If there is one tradition that I completely love and follow religiously, it is using sambrani smoke also called benzoin resin in English. Lighting Sambrani smoke is an ancient tradition that has been followed for many years in Indian due to it’s amazing benefits. We use it for drying our hair, for babies and also for warding off mosquitoes! When I say sambrani, I am referring to paal sambrani not computer sambrani.
What Is Sambrani?
It is a balsamic resin obtained from several trees of the family Styracaceae. The resin is dried, powdered and sold in the markets, either as a powder or in blocks. Sambrani usage has been in the culture for many years and in fact every South Indian home will have sambrani holders that will be more than 100 years old.
Many countries use sambrani, in Arab countries they use it directly and in some countries they use it in incense. You can also use it instead of sandalwood shavings as a base for making incense cones. To light up sambrani smoke, coal is collected in sambrani holder and the sambrani powder is sprinkled over it.
Sambrani is produced mainly in Asia in several countries like Thailand, Java, Sumatra, Indonesia and Vietnam. The trees by themselves does not produce any resin, they are produced after deep incisions are made in the bark. Farmers who grow benzoin trees usually pick a spot in the forest usually near already existing benzoin trees. They pick seedlings from the best resin producing tree and when the tree reaches eight years they start tapping for the resin. The resin can be extracted for almost 60 years!
Sambrani Common Names
It is called Benzoin Resin In English, Loban in Hindi and Sambrani is the Tamil name.
Types of Sambrani
There are two types of benzoin gum commonly available, one is called “Benzoin Gum Siam” got from Styrax Tonkinensis and the other is “Benzoin Gum Sumatra” got from Styrax Benzoin. In the local markets we get two types of Sambrani, one is called “Paal Sambrani” and the other is “Computer Sambrani”. Paal Sambrani is the naturally occurring resin (one of the two) and computer Sambrani refers to a mixture of ingredients in which Sambrani is one of the ingredients, I prefer the Paal sambrani.
a. Benzoin Gum Siam
It is externally reddish yellow in colour and internally milky white. It has got a pleasant odor with a distinct note of vanilla so it is used to flavor artificial vanilla and chocolate products. It is also used in pharmaceutical preparations and in perfumes. It comes in four different grades which range from large shaped resin to almost fine powder.
b. Benzoin Gum Sumatra
Sumatra has reddish to greyish brown colour and has strong styrax like odor which is different from Siam variety. It also comes in different grades and is mainly used in soap and detergent fragrances.
Sambrani Chemical Components
Benzoin Gum Siam
The major constituent of benzoin siam are benzyl benzoate, benzoic acid, methyl benzoate and allyl benzoate.
Benzoin Gum Sumatra
Gum sumatra contains benzyl benzoate, styrene, cinnamic acid and benzyl cinnamate.
How is Sambrani Collected?
The bottom of the tree is tapped and the resin is collected first and then the farmer climbs 2 meters above the tapped part and the resin is collected again, this process is repeated. To collect, the bark of the tree is cleaned with a scraper to prevent the resin mixing with impurities when it flows out.
Then 5 small wounds in four sides of the tree about 2cm deep is made. the resin flows under the bark and outside. It is usually collected during rainy season or in the early mornings when it is cold so the resin does not melt while collecting which results in resin getting dirty.
Sambrani Health Benefits:
Styrax benzoin has many uses, the tincture is used treating throat infection and cold sores when used as a mouth wash. Benzoin resin is also used for treating dry skin, wounds and inflammation. Since it has anti inflammatory properties, it is used to relieve muscle pain, gout and arthritis.
Benzoin oil extracted from the resin also has wonderful health benefits, it is used as a sedative and relaxant. It is also used in skin care to treat wound and scars and since it is an expectorant, it is used to treat respiratory problems. It is also used for treating digestive problems and it is a diuretic too.
Sambrani Incense Benefits:
Every once in a while when you have plenty of time, take an oil bath, play some divine music, light up sambrani and dry your hair with sambrani smoke. Then you will understand why I am going on and on about sambrani so much 🙂
1. Sambrani Calms Us:
2. Sambrani For Hair:
3. Sambrani For Babies:
4. Sambrani For Mosquitoes:
Where To Buy Sambrani?
2 Ways To Use Sambrani At Home
1. To Dry Hair:
Use sambrani as such for drying your hair. When using it, keep a straw basket above the sambrani holder after sprinkling the sambrani powder. The fumes will seep through the pores in the straw basket, now you can dry your hair with the fumes. Keeping the straw basket prevents accidents and it also lets out fumes evenly.
2. To Purify The Air :
For using it around the home, take fresh neem leaves, dry and powder them in a mixer. Now take sambrani, kungilium and add to the powdered neem leaves and powder together well. It need not be very fine, even if it is a bit coarse it is ok. To use, sprinkle the powder over hot coal and take it around the home.
How To Use Sambrani Holder?
To use sambrani holder, collect hot coal in sambrani holder and sprinkle little bit sambrani powder, it will start emitting smoke. If you don’t have coal, you can also burn coconut shell in the stove and take it in the sambrani holder. Once the smoke stops, add some more sambrani powder. Also try to fan the coal periodically to prevent it from loosing it’s heat.
Sambrani Side Effects:
If you are allergic to smoke, I would suggest not using sambrani smoke and also don’t place the smoke too close to babies. I would also suggest buying and using good quality sambrani to prevent any side effects.
- Once you open up a sambrani packet, store it in airtight box.
- Sambrani holders are available every where, buy ones with a long handle else it will be difficult to hold it.
- Usually sambrani holders are made of brass.
- Light up sambrani at least weekly once and fill the whole house with the smoke. It will ward of mosquitoes, make the whole house smell divine.
- Even for headaches, sambrani smoke is very good.
- I will give full details about kungilium in future posts.