Benzyl benzoate is found in a variety of different essential oils. When it is not found in an essential oil, it can also be found in its synthetic form in perfumes, artificial flavorings, and preservatives. It is considered an ester of benzyl alcohol and benzoic acid. 1
Benzyl benzoate forms either a viscous, colorless liquid or solid flakes and has a slightly sweet and balsamic aroma. 2 Although it occurs naturally in a variety of essential oils, it can also be purchased in its synthetic form as an over-the-counter medication.
Cinnamon essential oil, in particular, has a high concentration of benzyl benzoate, accounting for nearly 85 percent of the stem bark oil, and approximately 65 percent of the leaf oil. 5
Esters are known for their antispasmodic, soothing, and adaptogenic properties.6 Benzyl benzoate, in particular, is known for its ability to treat scabies, lice, and asthma symptoms.
Uses for Benzyl Benzoate
A 2009 study published in Bulletin of the World Health Organization studied the effect of benzyl benzoate on scabies in both oral, IV, and topical form. The study tested patients between the age of 5 and 65 and tested a single topical application every 24 hours, two topical applications every 24 hours, and an oral IV.
The results showed that at day 14, 68.8 percent of the patients that had received two topical applications every 24 hours were completely cured, as opposed to 52.4 percent in the group that received one topical application, and 24.6 percent in the group that received the oral IV.
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These results show that benzyl benzoate is an effective treatment for scabies when used topically.7
Benzyl benzoate treats lice the same way it treats scabies. Scabies is caused by a mite that burrows into the skin, causing an itchy rash, while lice often find a home on the head or body and also causes extreme itching.
Benzyl benzoate is known as an ectoparasiticide, which is effective against ectoparasitic infections. This particular terpene is known for being poisonous to both the mite that causes scabies and lice. When used topically on the affected areas, benzyl benzoate kills lice by negatively affecting their nervous systems. 8
Relieves Asthma Symptoms
Benzyl benzoate is known to have vasodilating and antispasmodic effects, and it is present in many asthma medications. Its ability to reduce spasms can help ease coughing and allow for easier breathing.9
While today benzyl benzoate is one of many ingredients in asthma medicines, it was used throughout history on its own to remedy whooping cough.
A Johns Hopkins Hospital Bulletin from 1920 published a clinical study on the treatment of whooping cough with benzyl benzoate. The study was conducted on 115 individuals, mostly children, who were suffering from symptoms of whooping cough.
Each was given an oral solution of 20 percent benzyl benzoate three or four times a day. At the end of the experiment, the results showed that although benzyl benzoate did not completely cure all symptoms, it showed a significant decrease in violent spasmodic activity.10
Alternative Uses for Benzyl Benzoate
Outside of aromatherapy, benzyl benzoate is used as a dye carrier, a fixative in the fragrance industry, and a solvent (helps other ingredients dissolve in solution).
It is also used in many veterinary hospitals to get rid of mites, lice, fleas, and ticks.
Benzyl benzoate may also be mixed with water in a spray bottle to get rid of dust mites around the home. In commercial bath and body care products, benzyl benzoate is often added as a fragrance ingredient.
Safety and Precautions
Although benzyl benzoate can be used to effectively treat scabies and lice, care should be taken when using this terpene topically. On its own, benzyl benzoate can cause allergic skin reactions, a burning or stinging sensation, itching, or a rash.11
Because of this, you should always conduct a patch skin test when using it, and it is recommended to dilute it in a carrier oil when applying topically.
Keep benzyl benzoate away from the eyes and other sensitive areas, such as mucous membranes. Do not apply benzyl benzoate directly to open wounds. In high doses, benzyl benzoate may cause difficulty urinating, jerking movements, or sudden loss of consciousness.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is not recommended to use benzyl benzoate unless directed by a doctor.
When using essential oils containing benzyl benzoate, consult each oil’s particular precautions to reduce the chance of negative side effects.
Benzyl benzoate is listed in the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines under scabicides and pediculicides. 12 Although it is not well-known for its use outside of being an effective agent against scabies and lice, it is still very well-known in the perfume and skin-care industries as a fragrance ingredient and solvent.
The chemical formula for benzyl benzoate: C14H12O2
Molecular mass: 212.248 g/mol
Melting point: 21°C (69.8°F; 294.2 K)
Boiling point: 323.5°C (614.3°F; 596.7 K) 3