultivated region of Styrax benzoin people use it
for the ache of stomach.
Diuretic is the disease which commonly
characterized as the excess of extracellular fluid, the
nephritic syndrome, kidney diseases, heart failure and
cirrhosis . Benzoin essential oil has natural diuretic
properties, which essentially means that it helps to boost
both urine production and frequency of urination. Diuretics
are used to efficiently cleanse and remove toxins from the
blood stream. These properties can have a positive effect on
blood pressure and can even help you to lose weight caused
by stubborn water retention . Styrax benzoin has
diuretic properties as it promotes and facilitates the quantity
and frequency of urination and through urination it also
helps to remove the toxic substances from the blood. It also
helps to reduce weight, improving digestion and lowering of
the blood pressure.
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