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The Origin of Styrax
Styrax is a tree belonging to the Styracaceae family, primarily found in warm regions of the world. Despite its elegant appearance, styrax remains relatively unknown in France. It encompasses various species, some of which are utilized in pharmacies, while others are popular in perfumery. The tree from which styrax is derived is also known as aliboufier. The two most renowned types of styrax in perfumery are those from Asia Minor (mainly Turkey) and South America (especially Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico). These two products are obtained differently: the Asian Minor styrax is extracted through a pathological secretion of sapwood resulting from the bark hammering of the Liquidambar orientalis tree, while the American styrax comes from an exudation of the Liquidambar styraciflua tree. Though somewhat distinct, these products share similarities, revealing a beautiful yellow resin that can be utilized in perfumery or burned as incense. The styrax tree is characterized by its lovely green foliage, which transforms into stunning red and orange hues in autumn. Its blossoms emerge at the end of spring.
Styrax in Perfumery
Once styrax resins are obtained, they are purified using volatile solvents or vacuum distillation. Styrax resin primarily serves as a fixative, predominantly introduced in feminine perfumes. It was widely employed in the 1920s, featuring in fragrances such as Shalimar by Guerlain and later, Opium by Yves Saint-Laurent. Its scent is a harmonious blend of leathery, warm, animal, and spicy notes. Styrax enhances the sensuality of the perfumes containing it while significantly boosting their tenacity. It is most commonly paired with chypre and oriental scents.
Additionally, styrax possesses various medicinal properties. In China, it is utilized to treat coughs, epilepsy, and skin issues. In the American West, it is known as a remedy for diarrhea and dysentery.
Fun Facts About Styrax
- Styrax is sometimes referred to as storax or benzoin, although these names often refer to specific types of styrax or different species.
- The ancient Egyptians used styrax resin for embalming and as incense in religious ceremonies.
- Styrax has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years to treat various ailments.
- In the past, styrax resin was utilized in traditional wound dressings due to its antiseptic properties.