Benzoin is a balsamic resin obtained from the bark of several species of trees in the genus Styrax (family Styracaceae). It is used in perfumes and some types of incense and as a flavoring and medicine (tincture of Benzoin). There are two types of Benzoin, Siam benzoin and Sumatra benzoin. Benzoin Siam is obtained from Styrax tonkinensis, found in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Sumatra benzoin comes from Styrax benzoin, which grows mainly on the island of Sumatra. Unlike Siamese Benzoin, Sumatran Benzoin contains cinnamic acid and benzoic acid.
Benzoin resin is an antifungal, spasmolytic, anti-inflammatory, and mild expectorant. It restores the skin and is an excellent healing agent. On a psychological level, it has a relaxing, calming, and anxiolytic effect. Because benzoin resin has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, it is used in traditional medicine to treat arthritis, bronchitis, cough, laryngitis, and stress. WebMD reports that it is used by inhalation (such as through a diffuser) to treat the lungs or cough. One study found that topical application of benzoin tincture effectively treated bacterial and fungal infections such as Candida albicans and Mycobacterium fortuitum.
The scent of Benzoin reveals itself in several aspects; it is warm and sweet and reminds of vanilla, caramel, almonds, roasted coffee, and honey. In it, we can also find a floral note with shades of carnation.
Benzoin has been used since antiquity. It appears in medical texts in ancient Greece from the 1st century AD for its medicinal properties in lung infections and skin diseases. In ancient Egypt, it was used in embalming and wound healing and as a temple incense for its antiseptic, soothing, and perfume properties.
Benzoin is a common ingredient in incense-making and perfumery because of its sweet vanilla-like aroma and fixative properties. Gum benzoin is a major component of the type of church incense used in Russia, some other Orthodox Christian societies, and Western Catholic Churches. Most Benzoin is used in India's Arabian Peninsula and Hindu temples, where it is burned on charcoal as an incense. It is also used in the production of Bakhoor (Arabic بخور - scented wood chips) as well as various mixed resin incense in Arab countries and Africa. Benzoin is also used in blended types of Japanese incense, Indian incense, Chinese incense (known as Anxi Xiang), Papier d'Arménie as well as incense sticks.
Benzoin is used as a fixative in perfumery, slowing the dispersion of essential oils and other fragrance materials into the air. It is used as a flavoring in alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, baked goods, chewing gum, frozen dairy, gelatins, puddings, and soft candy. Benzoin is also used in cosmetics, veterinary medicine, and scented candles. It is soluble in hot water, which is why it has a broad spectrum of usage.