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Progress in Essential Oils

By: Brian M. Lawrence
Posted: September 10, 2007, from the September 2007 issue of P&F magazine.

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Styrax Oil

Styrax, which is sometimes referred to as storax, is the balsamic oleoresin obtained from trees belonging to the Liquidambar genus. There are two major sources of styrax; one is obtained from L. orientalis Mill. (so called Asian styrax or Levant storax originating from Asia Minor), while the other is obtained from L. styraciflua L. (known as American styrax originating from Central America, mainly Guatemala and Honduras). Liquidambar orientalis exists in var. orientalis and var. integriloba forms. An oleoresin can also be obtained from L. formosana H., which occurs in Southeast Asia (China, Vietnam, etc.). According to Coppen (1995), this material is used locally and does not enter world trade.

To obtain the styrax oleoresin, the bark of the styrax tree is notched with a spoon-shaped sharp cutting instrument around a quarter of the diameter of the tree with an incision that is ca. 3–4 inches long (Igolen 1973). The bast of the trunk is also scraped to induce the flow of oleoresin, which takes 2–3 weeks before the initial balsam can be collected in a cuplike receptacle similar to that used in latex collection from rubber trees. The collection of balsam is done monthly and is found in the sapwood of the tree. The balsam is cleaned by washing with boiling water, removed in fluid form and allowed to become a semi-solid mass before shipping. Igolen (1973) reported that at one time 100–120 tonnes of Asian styrax were produced in Turkey; however, by the mid-1970s this amount had dropped to 60–70 tonnes. By 1990, this amount had dropped to ca. 15 tonnes annually (Tanker et al. 1993). Furthermore, it was noted by Tanker et al. that the production of the styrax balsam is under strict state control in Turkey, with the majority of it originating from the forests near Koycegiz and Mamaris.

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