is derived from a shrubby deciduous tree native
to South Eastern Asia. The tree has pointed oval
leaves, clusters of white fragrant bell-shaped flowers
and hard-shelled flattish fruit about the size of
a nutmeg. Pure benzoin is the resin which exudes
from incisions made in the bark of these trees when
they are at least 7 years old. Upon exposure to
air and sunlight, the resin hardens - although it
can be heated over hot water to be used in its 'oil'
has been used for thousands of years in the East
as a medicine and incense. Fumigations were believed
to 'drive out evil spirits'. In the West it is best
known in the form of compound tincture of benzoin,
or Friar's Balsam, a healing, soothing remedy for
chilblains, painful sores and cracked, dry skin.
It is also well known as a preservative - commonly
used in pot-pourri and incense blends.
Added to a steam inhalation for colds, Benzoin can
help stop infection spreading down into the throat