When I was a child Friar's Balsam was always part of our first aid box. The main ingredient in Friar's Balsam is benzoin. Benzoin is also known as styrax benzoin, styrax gum, and benjamin gum. It is actually a resin which is obtained by cutting an incision in the trees of the Styraceae family. The liquid resin from the tree hardens when exposed to the air. It is these lumps of gum benzoin that are then collected. These trees are grown in the rain forests of South-East Asia.
The gum resin has a sweet, warm, aroma similar to vanilla. It comes in various colours from pale yellow/tan to reddish/brown. The is available as a powder, dissolved in alcohol as a tincture, and as a resin oil. It's constituents include benzaldehyde, benzoic acid, cinnamic acid, sumaresinolic acid, styrene and vanillic acid.
Benzoin has been used for thousands of years in Asia as a perfume fixative and in incense. It was also burnt to fumigate places against evil spirits. In China, herbalists used it as a urinary antiseptic and as a digestive aid. In Europe, as mentioned before, it has been the main ingredient in Friar's Balsam since Elizabethan times. It has, over the years, become known as an good anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic, astringent, carminative, deodorant, diuretic, and expectorant. It was a great favourite of Edgar Cayce who recommended benzoin for a wide variety of applications, most often as an ingredient in massage oil formulas and inhalant formulas.
Nowadays it's most common use is still, half to one teaspoon of benzoin tincture or Friar's balsam, in a bowl of boiling water or vapourizer, and which is inhaled to relieve both sinusitis and bronchitis. It is also found useful for wounds and skin ulcers ulcers as it protects and disinfects the skin. Athletes and runners find it very excellent for those annoying blisters they often get during events. It is also used to compliment mayapple in the treatment of warts and in creams for chapped and inflamed skin.
Benzoin is also used in burners to focus the mind when meditatating. It can be mixed into a carrier oil and massaged into the neck and shoulder area for nervous tension and the joints for relief of arthritis and gout. Being an excellent fixative benzoin can be used in homemade perfume and soaps as well as adding a sweet note to the aroma. It is also an insect repellant.
Important Notes: Benzoin oil or tincture is not to be used when pregnant. The oil and tincture is NOT to be taken internally. Not to be inhaled by asthmatics. Undiluted it can cause mild skin irritation, so always dilute. Excessive use can cause drowsiness. Benzoin oil and tincture are flammable.
For those interested, Friar's Balsam consists of benzoin resin, various balsams, aloe ferox leaf latex, myrrh, and angelica root.
Chapped Hands (Victorian Recipe)
4 fl ozs / 118 mls veg glycerin
2 fl ozs / 60 mls cologne
1/2 fl oz / 15 mls benzoin
Rain water 1 pint / 1/2 litre
Mix thoroughly and apply to the hands after washing. Use regularly to prevent hands chapping.
A refreshing, mildly antiseptic and delightfully aromatic aftershave lotion. Makes an ideal gift for a man.
10 drops rosemary essential oil
6 drops bay essential oil
6 drops lemon essential oil
5 drops lime essential oil 2 drops sage essential oil
1/3 fl oz / 10 mls tincture of benzoin (friar's balsam)
1/2 fl oz / 15 mls witch hazel
2 fl oz / 50 mls rosewater
2 fl oz / 50 mls cider vinegar.
Dissolve the essential oils in the tincture of benzoin, and then mix with the witch hazel, ensuring that the mixture is well blended. Mix the rosewater and cider vinegar together, and then thoroughly blend the two solutions together. Store in a glass bottle with a tight-fitting, non-metallic lid.
Peach Lotion (for dry or normal skin)
From All Natural Beauty
4 drops tincture of benzoin
2 fl oz / 50 mls coconut or sweet almond oil
1 1/2 fl oz / 35 mls orange flower water
1 or 2 drops orange oil
Wash, drain, mash, and then strain the juice from 1 peach through muslin or cheesecloth. Add to it all other ingredients. Beat together until it is fluffy and pour into a clean 4 oz / 100 mls container. It will keep for a longer period if you store it in the refrigerator. Use the lotion to moisturize your skin whenever it feels dry.
Witch Hazel Hand Cream
By Angela Cisco at Associated Content
(Visit site for more amazingly easy recipes)
2 tsps brewer's yeast
5 tsps witch hazel
¼ tsp tincture of benzoin (found at any drugstore)
Mix all ingredients to make a smooth paste. Refrigerate for 20 minutes and smear over the hands. Leave it on for 30 minutes. Wash off with lukewarm water. The witch hazel and the tincture of benzoin both help to repair skin that is dry and / or irritated.