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All about Elemi Essential Oil

The Origins of Elemi (Canarium luzonicum)

Elemi essential oil is derived from the resin of the Canarium luzonicum tree native to the Philippines.

About the Plant

The Canarium luzonicum tree, also known as Elemi, is a tall, tropical evergreen that belongs to the Burseraceae family. This tree is indigenous to the lush rainforests of the Philippines, particularly the islands of Luzon and Mindanao.

Elemi’s botanical name, Canarium luzonicum, pays homage to its Philippine origins, with “luzonicum” referring to the island of Luzon. Elemi resin is extracted from the tree’s gum, which exudes naturally through cuts in the bark.

Cultural Significance

Elemi has deep roots in the traditional medicine and culture of the Philippines. Indigenous communities have used Elemi resin for generations, harnessing its therapeutic properties to soothe coughs, alleviate skin issues, and support respiratory health.

Spiritual and Ritual Use

In addition to its medicinal uses, Elemi resin held a spiritual role in the Philippines. Similar to how Frankincense was used in Christian and other traditions, Elemi was used in religious ceremonies and rituals. The aromatic smoke produced by burning Elemi resin was believed to purify spaces and invite positive energies. It was also used as an offering to the spirits and gods.

European Introduction

During the Age of Exploration, Elemi resin found its way to Europe, where it was highly valued for its medicinal properties. In medieval European apothecaries, Elemi was often used as an antiseptic and a balm for wounds. It was also a sought-after ingredient in perfumes and skincare products.

Modern Use

Elemi essential oil continues to be cherished for its versatile applications. It’s valued in aromatherapy for its calming and grounding properties. Elemi’s sweet, citrusy, and woody aroma makes it a popular choice for diffusing, especially during meditation or relaxation practices.

Chemistry

Elemi essential oil contains a wide range of chemical compounds, each contributing to its distinct aroma and therapeutic effects. Some of the main constituents include:

Limonene: This terpene is responsible for Elemi’s citrusy scent. Limonene is also known for its mood-enhancing and uplifting qualities.

Elemol: The eponymous component of Elemi, elemol contributes to its unique aroma. It possesses soothing and grounding properties.

Terpinene: This compound lends Elemi its fresh and slightly spicy notes. Terpinene is recognized for its potential antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.

Phellandrene: Phellandrene contributes to Elemi’s woody undertones. It may have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects.

Eugenol: Present in smaller quantities, eugenol adds a hint of spiciness to Elemi’s fragrance. It is known for its antimicrobial and analgesic properties.

Professional therapeutic use

Elemi is used in aromatherapy for a range of different purposes. It has similar effects and uses to oils such as Frankincense and Palo Santo.

Stress Reduction: Elemi’s calming aroma can help alleviate stress and anxiety, promoting relaxation and mental clarity.

Respiratory Support: Elemi can be used used in steam inhalation or diffusion to support the respiratory system. It has a clearing, calming effect.

Skin Care: Elemi’s antiseptic properties make it suitable for first aid, for example minor cuts and scrapes. It is also beneficial in a blend for oily skincare. Elemi should be appropriately diluted when used topically on the skin.

Joint Comfort: As part of a blend of everyday joint and muscle discomfort Elemi can provide comfort and relief. Perfect after a day in the garden or a bit too much exercise.

Caution and Dilution

As with any essential oil, Elemi should be used with care. It is recommended to dilute this oil with a carrier oil before applying it to the skin. Conduct a patch test to check for any allergic reactions. If you’re pregnant, nursing, or have specific medical conditions, consult with a practitioner before using Elemi oil.

Aroma

Elemi essential oil’s aroma is a harmonious blend of citrusy, woody and spicy notes. In this section, we’ll take a closer look at the aroma profile of Elemi and how it can enhance your sensory journey. Elemi’s aroma is often described as:

Citrusy: The top notes of Elemi oil offer a bright and zesty citrus scent, reminiscent of lemon or lime. This freshness can uplift your mood and create a sense of alertness.

Woody: As the aroma settles, you’ll notice warm and woody undertones. These grounding notes provide a sense of stability and balance, making Elemi ideal for relaxation and meditation.

Spicy: Elemi also has a hint of spiciness, akin to pepper or ginger. This subtle spice adds depth to its fragrance and contributes to its overall complexity.

Sustainability

Elemi resin is obtained through a process known as tapping, which involves carefully incising the bark of the Canarium luzonicum tree to release the resin. The local communities in the Philippines have honed this skill over generations, ensuring minimal harm to the trees. This sustainable harvesting method supports the longevity of the Elemi tree population and preserves the surrounding ecosystems.

The extraction of Elemi essential oil is typically carried out through steam distillation, a process that uses water vapor to extract the oil from the resin. This method is energy-efficient and minimizes waste.

How to Use Elemi Essential Oil

Diffusion

Diffusing Elemi essential oil is a wonderful way to infuse your living space with its delightful aroma. Elemi’s calming and grounding properties make it an excellent choice for diffusing during meditation, yoga, or relaxation sessions. It can help reduce stress and create a peaceful atmosphere.

Add a few drops of Elemi oil to your diffuser with water. Let the diffuser disperse the aromatic mist throughout your room.

Topical Application

Elemi essential oil can be diluted and applied to the skin, offering potential benefits for skincare and aromatherapy. Elemi’s antiseptic properties can be beneficial for addressing minor skin issues like acne or cuts.

Dilute a few drops of Elemi oil in a carrier oil like Jojoba or Rosehip Seed Oil. Apply the mixture to your skin for a soothing experience.

Massage

Enhance the effectiveness of your massages by incorporating Elemi essential oil. Elemi’s woody and spicy notes create a relaxing and grounding experience during massages. It can help ease muscle tension and promote relaxation.

Mix a few drops of Elemi oil with a carrier oil of your choice. Use this blend for a soothing massage.

Bath

Elevate your bath time by adding Elemi essential oil. Its soothing, grounding aroma can transform your bath into a tranquil retreat. It’s an excellent choice for unwinding after a long day.

Dilute a few drops of Elemi oil in a carrier oil or bath salts before adding them to your bathwater.

Personal Inhalation

Carry Elemi’s soothing aroma with you wherever you go. Personal inhalation of can help manage stress and promote mental clarity, making it a handy companion for your daily routine.

Place a drop  on a tissue or handkerchief. Inhale the scent as needed throughout the day. Alternatively use a personal inhaler stick for convenience.

Contraindications & General Safety

While Elemi essential oil is generally considered safe, it’s essential to follow these safety guidelines:

  • Perform a patch test on a small area of skin to check for any allergic reactions before using Elemi topically.
  • Always dilute Elemi oil with a carrier oil before applying it to the skin. A typical dilution ratio is 1-2% Elemi oil to carrier oil.
  • If you’re pregnant, nursing, have underlying medical conditions, or are taking medications, consult with a qualified aromatherapist or healthcare professional before using Elemi oil.

Blending & Recipes

Elemi essential oil’s versatility shines when it comes to blending with other essential oils. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, rejuvenation, or a refreshing atmosphere, Elemi can be a valuable addition to your aromatic toolkit.

Blending Ideas

Relaxation Blend
Combine Elemi, Lavender, and Frankincense for a calming and grounding diffuser blend.

Respiratory Support
Mix Elemi with Eucalyptus and Tea Tree for a steam inhalation blend to clear congestion.

Muscle Relief
Create a massage blend with Elemi, Black Pepper, and Sweet Marjoram in a carrier oil for soothing tired muscles.

Skin Soother
Blend Elemi with Lavender and Chamomile in a carrier oil for a skin-soothing serum.

Recipes for Daily Use

Elemi Uplifting Room Spray

In a spray bottle, combine the essential oils. Add distilled water and shake well. Use as a room spray to create a refreshing and uplifting atmosphere.

Elemi Relaxing Bath Blend

Mix Elemi and Lavender essential oils with Epsom salts. Add the blend to your warm bathwater for a relaxing soak.

Elemi Aromatherapy Inhaler

Drop the oil onto the inhaler wick. Assemble the inhaler and inhale the aroma as needed for stress relief or mental clarity.

Elemi Facial Serum

Combine the essential oils with Jojoba oil. Apply a small amount to your face for a natural, skin-soothing serum.

These recipes offer just a glimpse into the creative possibilities of using Elemi essential oil in your daily life. Feel free to experiment and tailor blends to your preferences, keeping safety guidelines in mind.

Oshadhi’s Elemi Essential Oil

Oshadhi’s Elemi Essential oil is sourced from the Philippines. Fresh, lemony and slightly spicy, it can be used in place of (or alongside) Frankincense, Myrrh or Palo Santo.

For further information, see Helen Nagle-Smith’s excellent book ‘Working with Unusual Oils’. Here, Helen looks at emerging oils in the field of aromatherapy, including Elemi.