There are two types of benzoin gum used in incense and perfumery, benzoin Siam and benzoin Sumatra. Benzoin Siam is obtained from Styrax tonkinensis, found across Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Benzoin Sumatra is obtained from Styrax benzoin grown on the island of Sumatra. Both varieties are anti-pathogenic resins, which are exuded from the tree when it is damaged.
Benzoin resin or styrax resin is a balsamic resin obtained from the bark of several species of trees in the genus Styrax. It is used in perfumes, some kinds of incense, as a flavoring, and medicine (see tincture of benzoin). Its principal component is benzoic acid. Commonly called “benzoin”, it is called “benzoin resin” here to distinguish it from the crystalline compound benzoin. Benzoin resin does not contain this crystalline compound.Benzoin is also called gum benzoin or gum benjamin, but “gum” is incorrect as benzoin is not a water-soluble polysaccharide. Benzoin resin is a common ingredient in incense-making and perfumery because of its vanilla ice-cream aroma and fixative properties. Gum benzoin is a major component of the type of church incense used in Russia and some other Orthodox Christian societies. Most benzoin is used in Arab States of the Persian Gulf and India, where it is burned on charcoal as an incense. In perfumery, benzoin is used as a fixative, slowing the dispersion of essential oils and other fragrance materials into the air. Its penetrating qualities are useful in massage for easing tired muscles. It is used in treating arthritis, bronchitis, chapped skin, coughing, laryngitis, and stress. It has the ability to instantly calm and soothe the soul emotionally.