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Styrax is a resin that comes from the trees or small shrubs in the styrax benzoin genus of the Styracaceae family native to Thailand and the islands of Sumatra and Java of Indonesia. It was mentioned by Avicenna in one of his medical treatises written in the 11th century and was an important remedy in Islamic medicine. More commonly known in the West as benzoin, styrax has been used medicinally to treat a wide range of afflictions for more than a thousand years. It contains antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and expectorant properties and has been used in the treatment of respiratory disorders, circulation problems, arthritis, wounds and other skin conditions. Styrax is also a sedative used to relieve nervous tension and stress.
Benzoin cannot be used internally since ingesting it is fatal. Often, the essential oil is extracted and can be used topically, added to bath water or inhaled to treat a variety of physical and mental conditions. When used topically, benzoin oil must be used in small amounts and diluted with a carrier oil such as jojoba, olive, or sweet almond because it can be harmful if a large amount of the pure oil is employed.
The styrax oil can be inhaled directly from its container or several drops can be placed in a diffuser and heated so that the fragrance permeates the air. Another way to breathe in the vanilla fragrance of styrax oil is to place several drops in a bowl of hot water, lean over the bowl and inhale. The vapors can clear up congestion and ease the symptoms of asthma, colds, bronchitis, influenza, and other respiratory complaints. Soaking in a warm bath that contains a few drops of benzoin oil can reduce nervous tension and ease aching muscles, arthritis, and inflammation. A person should avoid driving after any kind of benzoin treatment due to its strong sedative effect.
Essential oils are never taken internally and should always be diluted before being applied to the skin. Benzoin can be combined with another oil and massaged into the skin to speed the healing of wounds, rashes, psoriasis, eczema, and acne. It also promotes the healing of cracked, dry skin.
Oil isn’t the only medicinal form of styrax. A compound benzoin tincture is also available over the counter as a treatment for abrasions and cuts. This healing compound contains aloe and styrax. Benzoin tincture can also be used to promote the healing of mouth ulcers and canker sores.