Oriental Sweet Gum (Liquidambar orientalis)

L. imberbe.
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Oriental Sweet Gum
Liquidambar orientalis

The aromatic resin ‘Storax’ is obtained from the trunk of this tree[57, 64]. It forms in cavities of the bark and also exudes naturally. It is harvested in autumn. Production can be stimulated by beating the trunk in the spring[171, 238]. The resin has a wide range of uses including medicinal, incense, perfumery, soaps etc. It is also used as a parasiticide[46, 61]. Liquid storax gives greater permanence to the odours of flowers extracted by maceration[245]. It is also used in the imitation of other scents as an alternative to vanilla, ambergris and benzoin, or to complement them[245].

The aromatic bark is burnt as an incense[245].

  • Medicinal Use

    A resin obtained from the wood and inner bark acts both as an irritant and an expectorant within the respiratory tract. It is one of the ingredients of ‘Friar’s Balsam’, an expectorant mixture that is inhaled to stimulate a productive cough[254]. Externally it is applied to the skin to treat a range of diseases[254]. The resin is also mixed with Hamamelis virginiana and Rose water to make an astringent face lotion[254].

    The resin is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, expectorant, pectoral, salve and stimulant[46, 57, 61, 176, 218, 238]. It is taken internally in the treatment of strokes, infantile convulsions, coma, heart disease and pruritis[238]. It is also used in the treatment of cancer[218]. Externally it is mixed with oil and used to treat scabies, wounds, ulcers etc[238, 254]. The bark is harvested in the autumn and the resin extracted from the bark[254].

    The leaves, fruits and roots are used in similar ways to the resin[238] and are also considered to be antidote, parasiticide and vulnerary[218].

  • Edible Use

    A chewing gum and a stabilizer for cakes etc are obtained from the resin[177]. This resin is also used to flavour baked foods etc[183].

  • Cautionary Notes

    None known

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. Harvest the seed capsules at the end of October or November, dry in a warm place and extract the seed by shaking the capsule. Stored seed requires 1 – 3 months stratification and sometimes takes 2 years to germinate. Sow it as early in the year as possible. Germination rates are often poor. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a cold frame or greenhouse for their first winter. Since they resent root disturbance, it is best to plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer of their second year and give them some protection from cold for their first winter outdoors[K]. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Suckers in early spring. Layering in October/November. Takes 12 months.
Prefers a moist but not swampy loam in a sheltered position[1, 200]. Prefers a neutral to acid soil[130]. Grows poorly on shallow soils overlying chalk[188]. Plants can be grown in full sun so long as the soil is not dry hungry and shallow[130]. Young plants are susceptible to damage from late frosts[11, 130, 200]. Mature plants are fully hardy but prefer a hotter climate if they are to do well[11]. Plants rarely, if ever, flower in Britain[11]. They rarely flower in climatic zones colder than zone 7[200]. An aromatic gum exudes from the trunk. The fragrance is also present to some extent in the leaves, especially if they are bruised[245]. This species resents root disturbance, young plants should be pot-grown and be placed in their permanent positions as soon as possible[200]. A slow growing plant[1].
W. Asia.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.