You may be familiar with elemi essential oil as a popular ingredient in skin-care products. Though it is often used as a way to heal and restore the skin, that’s not all it can do. Elemi essential oil is also known to boost immune system function, reduce muscle and joint pain, speed up the healing time of wounds, and promote a general sense of well-being.
This essential oil is a highly versatile essential oil that is a perfect addition to your medicine cabinet. Whether you’re using it aromatically or topically, it can provide a wide variety of health benefits.
The History of Elemi
Elemi essential oil comes from Canarium luzonicum, also known as the elemi tree. Though this tree originated in the Philippines, nowadays, Brazil and other countries in Central America now cultivate. The elemi tree is closely related to the plants that produce frankincense and myrrh. It has similar properties to both frankincense and myrrh but is a more cost-effective alternative.1
Elemi essential oil is steam distilled from the resin of the tree. The resin is naturally released when the tree is “wounded.” This is triggered by “tapping” the tree as the leaves are budding—meaning a small incision is made in the bark. The resulting essential oil is a clear or pale yellow color and has a fresh and spicy citrus scent.
In 1521, Magellan’s discovery of the Philippines led to the introduction of elemi resin to the Middle East and Europe. It was during this time period that the plant got its name. “Elemi” means “above and below” in Arabic, meaning that the resin is beneficial both spiritually and physically.2
Ancient Arabs and Turks used elemi in incense for a deeper meditative state. Similarly, ancient Egyptians used it in embalming practices due to its preservative properties. In the 15th century, Europeans used this essential oil in liniments, medicinal balms, and unguents. Soldiers applied elemi to their wounds to speed up healing, and plasters of elemi were used to repair broken bones. Elemi was also added to cosmetics and skincare products due to its healing and restorative properties. In Asia, malaria was often treated with the bark of the elemi tree and the resin often burned as incense.3
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Nowadays, elemi essential oil is used in incense, as a perfume fixative for soaps and cosmetics, and occasionally to flavor foods and beverages.
Chemistry Behind Elemi Essential Oil
Elemi essential oil is an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, tonic, stimulant and antiseptic, all due to its chemical composition. The main chemical constituents found in elemi essential oil include:
Limonene is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and elemicin is known for its anticholinergic properties—blocking the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the central and peripheral nervous systems that inhibit the transmission of impulses from the parasympathetic nervous system.
Uses for Elemi Essential Oil
Elemi essential oil can be used both topically and aromatically to provide a wide variety of health benefits, some of which are highlighted below.
Boosts Immune System Function
Elemi essential oil is used by aromatherapists throughout Europe to stimulate the thymus gland, a key component of the immune system. This oil helps restore strength in the body and ward off harmful diseases. Additionally, it increases energy in those suffering from fatigue.
Supports Respiratory Health
Elemi essential oil’s expectorant properties help to ease congestion and remove excess mucus, assisting in the treatment of respiratory issues.
By diffusing elemi essential oil throughout the home, you can reduce the symptoms of cold, cough, flu, and bronchitis. Alternatively, add a few drops of elemi essential oil to a bowl of steaming water, and cover your head with a towel while inhaling the healing vapors for five minutes.
Heals Wounds and Prevents Infection
The antiseptic and analgesic properties of elemi essential oil help reduce pain, prevent infection and speed the healing of minor wounds such as burns, cuts, bites, or scrapes. Not only does elemi essential oil prevent infection, but it also promotes the development of new skin cells.
If you break or fracture a bone, massaging elemi essential oil on the area around the bone can speed up healing and reduce pain. This is especially effective if the oil is applied before the bone is set with a cast. Additionally, continuing to elemi essential oil throughout the healing process can reduce the risk of developing rheumatic arthritis.
The antiseptic properties in elemi also act internally. Elemi essential oil helps reduce the risk of internal infections in the urinary tract, colon, kidney, stomach, and intestines.5
Simply mix a few drops of this essential oil with a carrier oil and apply to minor wounds or massage onto affected areas for relief.
Treats Skin Conditions
The antiseptic qualities of elemi essential oil are especially effective against skin conditions such as eczema, candida infections, and fungal infections.
Elemi essential oil is also widely used in skincare products due to its ability to regenerate cells. It is especially good at rejuvenating dry, old, wrinkled, or sagging skin by toning and firming. This essential oil helps to balance the production of sebum, reducing acne and normalizing skin that may be too dry or too oily.
For imperfections on the skin, mix a few drops of elemi essential oil with a carrier oil and apply to the affected areas. To reduce signs of aging and rejuvenate the skin, add a couple of drops of this oil into your daily face wash or moisturizer.
Elemi essential oil helps calm the nerves, reducing feelings of stress and anxiety. Additionally, it helps promote clarity and bring focus to a mind that is overwhelmed or fatigued.
Acts as a Tonic for the Body
Elemi essential oil is a natural tonic that tones and strengthens organ systems. Not only does it support the immune and respiratory systems, but it also strengthens digestive, nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular and circulatory system function. When all of these systems run smoothly and effectively, you feel healthier overall.6
Reduces Muscle and Joint Pain
If you’re suffering from muscle or joint pain, using elemi essential oil in a massage blend can help alleviate your discomfort. Simply mix a few drops of elemi essential oil with a carrier oil and gently massage onto affected areas. Alternatively, add elemi essential oil to a relaxing bath for a soothing experience.
The analgesic properties in elemi essential oil also help relieve pain from migraines, headaches, fevers, and earaches.
How To Use Elemi Essential Oil
For respiratory issues, mix elemi with frankincense, myrrh, and a carrier oil. Rub directly onto the chest to ease congestion and breathe easier. Alternatively, diffuse these three essential oils together for the same benefit. This same blend can be used to promote increased concentration during a meditation session.
To reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, mix elemi, lavender, and rose essential oils with a carrier oil or unscented cream. Apply to the face and leave overnight for a nourishing treatment.
Safety and Precautions
Elemi essential oil is safe when used both topically and aromatically, but it is not recommended for internal use.
When using elemi topically, you should always conduct a patch skin test to ensure there is no allergic reaction. Elemi essential oil can be irritating to those with sensitive skin, so it is recommended to dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil before applying. Avoid contact with the eyes or mucous membranes.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is recommended to avoid the use of all essential oils unless directed by your doctor. If you are attempting to use elemi to cure a chronic condition or in place of a medication, consult with your doctor beforehand.
When stored correctly in a cool, dark place, elemi essential oil should last for approximately three years. If you suspect the oil has oxidized, discontinue use immediately. You can tell if your oil has oxidized if you notice a change in the aroma or begin to experience adverse reactions.7
Elemi essential oil is a great oil to add to your collection. It can be used aromatically to alleviate stress and support all systems of the body, and it can be used topically to reduce pain and keep your skin looking young and healthy. Additionally, elemi essential oil has a wide range of uses: in a relaxing bath, diffused through the home, used in a personal essential oil diffuser, or added to daily beauty products such as lotions, massage oils, or face washes.
Whether you’re looking for a quick boost to your mood or a chemical-free way to improve the appearance skin, elemi essential oil is the perfect addition to your medicine cabinet.