Beautiful benzoin essential oil has such a deep, rich, and creamy scent, which makes an amazing fixative for botanical perfumery. We love it. But what is it and what can we use it for?
Ironically, for something that is so sticky, the best way to learn benzoin essential oil is to know that it reduces and thins stickiness. Traditionally, the resin has been burned when people have coughs, colds, or sore throats and benzoin essential oil can be useful in all of these areas. It softens constipation and allows better urine flow. Like myrrh and galbanum essential oils, it is an amazing skin healer. Any kinds of deep cracks and abrasions such as thorns in fingers, or blistered feet. It is a wonderful addition to ointments for cracked heels. Benzoin resin had religious significance and the essential oil is used as a fixative in perfumery.
Where Does Benzoin Essential Oil Come From?
Benzoin is the sap (gum resin) that comes from trees that belong to the Styrax family. Resin tends to be collected from several related species all seemingly with the same action. When Frankincense and Myrrh come from burning Africa, styrax trees are Asian. The styrax benzoin tree is native to the rainforests of Sumatra. Its name is said to come from the words “Luban Jawi” which means “Frankincense from Java”.
A tree of longevity, it can grow to 30 feet and live 70-100 years. Resin is collected by slashing the tree bark for the sap to ooze out. It is left for 2-3 months where it hardens and then can be snapped off. The resin is then either used as an incense ingredient, or steam distilled to collect the essential oil. Gum benzoin is one of the world’s most widely used incense.
What Does Benzoin Essential Oil Smell Like?
Rich, sweet, and creamy, it has a vanilla note that is balsamic, sensuous, and vaguely cinnamon-y.
What Does Benzoin Essential Oil Blend With?
Think pink when you blend benzoin essential oil, gorgeous rose, geranium, patchouli or palmarosa. Neither patchouli or palmarosa are actually pink but close your eyes and notice the colors they create in your mind. Likewise cinnamon, sandalwood and some strains of hyssop. All of these blend really well with benzoin.
It’s a useful choice of oil for people who don’t like clinical sorts of fragrances like eucalyptus for example. It’s going to do a similar job on the chest, but with an entirely different kind of scent.
Why Is Benzoin So Important in Incense and Perfumery?
All of the deeply fragranced resins have calming and reassuring properties, so instantly you feel enveloped and cared for when you smell them. Clearly then this has both spiritual and sexual importance, and we’ll address both of these later. But the molecules in benzoin are very large and heavy – that’s why it is thick and sticky. Thus, it weighs the lighter aromatic molecules down and prevents them from evaporating too quickly. If you fancy having a go at making some of your own perfumes, benzoin adds depth, strength, and character to the blend and prevents the scent from disappearing in just a few moments. The same applies for the gum when used in incense.
What Is Benzoin Essential Oil Good For In The Physical Body?
Ayurveda teaches how benzoin reduces Kapha dosha. Ayurveda believes that three primary forces move through the body. Vata dosha is light, brittle, and cool; Pitta dosha is hot, moist, and reactive. Kapha dosha is seen as the mix of water energies with Earth, so we should think heavy, thick, and sticky, like mud.
When there is an energetic excess of Kapha dosha in the body, things slow down and become sticky. Good examples might be constipation and sluggish digestion, catarrh, and phlegm on the chest. The body gets overly moist but tends to hold onto that, so fluid retention, puffiness, and inability to urinate well. Psychically we see slow mental processing a lack of imagination and a time in life that feels overly Earthbound and lacking spirituality.
All of these would be areas where benzoin essential oil can be helpful. Perhaps blend with rose and ginger for constipation and chamomile and dill for sluggish digestion. Fennel, juniper, and cypress would be brilliant supports for draining fluid. Citrus oils might be rather lovely for sparking the imagination.
In addition to this, we might think of how wounds can get sticky and infected. Not strictly a Kapha dosha thing, but it would certainly be an indication for benzoin essential oil.
When Use Benzoin Essential Oil For Skin Care?
Traditionally, aromatherapists use benzoin for ulcerated wounds and bed pressures very successfully, although this does not seem to have been explored scientifically for evidence. This lack of research is disappointing since skin tears in the elderly can often be fatal. It would be wonderful to see this use increase. Indeed, any kind of cracked skin responds well to benzoin essential oil, from gardeners’ scratched hands from overly defensive roses to ballerina feet blistered from where their pointe shoes have rubbed them.
Other wound useful oils are helichrysum and myrrh, then perhaps add some rose or geranium to soften and condition the skin. Marigold oils like calendula and tagetes are always lovely for skin care too.
Just go careful here for sensitive skin though and do a patch test first. There is a moderate risk of dermal irritation for people who have eczema. https://youtu.be/z6-X8ZitKGU
What Is Benzoin Essential Oil Good for Emotionally?
As stated, thick resins are calming and soothing. They tend to have a quietly uplifting and reassuring element to them, and this is certainly true of benzoin oil.
Religious Use of Benzoin
Religious narrative around incenses in the early Church is fascinating, and perhaps gives us insights into essential oils made from them, in a way that cannot be ascertained through simple textbook prose.
Paganism and Christianity co-existed in Europe for around three and a half centuries after Jesus’s death. The Roman’s as we know, were the bridge. On one hand, they worshipped an enormous pantheon of planetary deities, Jupiter, and Venus, whom the Greeks knew as Zeus and Aphrodite, were worshipped widely. But then on the other side, the Roman Catholic Church was in its infancy.
Right at the beginning of the 4th century CE, Constantine was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity. He then issued an edict that the Roman world must now become monotheistic and worship just one God. Interestingly, historians feel this might have been symptomatic of his ego mania because this is also the point imagery of Jesus loses its dark African skin. He becomes imagined as Caucasian and a close likeness to Constantine himself. In 392 CE, a successor of Constantine, Theodosius I, then hosts a massive clean-up operation and ordered the closure of all Pagan sanctuaries across the Roman world. The face of religion was to permanently change across Europe, Asia Minor, and Africa.
The Biblical Fragrance Narrative
Now the reason this is relevant to benzoin is incense created huge tensions between the two religions. In the Pagan world, incense was seen as a vital sacrifice to offer to the gods. In Greece, it had been believed that there was no conversation with divinity without it. That a sacred law existed that meant that deities could not interact with humans unless it was at the mortals’ behest. The deity was seen as patiently waiting for the spark of attraction from the mortal that they were ready to interact, and they would communicate this through aerohs – fragrant smoke or if we were to translate it better, fragrant attraction. When they sensed that attraction, then they leaned forward to embrace. Roman paganism seems to have retained this belief.
Early Christianity forbade incenses, with writers declaring that smoke brought demons with it. Fragrant smoke then, must surely be against Christ. Marriages between Pagans and Christians were prohibited otherwise how could the Church be protected from smoke? There was one very large problem with this idea, however. When they had agreed on what content should be included in the New Testament sixty years prior, at the Council of Nicea, they had included Revelations in the Bible. There, it clearly states that Saints delight in the sweet smells of incenses.
A New Sweet Smelling Faith
So, throughout the 5th century, we see this odor narrative being reworked. Rather than fragrances being incenses, sweet smells become a metaphor for faith. The fragrance of Christ, the sweet smell of God, the honey of his teachings, and the sweetness of His love. All this is juxtaposed against the stench of rotting flesh, decay, and the Devil. The metaphor further develops that the Church is Christ’s sweet breath, and so this continues and develops for a century. Then, by the sixth century, we start to see evidence of incenses beginning to make a comeback into services and liturgy, supported perhaps by the Holy Incense of the original Old Testament Tabernacle, the recipe of which was given to Moses by God. One of the ingredients of which was Stacte, which is believed may have been light Myrrh treated with styrax.
The Spiritual Healing Of Benzoin Essential Oil
A resin then, that is sweet and lingers, that makes you feel held and taken care of…we can see how that would become vitally important in the narrative in the early Church.
Indeed, as the volatile molecules interact with our fragrance receptors, we do feel the closeness of divinity more easily. Back in its home space in Asia, Hindu, and Buddhist priests both use Luban Jawi to quieten their mind to hear divinity whisper and to offer sweet thanks and love to their gods. Its smooth fragrance feels like a Tibetan singing bowl, soft, gentle, and Holy, its resonance penetrating the blackness, bringing beauty to infinity.
It makes you feel very calm, and calm inevitably chases away fears. It’s a wonderful help for people suffering from anxiety and depression and who sense a separation from God. For this reason, benzoin can be extremely helpful for people who have suffered trauma and abuse, especially sexual abuse. https://youtu.be/lEp4YGTzpik
Safety Notes for Benzoin Essential oil
A safe and easy-to-use oil, blend it into a carrier oil or cream to a maximum dilution of 3%. Not suitable for use during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy and because of its mild risk of skin irritancy, we would suggest avoiding use on children under the age of two years.
Benzoin essential oil is rarely on people’s first list of oils they feel they need to get, but there are many reasons it should be. Not least is the critical endangerment of the Frankincense trees. The more we can do to protect them, the better. So if you are thinking you’d like to use frankincense to connect with spirituality, please consider using benzoin essential oil instead. However, if you are just looking for a rather lovely fragrance that can do a lot of different things, then gorgeous, dreamy Benzoin might just be the best oil for you. Why not drop us a comment and let us know how you like to use Benzoin essential oil?