Elemi Essential Oil: You Need This Under-the-Radar Oil

Meet your new best-kept secret for glowing skin and pain relief.
Elemi Essential Oil: You Need This Under-the-Radar Oil

Elemi essential oil may not be one of the most popular oils, but it has a well-documented history of health benefits. It was used by the Ancient Egyptians as part of the embalming process and to perform sacred ceremonies encouraging the spiritual movement from this life to the next. Elemi oil is used in aromatherapy to balance emotions and boost mood. It’s also often an ingredient in scented perfumes and skincare products.

While it may not be as popular as tea tree or lavender, elemi oil still delivers a host of health benefits. Step outside the box and try this woodsy essential oil. Read on for a breakdown of elemi oil and how you can use it to stay healthy and feel your best.

What Is Elemi Essential Oil?

Elemi essential oil is extracted from the elemi tree known by the botanical name Canarium luzonicum. The elemi tree is native to the Philippines where it is known commonly as the pili tree. It is also found in neighboring nations such as the Indonesian Maluku islands. Elemi oil is steam distilled from the resin plant part of the pili tree. The steam distillation process removes the oils from resin using a combination of water and evaporation.

The tree is from the family Burseraceae, which also includes frankincense, myrrh, and other incense trees that produce resin oils. The word elemi is derived from the Arabic phrase that translates to above and below. Many essential oil experts believe the name is a reference to this oil’s ability to balance emotions.

Most elemi oil is harvested from trees in the Bicol region of the Philippines. The trees are hardy and can grow in periods of extreme drought and constant torrential downpours. Artisans tap the tree using technologically advanced machines that remove the resin without killing the tree.


Elemi oil is pale yellow to dark yellow in color. The fragrance of elemi oil is a moderate perfumery note that is sharp, piney, and lemony. The scent conjures images of wild jungles and ancient temples. It has a thin consistency that blends well with other essential oils. Elemi oil is complementary to citrus oils such as orange oil as well as floral oils such as rose oil. Elemi oil also blends well with spice oils including clary sage, ylang ylang, and tea tree oil.

Health Benefits of Elemi Essential Oil

Supports Respiratory Health

This humble looking oil packs a punch when it comes to respiratory health. Elemi oil is a powerful decongestant that can remove phlegm that causes cough and chest congestion. Elemi oil works as an expectorant to gently loosen and remove the mucus that causes respiratory problems. The calming properties of elemi oil also help to open up constricted airways that can trigger asthma attacks.

How to Use: Chest Rub or Aromatherapy

Add a few drops of elemi oil to your diffuser to open up airways and induce relaxation. You can combine elemi oil with lavender and eucalyptus essential oils to increase the respiratory health benefits. Make a homemade chest rub to loosen chest congestion fast. Simply combine 4 drops of elemi oil with 30 milliliters of jojoba oil. Rub gently into your chest and around your neck. Lay back and focus on deep breathing for the best results. To boost the health of your chest rub, add two drops each of frankincense, myrrh, and cedarwood essential oils.

Prevents Infections

Elemi oil was popular in the embalming process because it prevents infections and bacterial growth. The antiseptic qualities of elemi oil help to prevent tetanus and fungal infections such as Athlete’s foot. The monoterpenes in elemi oil help to heal wounds by keeping them clean and free from infections. Elemi oil can also help to prevent bronchial tract and stomach infections when used as part of aromatherapy.

How to Use: Aromatherapy and Wound Salve

To prevent internal infections or treat stomach problems, add a few drops of elemi essential oil to your diffuser. Breathe deeply and repeat 2 to 3 times per day. You can also create a wound salve to prevent infections of cuts, scrapes, and burns. Simply combine 2 drops of elemi oil with 2 drops of olive oil. You can also combine with aloe or beeswax for a thicker salve.

Reduces Pain

Elemi oil can help to decrease symptoms of muscular pain, joint pain, and headaches. Hard workouts at the gym can cause sore muscles that cramp. Elemi oil contains relaxing and anti-inflammatory properties that help to relieve sore muscle pain. Antispasmodic properties of elemi oil help to treat muscle cramps by relaxing the muscles through chemical processes.

Chronic disease such as rheumatoid arthritis can also cause severe pain that is typically treated with prescription medication. These prescription scan have severe side effects ranging from nausea to hallucinations. Elemi oil is a great alternative that provides pain relief without the negative side effects.

How to Use: Massage Oil

Soothe sore muscles after a workout by massaging elemi oil into sore spots. You can also treat arthritis by gently rubbing elemi oil directly onto joints in a circular motion. Massage sore areas for 5 to 10 minutes or until pain recedes. Rub elemi oil into your temples or on your forehead to relieve tension headaches and migraines.

Stimulates Body Processes and Mood

Elemi oil has stimulant properties that streamline biological processes in the human body. Elemi oil can increase the production of bile and enzymes in endocrinal systems that help breakdown food. This results in fewer stomach problems such as diarrhea, cramps, and indigestion.

Elemi oil also has calming properties that can help to increase mood and relaxation. The chemical compounds trigger reactions in the nervous system that release happy hormones such as endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. The combination of happy emotions and reduced tension make this oil ideal for unwinding after a long day.

How to Use: Aromatherapy or Bath Oil

Pure elemi oil should never be consumed orally. To reap the internal benefits of elemi oil, add it to your aromatherapy program instead. By breathing in the aromatic fragrance, you’ll trigger neurotransmitters to streamline processes in your body. Unwind with an elemi oil bath after a tough day at the office. Simply add 10 drops of elemi oil to a hot, steaming bath. Soak for 10 minutes and let the stress melt away.

Treats Skin Conditions

Many resin oils like elemi oil and frankincense oil are great skin care products. In fact, many high-end brands such as Estee Lauder and Chanel use elemi in their skin care lines. Elemi oil is most often used in moisturizers and eye creams. These resin oils work to reduce the appearance of scars and fine lines by promoting cell regeneration. Elemi oil also contains antioxidants that battle free radicals and prevent oxidative stress that causes aging.

Elemi oil also contains properties that tighten and firm skin for a more youthful appearance. These compounds also help to reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles and prevent new ones from forming. Elemi oil helps to balances oils in the skin. This means it is ideal for oily skin and can create a better balance to reduce clogged pores and minimize breakouts.

How to Use: Face Oil or Body Butter

Create face oil using coconut oil, elemi oil, and lavender oil. Combine 2 ounces of coconut oil with 12 drops each of elemi and lavender oil. Mix well and apply to damp skin. You can also make your own body butter with elemi oil. Combine 1 ounce each of beeswax and shea butter with 2 ounces each of coconut oil and cocoa butter. Melt the mixture gently on low heat until blended well. Add 60 drops of elemi essential oil and 20 drops of helichrysum essential oil. Pour into a large plastic container or glass jar for storage.

Elemi Essential Oil Safety and Side Effects

The Food and Drug Administration recognizes elemi oil as generally safe. Use this oil in moderate amounts and you should experience few negative side effects. As with most essential oils, this oil can cause irritation or reactions in certain individuals. Avoid elemi oil if you are allergic to the elemi tree or its pollen. Elemi oil is gentle enough for sensitive skin and does not need to be diluted. We still recommend using carrier oil such as jojoba oil when applying elemi oil topically. Test the oil on a small patch of skin before applying liberally to avoid skin rashes or irritation. This is particularly important if you have sensitive skin. Elemi essential oil has a shelf life of four years so keep an eye on expiration dates to avoid side effects.

There is not enough research to determine whether elemi oil has any effects on pregnancy. It is best to seek medical advice from your health care provider if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.  There is also little research on elemi interactions with medications. Consult with your physician before using elemi oil if you have a medical condition or take prescription medications.

Elemi Essential Oil Recap

The essential oil profile of elemi oil demonstrates its ability to improve skin and respiratory health. It can also help reduce pain caused by mental and physical agents. Elemi oil can also help streamline digestive processes so you feel your best all day long. The lemon, pine fragrance makes this oil a delight to inhale and the antiseptic and antibacterial properties make it great for your skin. Use it as a standalone oil or add it to your favorite resin oils for a nuanced woodsy and earthy fragrance that takes health to new heights.

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