Elemi Resin & Essential Oil Profile & Uses
Synopsis: Elemi, native to the Philippines, the bark resin is extracted and steam distilled;
the E.O. is clear and pale yellow with a citrus scent,
is therapeutic and used in perfumery as a bridge note or fixative
and in skin care (with Galbanum) to rejuvenate and soothe the complexion.
The resin has a history of medicinal uses.
Elemi E.O. and resin
LATIN BINOMIAL/BOTANICAL NAME ~ Elemi (Canarium luzonicum) (Blume) A.Gray and from Family Burseraceae. The tree bark produces a resin generally grouped as a balsam; it is more viscous than an oleoresin, very gooey, soft, malleable, and fragrant. When fresh, it is like crystalized honey and will later harden.
FAMILY – Burseraceae family is the same family that produces Frankincense and Myrrh. The family Burseraceae comprises about 16-20 genera of shrubs and trees.
NAMING ~ Elemi is known as “Pili” in the Philippines. Elemi is a common name for resinous items used as varnishes, printing inks, and ointments. The word itself in Arabic, a translation of Elemi, is similar to the saying “as above, so below”.•
History: “It was Magellan’s discovery of the Philippines in 1521 that led to Manila elemi – known for its medicinal properties and fragrance – being introduced to Europe and the Middle East. The product’s name dates from this period, from the Arabic El-lemi. Its use in “Chinese incense” for religious ceremonies was already being mentioned in China in the 7th century. Further, it was used as a fumigant to perfume homes. Small bags of Elemi were also worn around the neck in that era. Starting in the 18th century, the West began regularly using Elemi for its therapeutic properties, and it is mentioned in many texts, including as “the inventory of simple drugs that must always be kept on hand in the King’s hospital pharmacies.” 2
COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN of Elemi ~ Native to the Philippines. Manila Elemi is a resin (from the bark) grouped in the balsam category and is more viscous than an oleoresin; it is semisolid and quite fragrant. The Philippine Elemi resin (Canarium luzonicum) is also one of the best-known and the source of the world’s largest supply.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF PLANT, HABITAT & GROWTH ~ Elemi trees grow in lowland rainforests and primary forests at low and medium elevations. It is an evergreen tree about 30 meters in height, pollinated by insects, and not self-fertile. The resin comes from both cultivated and wild trees.
PORTION OF PLANT USED IN DISTILLATION, HOW DISTILLED, EXTRACTION METHODS & YIELD ~ The tree bark of Canarium produces large quantities of the resin over a period of months. It is available both in the dry and the wet season, and there is a greater flow of resin during the wet season. A mature tree can produce up to five kilograms of Elemi a year. The gum is then shipped to warehouses using large palm fronds and placed in large wooden crates for export.
While Frankincense is sweet and musky, Elemi delivers a fresh, peppery-citrus aroma.
Elemi E.O. and CO2 are extracted from the bark resin using steam distillation or a supercritical carbon dioxide system from a tropical tree native to the Philippines. It is a member of the Burseraceae plant family and is closely related to a resin that resembles Frankincense and Myrrh.
Yield ~ 13-25% from the resin. Some sources mention yields as low as 3-6%.
ENDANGERED OR NOT ~ This particular species tree is considered to be threatened and/or vulnerable due to heavy usage, people moving into the areas where they live, and by over-tapping. Some species of Canarium are also considered to be invasive.
Sustainability ~ These items may not be sustainable in the amounts used. My suggestion is to use only the actual resin as it was once meant to be, as incense, in small, moderate amounts as needed, and not use the essential oil at all.
This work is sponsored and supported
by Prima Fleur Botanicals.
ORGANOLEPTIC CHARACTERISTICS OF RESIN AND EO
|ELEMI Resin & Oil||Resin||EO|
|Color:||Pale yellow||Pale yellow to colorless|
|Intensity of Odor: • 1-10 • |
1 is least intense
ODOR DESCRIPTION ~ This oil has a clear to a yellow hue, is non-viscous, tastes bitter, and is medium intensity with a citrus resin scent. The odor of some Elemi E.O. is somewhat like the flower and leaf of Choisya in the spring when it is full of phellandrene. The odor of the principal oil constituent of alpha-phellandrene (more in the spring of Choisya) and the odor of β-phellandrene has been described as peppery-minty with a slightly citrusy note, and phellandrene is absorbed through the skin. Thus, the hydrosol of this resin is excellent in the bath or as a body spray, and the E.O. is helpful in skin care. It is anti-inflammatory.
SOLUBILITY in 3 mediums – When you see Elemi discussed, it will often be described as a gum resin, resin, or an oleo-resin. Because each of these words has different meanings, I conducted my own simple experiment in determining the solubility of Elemi, in water (to see if it was a gum), in alcohol (to determine how quickly it might dissolve), and in oil (to see if it could be described as an oleo-resin). It was a revelation.
The solubility of Elemi is Soluble in 0.5 to 5 vol. of 90% alcohol; and usually soluble in 5-10 vol. of 80% alcohol. It is about 30-50% soluble in oil and, by my own experiment, NOT soluble in water; thus, it is an oleo-resin and not a gum resin.
SOLUBILITY in 3 mediums
5/27/18 At 9:30 A.M.
Day 1. Using 15 ml. Of 95% Neutral Grape Spirits, a combo of Sunflower/Jojoba Oil or distilled Water.
Day 2. Resin is dissolving in alcohol, slightly dissolved in oil, and not dissolving in water.
Day 3. Dissolved in alcohol; 30-50% dissolved in oil; not dissolved in water. [not a gum]
CHEMICAL COMPONENTS ~ A study on the composition of Elemi essential oil from Manila and from the distillation of Elemi resin yielded 39 compounds, with the most abundant being phellandrene or limonene. Limonene for some tests was at 56%, or phellandrene was higher at 25-28%. These components change depending on the terroir and where and when the tree was harvested and distilled. Constituents are limonene and phellandrene with smaller amounts of elemol, elemicin, dipentene, and terpineol.
This oil is clear and light yellow in color and is non-viscous. Its main constituent is phellandrene (25-28%).
The soft nature of Elemi resin partly results from the quantity of liquid sesquiterpenes. It sometimes crystallizes from the triterpenes and becomes opaque and white.4 The optical rotation of this E.O. and the fresh resin changes if stored in sunlight, and care should be taken to keep either in a dark container. A box will be sufficient for the resin, and for large amounts of the oil, brown glass is best.
INTERESTING INFORMATION AND HISTORY ABOUT ELEMI ~ When Frankincense became too costly and scarce for mass consumption, Elemi quickly became a logical replacement, offering many of the same therapeutic benefits. In Arabic, a translation of Elemi is similar to the saying “as above, so below.” It was revered as an oil of the Gods and, like Frankincense, was used in meditation and prayer. While Frankincense is fruity and herbal, Elemi delivers a fresh, citrus-spicy aroma.
Artifacts dating from Egypt’s 26th dynasty (664 B.C. and 525 B.C.) have been found at Saqqara that contained a fat-based ointment containing Elemi, a fragrant resin from tropical trees. “Elemi and another resin Dammar have not previously been linked to ancient Egyptian embalming practices and are highly unexpected.” “Elemi was present in the (embalming) workshop mixtures used to treat the head, liver, and body bandages.”6.
PROPERTIES OF ELEMI RESIN AND ESSENTIAL OIL
Elemi resin is antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, antispasmodic, and rubefacient; it is used in plasters to ease coughing. If used in medicine, Elemi is a potent antiseptic that protects against bacterial and viral infections, fungus, and septic shock. Its resin is soft, odorous and has the texture of honey. It was formerly exported for the European pharmaceutical trade as Manila or Philippine gum Elemi for use as an ointment for healing wounds and as a plaster. The valuable resin, called ‘Pili,’ aka Manila elemi or ‘breabianca,’ is used as an ingredient in manufacturing plastics, printing inks, and perfumes. It is also used by the Spaniards for ship repairs.
Raw nuts are purgative.
In skincare, it has been used to rejuvenate and heal wounds topically, as well as reduce the appearance of wrinkles. It is widely used as a fixative in fragrances, soaps, and cosmetics. Elemi may be used as an excellent base note in perfumery, where its inherent complexity is at once earthy and citrusy. During massage and aromatherapy treatments, it can be inhaled to reduce stress-related conditions and bring a feeling of peace and well-being.
Skilled practitioners have incorporated using Elemi to address bronchial and chest congestion due to its expectorant and stimulant properties. A potent antiseptic, Elemi protects against bacterial and viral infections, fungus, and septic shock.
Elemi, Canarium luzonicum, CO2 wild resin #201, and steam-distilled #217 are both from the resin. Try a bold new step in your skin-nurturing regime; protect and nourish your body with a luxuriously rich combination in a custom skincare line.
Elemi Properties (by IG=ingestion or IN=inhalation or AP=application)
Manila elemi (the resin obtained from the tree) and the essential oil distilled from the resin have a long history of medicinal use. They are considered to be antibacterial, antifungal, antirheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, and rubefacient.
Physical Uses & How Used (I.G. or I.G.). BA.P.Application – The resin can be melted and used in an ointment for wounds. The resin is applied externally in a salve to arthritic and rheumatic joints, boils, abscesses, furuncles, burns, and sores. It is heated and used on the chest as a poultice to stop severe coughing. The essential oil is an ingredient in a commercial preparation that is a natural anti-louse foaming gel, and this gel also contains Echinacea purpurea.
SKINCARE ~ ELEMI ~ Canarium luzonicum, the wild resin, is extracted by CO2 extraction and steam distilled for the E.O. It was used by the great Marguerite MAURY, a French biochemist and cosmetics chemist. In the 1950s, she was the first to use essential oils from plants in a new method and by using therapeutic massage. Marguerite Maury believed that Elemi with Galbanum would eventually rejuvenate the complexion and body.
It is used in products and perfumery. Try it in your skin-nurturing ritual; protect and nourish the skin with a 2% combination of these two ingredients in your night cream and daytime protection cream. In skincare, it has been used to rejuvenate and heal wounds topically, as well as reduce the appearance of wrinkles. It is widely used as a fixative in fragrances, soaps, and cosmetics.
Make a luxuriously rich combination of these two resins in a combination of Rice Bran oil and Rosehip seed oil to protect and nourish your body and add to your skincare routine. Use this as a luxuriously rich combination in your custom skincare line.
Elemi & Rose Lotion
By Ingestion – A corn kernel-sized drop of the resin is taken with water and is used in the treatment of fevers and chills.
By Inhalation – Skilled practitioners have incorporated the use of Elemi oil by inhalation or in a blend in a diffuser to address bronchial and chest congestion due to its expectorant and stimulant properties.
Emotional/Energetic Uses (AP or IN):
Inhalation – The resin burns smoky but with a delightful citrus scent. Inhaled, it stimulates mental and psychic ability, gives spiritual balance, and calms the mind. Elemi resin for the 3rd chakra, the solar plexus, vibrates in yellow, the sound is E, and its scent is citrus-like and helps to balance your fire spirit. The smoke is used by inhalation “to treat the thymus gland.3”
Emotional Attributes -cleansing/purifying, strengthening, creativity, meditation, prayer. “On the emotional system, Elemi oil imparts a strengthening, balancing, and centering action, which makes it valuable in meditation. Use it to stimulate mental ability when you suffer from stress, nervous exhaustion, or simply feeling sluggish. Elemi essential oil can be used to help dispel loneliness and create a more positive outlook and encourage hopefulness.”5
USING ELEMI herb, resin, and oil
HERBAL USES ~ One species of Canarium, Canarium ovatum, the seed is used in the traditional Chinese dessert called ‘mooncakes’, “The kernel (seed) is a major ingredient in this famous Chinese festive dessert’. However, kernels from some trees may be bitter, fibrous or have a turpentine odor. Young shoots are used in salads, and the fruit pulp is eaten after it is boiled and seasoned. Boiled Elemi pulp called pili resembles the sweet potato in texture, it is oily (about 12%) and is considered to have food value similar to the Avocado. Pulp oil can be used for cooking. Young shoots from the tree are used in salads, and the fruit pulp is eaten after it is boiled and seasoned.1" The tree bark is commonly used for postpartum baths.
Use the essential oils in moderation. Choose to use the herb tea or resin more often.
DIFFUSE/DIFFUSION ~ Elemi is a resin and thus can gum up a diffuser. Suggest trying something else for that lovely citrus scent, like a combination of Lemon-Grapefruit-Orange CP (cold-pressed) in your diffuser. Use Elemi, the resin burned on charcoal, to clear the spirit of your home.
I always use charcoal to burn resin, which is the way of using holy incense. I do it outside. And see the smoke curl into the air, and smell what is left in the air. It is a sacred thing. Resin is burned because it is fragrant and the “food of the gods” which they inhale. Burning incense is to feed the gods, and it is a meditative process.
BLENDING & PERFUMERY ~ Elemi blends well with Rose and other florals, adding a complex, spicy-citrus note. It contributes a unique freshness to Frankincense, Myrrh, Labdanum, Lavender, Rosemary, and Sage.
E.O. Perfumery – Elemi E.O. may be used as an excellent base note where its inherent complexity is at once earthy and citrusy. During massage and aromatherapy, it can be inhaled to reduce stress-related conditions and bring a feeling of peace and well-being.
HYDROSOL ~ I have not as yet had the opportunity to try an Elemi leaf, bark, or resin hydrosol.
Key Use: ‘Resin for Skin Rejuvenation’ — M. Maury
Science article: Elemi contains dipentene and elemicine, which are responsible for Elemi being a strong antiseptic, protecting wounds, and being a strong healer. expectorant. https://www.discoverlsp.com/news/chemical-focus.html
3. Rose, Jeanne. The Aromatherapy Book Applications & Inhalations. www.jeannerose.net/books.html
4.Langenheim, Plant Resins
6. Bower, Bruce. Egyptian Mummy Recipes Revealed. Science News. February 25, 2023, p.6
Guenther, Ernest. The Essential Oils. Krieger Publishing Company, Malabar, Florida. 1972 reprint
Mabberley, D.J., Mabberley’s Plant Book, 2008 Third Edition with 2014 updates, Cambridge University Press
Rose, Jeanne. 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols. http://www.jeannerose.net/books.html
Elemi ~ A corny Jeanne Rose Limerick
Elemi, the resin smells citrus
But always sweetly odiferous
Gooey, it’s true
And so sticky too
But one thing it’s not is cruciferous.
• • •
PATCH TEST ~ If applying a new essential oil to your skin, always perform a patch test on the inner arm (afterE.O.ou have diluted the E.O. in a vegetable carrier oil). —Wash an area of your forearm about the size of a quarter and dry carefully. Apply E.O.iluted drop (1 drop E.O. + 1 drop carrier) to the area. Then apply a loose Band-Aid and wait 24 hours. If there is no reaction, then go ahead and use the oil in your formulas. —The Aromatherapy Book, Applications & Inhalations, p. 64
DISCLAIMER: This work is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for accurate diagnosis and treatment by a qualified health care professional. Dosages are often not given, as that matters between you and your healthcare provider. The author is neither a chemist nor a medical doctor. The content herein is the product of research and personal and practical experience. Institute of Aromatic & Herbal Studies – Jeanne Rose©
Moderation in All Things.
Be moderate in using essential oils, as they are not environmentally sustainable.
Be selective and more moderate in your usage.
Use the herb first as tea or the infusion. —JeanneRose 2010