Medicinal benefits of Sweetgum

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Sweetgum Quick Facts
Name: Sweetgum
Scientific Name: Liquidambar styraciflua
Origin North America
Colors Brown
Shapes Round, globose, 1–1.5 inches (25–38 mm) in diameter
Sweet gum, a tree of the Witch hazel family (Hamamelidaceae), native of the eastern United States, also Mexico and Central America. Along the rivers of the south-eastern United States, Sweet gums exceed 125 ft. in height and 4 ft. in diameter. The deeply cut grey or brownish-grey bark forms winged projections on the twigs. The alternate, palmate, shiny leaves have usually five pointed, finely toothed lobes, and are fragrant when bruised. In the autumn the star-shaped leaves turn brilliant red to purple, making a valuable ornamental tree. The staminate flowers are inconspicuous, the pistillate in spherical heads maturing into long-stalked, globose masses of spiky-tipped capsules. The wood is fine-grained, moderately hard and fairly strong; the heart wood is known as red gum and hazelwood, is variously coloured red and brown, the sapwood is paler. From incisions made in the tree a gum exudes which is resinous (storax) and adhesive, and somewhat like white turpentine in appearance, which finally hardens.

Bark and branches

The tree is peculiar appearance of its small branches and twigs. Bark attaches itself to these in plates edgewise instead of laterally and piece of leafless branch with aid of little imagination readily takes on reptilian form. Bark is a light brown tinged with red and gray with dark steaks weighs 37 lbs. per cubic foot.


Leaves have five sharply pointed palmate lobes, 3-5 inches wide on average and have three distinct bundle scars. Leaves have 6-10 cm petiole. They are rich dark green, shiny, smooth and star shaped which turns brilliant orange, red and purple colors in autumn. Leaves are 3 to 7 inches broad with glandular serrate teeth. Base is truncate and slightly heart shaped.

Facts About Sweetgum

Name Sweetgum
Scientific Name Liquidambar styraciflua
Native North America
Common/English Name Star-Leaved Gum, Red Gum
Name in Other Languages English: American-storax, Alligator-wood, Red-gum, Satin-walnut,
Sweet-gum, Sweetgum;
French: Copalme d’Amérique, Liquidambar;
Swedish: Ambraträd;
German: Amerikanischer Amberbaum
Soil Deep, rich, moist, slightly acidic
Plant Size 75 feet and spread to 50 feet
Bark Dark and deeply furrowed
Leaf Glossy, star-shaped,  turns bright red, purple, yellow or orange, 3-7 inches broad, 18 cm wide with long
Flowering Season March to May
Flower 1-1.5 inches (25-38 mm) in diameter
Fruit shape & size Round, globose, 1–1.5 inches (25–38 mm) in diameter
Fruit color Brown
Medicinal parts The bark and concrete juice


Flowers bloom in March to May and are about 1 to 1.5 inches in diameter and are covered with rusty hairs. Flowers are unisexual and greenish in color. Staminate flowers form in terminal racemes about 2 to 3 inches long.


Flowers are followed by dry, hard, globose fruit about 1-1.5 inches in diameter which comprises of numerous 40 to 60 capsules. Each capsule has one to two small seeds and a pair of terminal spikes. Woody capsules are filled with abortive seeds that resemble sawdust. Seeds are winged and one quarter of an inch thick and dispersed by wind. Winter buds are yellow brown and one fourth of an inch long. Inner scales enlarge with growing shoot and becomes half an inch long and green tipped with red.


As a remedy for catarrhs of genito-urinary passages, coughs of pulmonary affection generally, gonorrhoea, gleet, amenorrhoea, leucorrhoea, phthisis (wasting disease, tuberculosis of the lung, consumption) and asthma. Also excellent for bloody flux, dysentery and all bowel complaints of children.


1 teaspoonful of the cut or granulated bark to 1 cupful of boiling water; drink 1 or 2 cupfuls a mouthful at a time during the day; adjust to condition and age.


The balsamic juice may be melted with equal parts of olive oil or tallow as a detergent ointment when conditions of indolent ulcers, frost-bite, scabies, itch, ringworm, fistula, scrofula, fever sores and haemorrhoids are present.

Culinary uses

  • Resin is used in chewing gum or as a stabilizer for cakes.
  • It is also chewed to sweeten breath.

Medicinal uses

  • Resin extracted from trunk acts as antiseptic, diuretic, carminative, expectorant, poultice, parasiticide, stimulant, sedative, salve and vulnerary.
  • Chew the resin for treating sore throats, asthma, coughs, dysentery and cystitis.
  • Apply it externally for sores, piles, wounds, ringworm, piles and scabies.
  • Inner bark is used for treating diarrhea and childhood cholera.
  • Add the leaves to bathes for soothing or healing skin.






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