Shrubby deciduous tree growing to 30 ft (9 m). Has pointed oval leaves and clusters of white, fragrant, bell-shaped flowers.
Habitat & Cultivation
Native to Southeast Asia, benzoin grows in tropical rain forests. It is also cultivated for its gum, which exudes from incisions made in the bark of trees that are at least 7 years old.
Benzoin gum contains variable quantities of cinnamic, benzoic, and sumaresinolic acid esters, free acids (such as benzoic acid), benzaldehyde, and vanillin.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Benzoin gum is strongly antiseptic and astringent. It may be used externally on wounds and ulcers to tighten and disinfect the affected tissue. When taken internally, benzoin gum acts to settle cramping, to stimulate coughing, and to disinfect the urinary tract. Benzoin gum is an ingredient of Friar’s Balsam, an antiseptic and expectorant steam inhalation for sore throats, head and chest colds, asthma, and bronchitis.