Essential oil of the gum exudate obtained from the trunk of the american styrax, liquidambar styraciflua.
Used as a “love potion” and perfume by the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra in the past, styrax oil has also been used as a medicine since the Hippocratic period. The ancient Egyptians also used the oil during embalming. Amphorae filled with oil unearthed from sunken Phoenician ships show that sweetgum oil occupied an important place in Mediterranean trade in the past.
The extraction of its sap and the production of a balsam based thereof (sığla yağı), as well as exports of these products, play an important role in the local economies of Greece and Turkey. The harvest of the sap and the preparation of the oil involve quite strenuous tasks lasting from May to November and consisting of several separate phases. The thick sap is obtained in the period June to September by gradually stripping a quarter of the total trunk lengthwise. Wounding the trunk causes sap to emerge, which can be further stimulated by tapping the trunk. The stripped sap is put in boiling water to soften, then pressed. The styrax is then diluted with water, keeping it soft and preserving its aroma. By steam distillation, a light yellow oil is obtained. There is a danger of the present generation of master oil makers not being replaced in near future.
In English, this oil is known under several names, shortly as storax to include all sweetgum oils, or as styrax Levant, Asiatic storax, balsam storax, liquid storax, Oriental sweetgum oil, or Turkish sweetgum oil. Diluted with a suitable carrier oil, it is used externally in traditional medicine.] It is a different product from the benzoin resin produced from tropical trees in the genus Styrax.