Storax

Scientific Name(s): Liquidambar orientalis Mill., L. styraciflua L. Family: Hamamelidaceae

Uses

Although not yet proven, storax may demonstrate similar antibacterial and protectant properties such as those of tea tree oil. Presently it is used topically as a skin protectant, as a flavor, and in perfumes.

Dosing

There is no clinical evidence upon which a dosage recommendation can be based, however, classical use of storax resin as a stimulant and expectorant was at doses of 1 g.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

There have been no demonstrated adverse effects.

Toxicology

No significant toxicity has been reported following the use of storax.

Botany

Levant storax ( L. orientalis ) is obtained from a small tree native to Turkey. American storax is obtained from L. styraciflua , a large tree found near the Atlantic coast from New England to as far south as Central America. 1 Also known as the sweet gum tree, red gum, bilsted, star-leaved gum, styrax, and the alligator tree. 2 , 3 , 4

History

The bark of the tree is mechanically ruptured in early summer, then stripped as late as autumn. The bark is then pressed in cold water alternating with boiling water, and crude liquid storax obtained from this process is collected. The crude balsam is then dissolved in alcohol, filtered, and collected so as not to lose the volatile constituents.

Storax has been used as an expectorant, especially in inhalation with warm air vaporizers. It has also been used to treat parasitic infections. The leaves are rich in tannins and have been used to treat diarrhea and to relieve sore throat. 2 In Latin America, the gum is used to promote sweating and as a diuretic. It is also applied topically to sores and wounds. 2 Storax had been used in the US as a component of hemorrhoid preparations, but today its only official use is as an ingredient in compound tincture of benzoin, 2 where it is used as a topical protectant. 3 Resins derived from storax have been used in perfumes, incense and as food flavors.

The reddish-brown wood of the tree, called satin walnut, is used in furniture making.

Chemistry

Crude storax is a gray, thick liquid with a pleasing odor but a bitter taste. About 85% of the crude material is alcohol soluble. 1 Purified storax forms a brown semi-solid mass that is completely soluble in alcohol. Storax is high in free and combined cinnamic acid. Purified storax yields up to 47% total balsamic acids. 1 Its major components include phenylethylene (styrene), cinnamic esters, and vanillin. 1

Upon steam distillation, the leaf yields an oily liquid containing about three dozen components, the major ones being terpinen-4-ol, alpha-pinene, and sabinene. 5 Benzaldehyde is produced from certain chemical reactions with the cinnamic acid in storax. Storax also contains an aromatic liquid (styrocamphene). 2

Uses and Pharmacology

The leaf oil is rich in terpinen-4-ol, and the oil has a composition that is similar to that of the essential oil of Melaleuca alternifolia (Australian tea tree oil, see monograph), which has been investigated clinically as a topical antiseptic. Although the leaf oil of Liquidambar styraciflua has not yet been bioassayed, its similarity in composition indicates that it may demonstrate similar antibacterial and protectant properties to tea tree oil. 5

Animal/Clinical data

Research reveals no animal/clinical data regarding the use of storax for any condition.

Dosage

There is no clinical evidence upon which a dosage recommendation can be based, however, classical use of storax resin as a stimulant and expectorant was at doses of 1 g.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Some persons may display sensitivity to compound tincture of benzoin.

Toxicology

No significant toxicity has been reported following the use of storax.

Bibliography

1. Evans, WC. Trease and Evans' Pharmacognosy. 13th ed. London: Balliere Tindall, 1989.
2. Morton JF. Major Medicinal Plants. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, 1977.
3. Dobelis IN. Magic and Medicine of Plants. Pleasantville, NY: Reader's Digest Association, 1986.
4. Osol A, Farrar GE Jr, ed. The Dispensatory of the United States of America. 25th ed. Philadelphia: JB Lippincott, 1955:1315.
5. Wyllie SG, Brophy JJ. The Leaf Oil of Liquidambar styraciflua . Planta Medica 1989;55:316.

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