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Updated on September 25, 2012


EC #


Sumatra benzoin, loban, gum benjamin, benzoin resin, styrax resin, gum benzoin, siam Benzoin, gum benzoin Siam, gum styrax benzoin, resinoid benzoin.

Biological source:

It is Balsamic resin obtained from various Styrax species, the two major varieties are:

  • Sumatra Benzoin: It is a balsamic resin predominantly obtained from the incised stem of the tree Styrax Benzoin Dryand, and Styrax Paralleloneurus Perkins of family Styracaceae.
  • Siam Benzoin: It is a balsamic resin predominantly obtained from the incised stem of tree Styrax tonkinesis belonging to family Styracaceae.

Geographical source

Native to Southeast Asia, Sumatra Benzoin is obtained from trees grown in Indonesia, chiefly Sumatra and Java. Siam Benzoin is obtained from trees cultivated in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.


Ibn Battuta documented benzoin on his visit to Sumatra during fourteenth century. During the sixteenth century Sumatra Benzoin was traded into Europe through Arabian counties, who called it lubān jāwī meaning frankincense from Java, Moorish traders who sold it to Italians further modified the word to Benjawi. Italians called it benjui. The current name comes from Latin root benzoë.

Sumatra Benzoin
Sumatra Benzoin
Siam Benzoin
Siam Benzoin

Cultivation, Collection and Preparation

In Sumatra the seeds are sown in rice fields, the rice shading the young trees during the first year. After the harvesting of the rice the trees are allowed to grow until they are about 7 years old. Benzoin is obtained from at least six year old cultivated or wild trees by making incisions near the base of the tree. Three to four triangular wounds are made to the bark vertically at every foot from the ground , the bark between the triangular wounds are then scraped off smoothly. The initial produce that is amorphous, sticky and yellowish in color is not used for medicinal purposes.

The next flow that oozes out of fresh small incisions made above the previous ones gives harder crystalline secretion. Fresh incisions are given every three months and benzoin is collected every sixth week after fresh tapping. The outer layer of the exudates contains the finest quality benzoin, the middle intermediate quality and the inner most is dark in colour containing pieces of bark. These three grades are blended in various proportions to make commercial grade benzoin.


Sumatra Benzoin
Siam Benzoin
Has opaque whitish or red tears embedded in translucent brown resinous matrix. Available as Blocks or lumps of varying size, made up of tears, compacted together, with a reddish brown, reddish gray, or grayish brown resinous mass. The tears are externally yellowish or rusty brown, milky white on fresh fracture; hard and brittle at ordinary temperatures but softened by heat.
Pebble-like tears of variable size and shape, compressed, yellowish brown to rusty brown externally, milky white on fracture, separate or very slightly agglutinated, hard and brittle at ordinary temperatures but softened by heat and becoming plastic on chewing.
Mild acrid taste
Balsamic taste
Faint balsamic
Vanilla like
Description of Sumatra and Siam Benzoin

Standards for medicinal use

Pharmacopeial tests as per USP
Standards of Sumatra Benzoin
Standards for Siam Benzoin
Acid insoluble ash
Not more than 1%
Not more than 0.5%
Foreign organic matter
Not given
Not more than 1%
Content of benzoic acid
Not less than 6% using test mentioned in USP-29
Not less than 12% using test mentioned in USP-29

Identification tests

  1. A milky white solution is obtained when water is added to alcoholic solution of benzoin.
  2. Condensed fumes of Sumatra Benzoin form plates and small rod like crystals of cinnamic acid and esters of cinnamic acid, identifiable under microscope. Whereas condensed fumes of Siam benzoin form long rod like crystals of benzoic acid.
  3. In 4 ml of ether 1 grams of Benzoin is added and mixed adequately, the solution is transferred in a porcelain dish, then 3 drops of sulphuric acid is added, Sumatra Benzoin gives deep brown colour whereas Siam Benzoin gives deep purplish red colour.
  4. When 500 mg of benzoin is heated in a test tube with 10 mL of potassium permanganate TS only the Sumatra benzoin gives a faint odor of benzaldehyde.

Chemical constituents

Sumatra benzoin contains cinnamic and benzoic acid and their esters. It also has triterpenoid acids such as siaresinolic and sumaresinolic acid. Total balsamic acids when calculated as cinnamic acid should be equal to or more than 20%. The amount of benzoic acid is generally half of cinnamic acid. Better grade Benzoin specifically obtained from Styrax paralleloneurus contains 20 to 30% cinnamic acid, 2 to 3% benzoic acid and 0.5% vanillin.

Unlike Sumatra Benzoin Siam Benzoin contains relatively small amount of cinnamic acid. Siam Benzoin contains coniferyl benzoate.Coniferyl alcohol, 3 -methoxy-4-hydroxycinnamayl alcohol, benzoic acid, vanillin and triterpenoid acids.

Medicinal uses

Benzoin is used externally as antiseptic and protective. When given internally it acts as carminative and irritating expectorant. The most popular preparation of benzoin are tincture of benzoin and compound tincture of benzoin. Tincture of benzoin is used as inhalation for treatment of upper respiratory track infections. Compound tincture of benzoin is applied on skin before bandage, it reduces skin allergy due to bandages, it is also applied to minor cuts and wounds. Benzoin is used to retard rancidity of fats and oils in bezoated lard.

General Uses

Benzoin gum is used as natural flavoring agent and glazing agent in foods, beverages, ice cream, candy, baked goods, puddings and chewing gum. Used as fixative in incense and perfumes.


  • Trease and Evans Pharmacognosy 15th edition.
  • Pharmacognocy by C.K Kokate, A.P. Purohit, S.B. Gokhale 45th Edition
  • United States Pharmacopoeia 29 National Formulatory 24
  • Handbook of Food Additives, Third Edition


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    • naturalmedicines profile image

      naturalmedicines 5 years ago

      probably you are confusing natural benzoin (also called benzoin resin) with chemical benzoin. Chemical benzoin is 2-hydroxy-1,2-di(phenyl)ethanone, an organic compound obtained by benzoin condensation of benzaldehyde.

      Natural benzoin or benzoin resin is a pathophysiolgical natural substance obtained by injuring the source plant and can not be synthesized in laboratory.

      Chemical benzoin and benzoin resin have nothing in common except name.

    • profile image

      Biswajeet 5 years ago

      Can benzoin be produced synthetically? if yes how?

    • Tintin25 profile image

      Tintin25 5 years ago

      Great hub, I really liked the way you have described sumatra and siam benzoin. This information you get from traders and manufacturers only.