Herb: Oriental Sweet Gum

Latin name: Liquidambar orientalis

Synonyms: Liquidambar imberbe

Family: Hamamelidaceae (Witch-hazel Family)

Medicinal use of Oriental Sweet Gum:

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. Externally it is applied to the skin to treat a range of diseases. The resin is also mixed with Hamamelis virginiana and Rose water to make an astringent face lotion. The resin is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, expectorant, pectoral, salve and stimulant. It is taken internally in the treatment of strokes, infantile convulsions, coma, heart disease and pruritis. It is also used in the treatment of cancer. Externally it is mixed with oil and used to treat scabies, wounds, ulcers etc. The bark is harvested in the autumn and the resin extracted from the bark. The leaves, fruits and roots are used in similar ways to the resin and are also considered to be antidote, parasiticide and vulnerary.

Description of the plant:


10 m
(33 feet)



Habitat of the herb:

Flood plains, marshy places and valley sides near streams to elevations of 1800 metres in Turkey.

Edible parts of Oriental Sweet Gum:

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

Other uses of the herb:

The aromatic resin "Storax" is obtained from the trunk of this tree. 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. The resin has a wide range of uses including medicinal, incense, perfumery, soaps etc. It is also used as a parasiticide. Liquid storax gives greater permanence to the odours of flowers extracted by maceration. It is also used in the imitation of other scents as an alternative to vanilla, ambergris and benzoin, or to complement them. The aromatic bark is burnt as an incense.

Propagation of Oriental Sweet Gum:

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. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Suckers in early spring. Layering in October/November. Takes 12 months.

Cultivation of the herb:

Flood plains, marshy places and valley sides near streams to elevations of 1800 metres in Turkey.

Known hazards of Liquidambar orientalis:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.