Elemi essential oil is extracted from the gum of the tree
Elemi essential oil is extracted from the gum of the tree

Note: For those expecting an interview with Sedona Aromatherapie graduate Elizabeth Eaton this week, the interview has been delayed for publication until Elizabeth completes her website. It will be published at a later date.

Elemi (Canarium luzonicum) is an ancient essential oil which has been used for thousand of years. However, it is not as well known in aromatherapy use as its close relatives frankincense (Boswellia carteri), myrrh ( Commiphora myrrha), and opopanax (Commiphora erythraea). Here is a quick look at elemi essential oil!

Historical Use of Elemi

The ancient Egyptians used elemi as a resin to embalm and preserve bodies. It has also been used in the past for skin care and respiratory problems. The name elemi is derived from the Arabic phrase “above and below” and elemi is said to balance both the body and the spirit on a physical and spiritual level.

Botanical Description of Elemi

Elemi is a tropical tree that is native to the Philippine and Moluccas Islands; however it has had a widespread use in the Middle East for centuries. Elemi belongs to the Burseraceae botanical family. It grows up to ninety-eight feet in height. When the elemi tree sprouts leaves, it exudes a natural resin gum that is collected and then steam distilled to produce elemi essential oil. The elemi tree is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as “vulnerable.”

Elemi Essential Oil

Elemi essential oil is pale yellow in color with a similar fragrance to frankincense. It has a balsamic scent with a hint of lemon. Elemi essential oil is made up of the chemical components elemol, dipentene, limonene, phellandrene, elemicin, terpineol, and other minor constituents. It blends well with other essential oils such as myrrh, frankincense, cinnamon and the spice oils, such as cardamom. Elemi is also known by the synonyms Manila elemi, elemi gum and elemi resin; it is known locally as ‘Pili.

Uses of Elemi Essential Oil in Aromatherapy

Elemi essential oil is antiseptic, expectorant, stimulant, cicatrisant and a tonic. It is used in aromatherapy to treat skin inflammations, infections, wounds, mature skin, wrinkles, bronchitis, catarrh, stress, and sinusitis. It is also used in meditation, due to its calming properties. It is often used in place of frankincense essential oil, due to its similar properties. Elemi is also used both as a resinoid and an oil for fixative purposes in the perfumery industry.

Cautions for Using Elemi Essential Oil

Elemi essential oil is generally non-sensitizing, non- irritating, and non-toxic. Dilute elemi oil in a carrier lotion or oil, such as jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis), before applying it to the skin. Elemi essential oil can be used through steam inhalation for effective treatment of respiratory complaints. Consult a qualified professional for further advice in using elemi essential oil.

Learn More About Essential Oils with Sedona Aromatherapie

If you would like to learn more about essential oils and their use in aromatherapy practice, consider the Sedona Aromatherapie Linguistics of Aromatics (TM) Home Study Program.


  • Davis, Patricia, 1999, Aromatherapy: An A-Z UK: Vermilion

  • Lawless, Julia, 1995, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils UK: Thorsons

  • Author is a 20 year veteran in the health care and aromatherapy industry, a UK-certified aromatherapist, published author in aromatherapy, an approved education provider for the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), an aromatherapy business owner, a consultant, and Chief Editor for the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal.

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