For centuries, humans utilised benzoin resin for its many properties. Native to tropical Southeast Asia, the benzoin gum tree produces the aromatic amber resin. Hardened "tears" extracted from triangular incisions in the bark are collected and boxed for sale. Forms of benzoin available on the market are tinctures, liquid or crystallised resins.
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Since ancient times, natural aromatic resins, such as frankincense and myrrh, have been considered a valuable commodity. Eastern traders brought benzoin resin to the Romans and Egyptians, who used it primarily as a perfume fixative. Introduced by the Crusaders in Europe, tincture of benzoin treated ailments while the resin, as incense, purified churches and homes.
A tincture is an alcohol- or glycerine-based extract. Benzoin tinctures made from Siam gum resin, the most valuable, appears reddish in colour. Tinctures made from Sumatra resin, the cheaper grade, possess a yellow-brown colouration. Benzoin tinctures found in pharmacies, herbal shops and some grocery stores contain alcohol and are for topical use only.
A natural preservative, benzoin is added to oil-based preparations to slow oxidation and spoilage. Benzoin tincture inhibits the growth of yeast, bacteria and mould, and is, therefore, used in antifungal creams. Adding benzoin tincture to natural facial creams and oil recipes improves shelf life. As stated by herbs2000.com, the perfume industry uses benzoin as a stabiliser, which slows the diffusion of essential oils and other fragrances. Soap makers add benzoin as a scent stabiliser as well as a preservative when using pieces of fruit. A few drops of benzoin tincture add an extra few days of life to a bouquet of cut flowers or the Christmas tree.
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The principal component of benzoin tinctures is benzoic acid. When used in topical compounds, benzoin tinctures protect wounds from infection. According to "A Modern Herbal," it also has anti-inflammatory effects, which aids in lung congestion when steamed, then inhaled. Benzoin tincture is also a natural antioxidant and deodorant.
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