styrax tonkinensis

Styrax, a precious resin from the tropical forests of Honduras, is an endangered aromatic raw material. Day after day, deforestation reduces its natural environment and local populations are losing interest in harvesting it, as it is an unprofitable activity. In order to preserve this natural resource and traditional savoir-faire, Albert Vieille, in partnership with a salvadorian company, is developing a sustainable styrax supply chain in Honduras.

Harvest

Styrax harvesting takes place from April to November and is performed by the Pech tribe in Honduras. Traditionally, the resin collectors examined each tree to identify pockets forming under the bark, in which this powerful amber liquid accumulates. Using a mallet, they hit these pockets to assess the resin quantity within. Only those containing large amounts of styrax are cut into. The resinous balsam then flows like honey. Today, collectors create a small cavity or wound on the tree to encourage the tree to produce more resin. A month after the incision, the styrax that has accumulated in the natural pocket is then collected.

Aromatic raw materials from Styrax

Two aromatic raw materials are produced from styrax: essential oil and resinoid. The essential oil, composed mainly of E-cinnamaldehyde and cinnamyl alcohol, has balsamic notes and spicy, woody characteristics. The resinoid contains high concentrations of esters, phenylpropyl cinnamate, and cinnamyl cinnamate and has fruity and more floral facets, as well. These raw materials create excellent accords in chypre and oriental perfume compositions and combine particularly well with woody scents, with Balsam of Peru, Vanilla, Cinnamon and Benzoin, and are superb fixatives. Styrax is also used in flavors.

Origin

The styrax tree owes its name,Liquidambar styraciflua L., to its orangey resin, called "liquid amber." It grows wild, mainly in the dense forests of the Olancho mountain range in Honduras. It is also found in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico. Its exploitation as a crop is today a managed agricultural activity and does not affect its survival.

Histoire

It appears that styrax balm has long been used by indigenous peoples. Following Cortes' conquest of Central America, styrax was imported into Spain in large quantities for use in perfumery and for its woundwort-like healing properties.