Storax, also known as “Levant styrax” or Su He Xiang in Pinyin, is one of frequently used aromatic herbs for resuscitation in traditional Chinese medicine. Just like Moschus, Benzoin resin, Borneol, or resins of other sweetgums, it has a rich aroma that is believed to free the blocked heart orifice and induce resuscitation. It is said that the material basis for its magical resuscitation effect comes from the unique spicy aroma of its volatile components. Storax has extensive medical uses, in particular in the treatment of various pains, such as abdominal pain, hypochondriac pain, parietal headache, trigeminal neuralgia, acute biliary colic, ascariasis, angina caused by coronary heart disease and rheumatic valvular heart disease, and so on. By the way, don’t confuse it with styrax since they sometimes share this name.
What is storax?
It refers to the aromatic resin that oozes out from the trunk of Liquidambar orientalis Mill. Also called Turkish sweetgum or oriental sweetgum, this is a plant in the family Hamamelidaceae. And other common name of the oil it produces include Turkish Sweetgum Oil, Oriental Sweetgum Oil, Liquid Storax, Balsam Storax, Asiatic Storax, Styrax Levant, sweetgum oils, and the like. But don’t confused it with benzoin resin (styrax resin), which comes from various Styrax species, such as S. benzoides, S. benzoin (Sumatra benzoin), and S. tonkinensis (Siam benzoin). And don’t mix it up with styrax, which is from a different plant. Storax is mainly produced in Africa, India and Turkey. In China it is basically cultivate in provinces of Guangxi and Yunnan. The harvest generally begins in early summer. First off cut or wound the bark deep to the xylem, let the sap emerge and penetrate the bark, peel the bark in autumn, and extract the resin called common storax. If dissolve the common storax in ethanol, filter, and evaporate ethanol, it gets refined storax. The finished products should store in cool and sealed place.
Liquidambar orientalis is a deciduous tree, 10 to 15 meters in height. Leaves are alternate, caducous, and with a long handle and small stipules; blade is palmate, 5-lobed, occasionally 3 or 7-lobed; lobe is ovate or oblong-ovate. Flowers are small and unisexual, many of them forming a yellowish green round-shaped inflorescence. Infructescence is spherical, about 2.5cm in diameter, with persistent thorn-like style, aggregating many capsules; capsule is with beak-like tip that will crack when ripe. Seeds are 1 or 2, narrowly oblong, flat, and with wings atop. Habitat is moist fertile soil.
Storax gum is semi-liquidity thick liquid, from yellowish white to grey-brown, translucent, viscous, and continuous if pricking with a stick. It is heavy and can sink into the water. It is aromatic and slightly bitter. The high quality storax herb is yellow-white, translucent, and with aroma.
Main chemical compositions of storax resin are essential oil, which contains a-pinene, β-pinene, camphene, myrcene, limonene, 1,8-cineole, p-cymene, terpinolene, linalool, 4-terpineol, a-terpineol, Cinnamic aldehyde, trans-methyl cinnamate, ethyl phenol, allyl phenol, n-propyl cinnamate, β-phenylpropionic acid, 1-benzoyl-3-phenylpropyne, benzoic acid, palmitic acid, linoleic acid, cis-cinnamic acid, cis-cinnamyl cinnamate, oleanonic acid, 3-epioleanolic acid, and more.
Sometimes storax can be an excellent ingredient in incense making recipes or an important aromatic fixative in the art of making perfumes. However, it plays a more important role as a medicine. When it comes to storax, something must to be mentioned is the Su He Xiang Wan (Liquid Styrax Pill), which comes from Tai Ping Hui Min He Ji Ju Fang (Formulas of the Peaceful Benevolent Dispensary). This is a famous resuscitation-inducing drug that warms its way to regain consciousness. In this formula storax and styrax benzoin are the most powerful two ingredients.
Stroke is a disease that is characterized as sudden collapse, coma, drooping mouth, language difficulty, and hemiplegia. Because of its high incidence, high mortality, high disability rate, high recurrence rate, and more complications, in medical community stroke, coronary heart disease, and cancer are viewed as the three major diseases that threaten human health. And this is a commonly used drug in the treatment of stroke since it has obvious curative effect and magical properties on stroke-induced confusion, lockjaw, hemiplegia, and other symptoms.
Modern pharmacology studies showed that Liquid Styrax Pill could significantly expand coronary artery, increase coronary blood flow and myocardial nutritional blood flow, slow down the heart rate, reduce myocardial oxygen consumption, and extend the hypoxia tolerance in animals. Besides, it still has significant anti-thrombotic and anti-platelet aggregation capabilities.
Modern pharmacological actions of Levant styrax oil
1) It is one of irritating expectorant drugs. In combination with a weak antibacterial activity, it can be used for a variety of respiratory tract infections;
2) It has a mild stimulating effect, which can relieve local inflammation and promote healing of ulcers and wounds;
3) It can enhance organism’s tolerance to anoxia, slowed heart rate in experimental myocardial infarction in dogs, improve coronary blood flow, and reduce myocardial oxygen consumption;
4) It can significantly inhibit platelet aggregation in rabbit and rat.
Sample storax resin recipes on herbal remedies
The Chinese Pharmacopoeia tells that it is acrid in flavor and warm in nature. It goes to meridians of heart and spleen. Primary functions are inducing resuscitation, repelling foulness, and relieving pain. Main storax uses and indications include coma due to blocking of the respiratory system, sudden unconsciousness, cold and pain in chest and abdomen, and epilepsy. Recommended storax dosage is from 0.3 to 1g in pills or powder. Besides, it can be available in the forms of storax tablet and syrup too.
1) Li Shui Tang from Bu Que Zhou Hou Fang (Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies). This is a formula mainly for the treatment of ascites.
2) Dong Chuang Tang from Xian Dai Shi Yong Zhong Yao (Modern and Practical Chinese Medicine). Storax can be dissolved in alcohol and applied for frostbite.
3) Guan Xin Su He Wan from the “People’s Republic of China Pharmacopoeia” (1985 edition). It opens the orifices with warmth and aroma, regulate qi, and promote blood circulation to arrest pain. It is mainly used for treating coronary heart disease and angina.
4) Tong Qiao Zhen Tong San from “Beijing Drug Standards” (1980). It treats emotional upset, damage by excess of seven emotions, liver qi stagnation, disordered Qi and blood, suddenly collapse due to blocked channel, unconsciousness, and chest pain radiating to back.
5) Shi Xiang Fan Sheng Dan from Chun Jiao Ji. It mainly treats faint, epilepsy in children, and sudden ailment from various causes.
6) Su He Xiang Wan from the “Formulas of the Peaceful Benevolent Dispensary”. It basically treats cold stroke, noxious pathogen attack, and consciousness and coma.
Clinical research of storax gum
a) Angina caused by rheumatic heart valve disease and coronary heart disease has ever been treated with Guan Xin Su He Wan, which consists of storax, Bing Pian (borneol), Mu Xiang (Costus), Zhu Sha (cinnabar), and Tan Xiang (Sandalwood). And the effective rate was 91.5% and it works normally 2 to 3 minutes after taking it.
b) Coronary heart disease has ever been treated with Su Bing Di Wan, namely the combination of storax and borneol. The angina relief rate was 83.4% and ECG improvement rate was 31.5%. And it produced the desired result after 2 to 3 minutes of medication.
c) 50 cases of acute biliary colic have been treated with Su He Xiang Wan. And all of them were under control.
d) 60 cases of ascariasis have been treated with Liquid Styrax Pill only for straight 2 to 3 days. 43 cases were cured and 10 cases were improved. The total efficiency was 88.33%.
Storax side effects and contraindications
Liquid Styrax Pill may cause minor side effects like gastrointestinal discomfort, stomach pain, sore throat, and rash in individual patients. The mentioned symptoms usually appear at the beginning and then disappear in the following treatment. Besides, it may also lead to occasional menorrhagia but return to normal after stopping medication. TCM wise, Ben Jing Feng Yuan (Encountering the Sources of the ‘Classic of Materia Medica’) says that storax shouldn’t be used in case of fire excess from yin deficiency.
a) Xin Yi Yao Xue Za Zhi (New Journal of Medicine and Herbology), 1975; 2:76;
b) Zhong Cheng Yao Yan Jiu (Research of Chinese Patent Medicine), 1983; 8:29;
c) Zhe Jiang Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi (Zhejiang Journal of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine), 1996; 1:19;
d) Zhejiang Journal of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine), 1998; 6:394.