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Elemi Essential Oil: Balances the Body and Spirit

Elemi Essential Oil: Balances the Body and Spirit

Elemi Essential oil

Elemi Canarium luzonicum

Other Names: Canarium commune, Canarium indicum, Canarium luzonicum, Pimela luzonica, elemi oleoresin, Manila elemi,

The Plant

Elemi is a member of the Burseraceae family, which includes frankincense, myrrh and opopanax that all produce gum resin. The evergreen elemi tree grows up to 30 metres in height. It is found wild in tropical climates like Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and other Pacific islands. In the Philippine Islands, where elemi is cultivated, it is known as sahing or pili. The Manila elemi is the best-known and single largest source of the world's supply.

Elemi belongs to an incredibly diverse genus, with over 75 distinct species of Canarium alone, leading to much confusion between other similar botanical resins, gums and oleoresins. Possibly the “African elemi” mentioned prior to the 17th century, as well as in earlier records was Somalian Frankincense, probably Boswellia frereana. Indeed, with similar uses and properties, elemi has been called “Poor Man’s Frankincense.” (Although different and a superb plant, resin and oil in its own right.)

Essential oil extraction

Firstly, the resin contained in the elemi wood is extracted and becomes a resinoid – gum elemi, a sticky viscous liquid, which is steam distilled to produce elemi essential oil. It takes seven years for the elemi tree to be ready for its weekly tapping, with a 10% yield of oil; fortunately after collecting the resin the tree heals rather quickly. When the tree is tapped, the resin solidifies upon exposure to air and is able to be collected rather quickly to be dried and then steam distilled to produce the essential oil. Elemi oil is a pale yellowish colour with a honey-like consistency.

Elemi oil contains the following active constituents: Terpineol, elemol, elemicine, phellandrene, dipentene and limonene. Limonene, a major constituent of citrus peel oils, is also found in Elemi oleo-resin from as low as 23% to as high as 80%. Due to the temperature instability of limonene, cold storage of this oil in a dark, tightly capped bottle is recommended to avoid oxidation.

Contraindications: Possible skin sensitisation

Cultural history

The ancient Egyptians used elemi

The use of Elemi dates back to the ancient Egyptians where it was used in the embalming process for mummification to help the soul transcend to the next realm of existence. As a consequence of its ability to delay decomposition, they incorporated elemi in cosmetic preparations for skincare. This oil has a long medicinal history helping with respiratory conditions such as bronchitis, catarrh, coughs and wheezing. It was a valued remedy for the nervous system, including stress related conditions and exhaustion. Culpeper recommended elemi for treating a fractured skull. For hundreds of years it was used as an ingredient in antiseptic ointments for ulcerated wounds, skin infections and scars and even as an insect repellent. In the Philippines, gum Elemi is used medicinally to treat skin conditions and promote scar formation. Elemi resinoid has found more recent industrial use, in the manufacture of ink, cement, varnish and lacquer.

Since ancient times, elemi was revered as a sacred oil because of its transcendent qualities and was popular in incense and meditation blends. The name elemi is derived from the Arabic phrase “above and below” " and the word "chryros" meaning "gold". Elemi is said to balance both the body and the spirit on a physical and spiritual level. Some early traditions used the resin and oil as part of sacred rituals to clarify and enhance consciousness and to connect the material realm with the realm of the Divine.

Scent: Fresh top to middle note, fine fixative

Delightful elemi essential oil greets our nose with a bright, fresh and lemony aroma with peppery undertones that is at first reminiscent of frankincense with lemon and pine but the dry down eventually reveals fine woody-green notes with a trail of sweet balsam. Employ elemi in fine perfumes as an effective fixative and mood lifter.

Blends Well With: Frankincense, rosemary, lavender, myrrh and sage, cinnamon, frankincense, labdanum oils.

Therapeutic elemi


Rich in monoterpenes, elemi oil is a widespread stimulant, from aiding circulation to triggering the secretion of hormones to improving the digestive system. It also acts on the nervous system to stimulate nervous responses which indirectly improves the body's natural functions and overall health. This quality makes elemi an excellent choice for nervous exhaustion as well as for muscle fatigue and pain. Use in massage blends to soothe muscle discomfort after exercise as it stimulates blood circulation, secretion of hormones and enzymes from the endocrinal glands to recalibrate the body. 

The essential oil of Elemi is a good antiseptic and proves fatal against bacteria, virus, fungi and microbes along with provide protection against tetanus and septic. Not only this, it is highly effective in preventing infections in the colon, urinary bladder, urethra, intestines, stomach and other internal organs. Apart from this,

Skin Care

An effective ingredient in beauty products and cosmetics, elemi oil rejuvenates aged skin, especially sun damaged skin. Elemi improves the appearance of dry sensitive skin, but also oily skin; it deeply moisturises dehydrated skin and improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles for a smoother overall appearance. Elemi oil can help eliminate toxins and impurities from the skin to help reduce acne, smooth discoloration and promote vibrancy.

Excels in Wound Care & Healing

Elemi is beneficial for minor infected cuts and wounds or inflamed skin, it is packed with natural antiseptic and analgesic properties that help eliminate bacteria and protect against infection. It helps fight microbes or fungi in minor wounds and cuts. A powerful healer, elemi has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce aches and pains. It can be quite effective at soothing overworked muscles or reducing body aches after exercising or engaging in strenuous physical activity. Effective in massage oil, elemi eases both mental and physical stress.

Elemi loosens respiratory congestion

Elemi can support healthy respiratory function to improve breathing should cold or flu symptoms strike or ease chronic coughs and relieve bronchial conditions if necessary. This oil is an effective expectorant that helps break up excess mucus and clear congestion in the lungs, nose and throat. It may be added to cough syrups or vapour rub to clear phlegm, suppress coughs. It can also help boost the immune system to ward off sickness.

Elemi elicits emotional ease

Elemi’s spicy and fresh aroma uplifts the mood and revitalise the senses. It is calming and restorative, while it grounds a flighty personality and balances a faltering, uncertain character. For these reasons it makes a superb addition to meditation blends in special perfumes and diffusers to generate clear awareness. It aligns and harmonises both the spiritual and emotional planes, affecting the chakras positively to relieve stress to all aspects of the body. It is valid assistance to open the solar plexus and heart chakra, with a particular affinity to the heart chakra, softening and expanding while addressing unacknowledged stored grief and sorrow that is waiting for our attention to be resolved. Elemi will benefit those who are depleted emotionally coaxing them to reconnect from their inner source rather than allowing the ego to run the show, which causes so much inner conflict. Elemi is used for rites of passage, initiation and new beginnings. It prompts release of pre-conceptions and old ideas at the dawn of a new chapter in life.

Interesting elemi has a calming effect on horses and some dogs. Animals may smell it directly from a drop or two in the palm or put a few drops in the hands and massage the animal’s coat.

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